Billionaire and GOP megadonor Harlan Crow paid for the private school tuition of Justice Clarence Thomas’s great-nephew, whom the justice said he raised “as a son,” according to reporting by ProPublica.
Mark Martin, the Thomas relative identified in the report, attended boarding schools Hidden Lake Academy in Georgia and Randolph-Macon Academy in Virginia. Tuition at Hidden Lake was more than $6,000 per month, according to the report.
Unrelated court documents revealed a $6,200 wire payment from Crow’s company to the school in July 2009. ProPublica reported that Crow made additional contributions beyond the single one in 2009.
Crow’s office, in a statement, said he and his wife, Kathy, have supported many students by funding scholarships.
“Tuition and other financial assistance is given directly to academic institutions, not to students or to their families,” Crow’s office said. “These scholarships and other contributions have always been paid solely from personal funds, sometimes held at and paid through the family business. It’s disappointing that those with partisan political interests would try to turn helping at-risk youth with tuition assistance into something nefarious or political.”
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The Hill has reached out to Thomas for comment through a court spokesperson.
Mark Paoletta, a friend of Thomas and Crow, confirmed that Crow offered to pay the first year of Thomas’s great-nephew’s tuition at Randolph-Macon in 2006, adding that Crow had supported the school since the 1980s. Randolph-Macon recommended Thomas’s relative attend the Georgia’s Hidden Lake Academy for one year, and Crow offered to pay the tuition there, Paoletta said.
Under federal law, Supreme Court justices are required to disclose gifts made to them, their spouses or a dependent child. Paoletta defended the payments as not constituting a reportable gift, since the child was Thomas’s great-nephew.
“The Thomases have rarely spoken publicly about the remarkably generous efforts to help a child in need,” he said in a statement. “They have always respected the privacy of this young man and his family. It is disappointing and painful, but unsurprising that some journalists and critics cannot do the same.”
In a 2007 interview, Thomas said he began raising Martin, the grandson of the justice’s sister, when the child was 6 years old.
“We’re raising him as a son,” Thomas said at the time.
The conservative justice has come under scrutiny for his years-long friendship with Crow, a Dallas-based real estate developer who has donated millions of dollars to conservative causes.
ProPublica has reported on undisclosed luxury trips that Thomas went on at Crow’s expense, as well as Crow’s purchases of real estate owned by Thomas and his family.
After the outlet’s initial report, Thomas said he had “always sought” to comply with disclosure requirements and “was advised” that the trips fell under a personal hospitality exception.
The controversies have led to increasing pressure from Democrats for the Supreme Court to adopt a binding code of ethics. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday about ethics at the high court, but Chief Justice John Roberts declined an invitation to testify.
–Updated at 8:54 a.m.