The corruption is just oozing out

No one is done with Clarence Thomas. He has another channel for his bribery stream.

In 2008, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas decided to send his teenage grandnephew to Hidden Lake Academy, a private boarding school in the foothills of northern Georgia. The boy, Mark Martin, was far from home. For the previous decade, he had lived with the justice and his wife in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Thomas had taken legal custody of Martin when he was 6 years old and had recently told an interviewer he was “raising him as a son.”

Tuition at the boarding school ran more than $6,000 a month. But Thomas did not cover the bill. A bank statement for the school from July 2009, buried in unrelated court filings, shows the source of Martin’s tuition payment for that month: the company of billionaire real estate magnate Harlan Crow.

I was dismayed by the first sentence of the second paragraph. People are paying $6000/month for a boarding school? That’s nuts. I could never afford that kind of payout, nor could most people. This must be how “trickle down economics” works — the people with many millions of dollars subsidize the lifestyle of people who run over-priced private boarding schools.

Also, “raising him as a son” apparently means “shipping the kid off to a school where we won’t have to see him for nine months of the year.”

Worse, in this case, is that Thomas has a billionaire sugar daddy paying the bills, and Thomas knew this was an ethical problem, because he kept it secret.

Thomas did not report the tuition payments from Crow on his annual financial disclosures. Several years earlier, Thomas disclosed a gift of $5,000 for Martin’s education from another friend. It is not clear why he reported that payment but not Crow’s.

Not clear? Crystal clear. He knew this was shady and was feebly trying to hide it.

Oh, hey, remember Herschel Walker, one of the dumbest Republican candidates ever (he lost)? He’s also in the news.

When Herschel Walker emailed a representative for billionaire industrialist and longtime family friend Dennis Washington in March 2022, he seemed to be engaging in normal behavior for a political candidate: He was asking for money.

But unbeknownst to Washington and the billionaire’s staff, Walker’s request was far more out of the ordinary. It was something campaign finance experts are calling “unprecedented,” “stunning,” and “jaw-dropping.” Walker wasn’t just asking for donations to his campaign; he was soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars for his own personal company—a company that he never disclosed on his financial statements.

Wow. I wish I had a friend I could call up on the phone and ask for half a million dollars that I’d never have to pay back. Well, I do have such friends, I’m sure — maybe I’ll call you up and ask you for a hundred thousand dollars sometime — it’s just that none of my friends have that kind of money, and definitely none of the kind who would give me that much. (I do have a Patreon account, but I only ask for $1-$5, and am deeply grateful for those donations. If any of you want to send me $500K, though, we’d finally be able to do that complete update of the Freethoughtblogs code, and several other things…).

Unfortunately, I’m not a Republican, and also haven’t had my conscience drilled out of my skull, so that’s not going to happen.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    If these assholes get tired of USA they can just go to Britain and join the tory party.
    They would end up in the goddamn House of Lords, like many other criminals.

  2. numerobis says

    Boarding school at age 16 doesn’t sound crazy to me; my sister and I each moved out at 17 for education.

    The price of a private boarding school is similar to that of a private university, so the $6,000 per month sounds only as crazy as US tuition in general is. Private day school is pretty expensive too. Better public education would be a good idea.

    Having a politically connected friend pay for it is where it gets interesting.

  3. Erp says

    Hidden Lake Academy seems to have specialized in ‘troubled’ teens. Also quite controversial with allegations of seriously mistreating its students.

  4. says

    Its funny how republicans have managed to establish the meme that “big government is bad” because big government are incompetent crooks, but the republican masses haven’t managed to make the connection that republicans are also incompetent crooks.

  5. raven says

    US Supreme court judges have resigned to avoid impeachment for a whole lot less than Clarence Thomas. It wasn’t even that long ago.
    (It was the Dark Ages and I know many of you weren’t even alive back then. Work with me here.)

    It was Abe Fortas in 1969 when Nixon was president.
    “Fortas thus ended 11 days of anguish — personal and for the Supreme Court — that began with a charge that he accepted a $20,000 fee from a convicted stock manipulator’s family foundation.”

    If we held Clarence Thomas to the same standards as Abe Fortas, he would be facing impeachment and would have already resigned.

    Washington Post
    May 16, 1969.

    Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is facing mounting scrutiny over his finances, after a ProPublica report documented his lavish donor-funded travel and a Washington Post report revealed that Thomas had reported hundreds of thousand of dollars in income from a defunct real estate firm.

    If Thomas were to resign over his financial dealings, he would not be the first justice to do so. The following story, lightly edited for length and style, originally ran in The Washington Post on May 16, 1969.

    Associate Justice Abe Fortas resigned from the Supreme Court yesterday, insisting that he had done nothing wrong and was acting only for the good of the court.

    President Nixon accepted the resignation at 10 a.m. It was tendered at about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday while the president was preparing his Vietnam address for national television.

    Fortas thus ended 11 days of anguish — personal and for the Supreme Court — that began with a charge that he accepted a $20,000 fee from a convicted stock manipulator’s family foundation. The resignation, first by a justice under fire in United States history, was effective Wednesday.

    Fortas will not participate further in any of the 50 cases and several hundred petitions on the court’s docket for action. If Fortas has cast crucial votes or written major opinions, the official reports will not disclose them.

  6. says

    When I saw the name Hidden Lake Academy, I thought this story was going in a different direction.
    I thought I was about to read how the boy and his traveling companions, on their way to the academy, stopped in the middle of nowhere at a run-down gas station, where a very strange old man told them about a group of kids at the school who perished mysteriously 50 years ago…
    But, no. Just another story of wealthy privilege and conservative hypocrisy.

  7. stuffin says

    It’s OK, Justice Roberts said this sort of thing does not need fixing.

  8. says

    One other thing about the Thomas story: we are being encouraged to buy his pose that he just made a few mistakes based on tax advice from a coworker. That is complete bullshit in the Thomas’ tax bracket, they do not prepare their own taxes. Especially not when their taxes are so (ahem!) complicated – you’ve got two multimillionaires, one who openly operates a successful lobbying practice, the other operates a stealth lobbying practice while moonlighting as a supreme court justice – they have an accountant (a firm) that prepares their taxes. I’ve had my taxes done by accountants since Instarted consulting in 1995 – there is an annual process in which I send a wad of papers and then there’s a phone call or meeting that includes questions like: “any significant gifts?” and “any justifiable expenses?” And there is feedback – real estate transactions? Stock grants? Options exercised? There’s no “uh, this guy gave my wife’s business a couple million bucks, and she’s paying herself $250k now, is that significant?” for one thing, Ginni probably does not sit at the kitchen table and prepare the taxes for her lobbying business, and forgets to mention a few little things to Clarence – managing money is what “being in business” means. My accountant would drop me as a client and send amended filings to the IRS if he found out I had taken a $500,000 trip from a business associate or family member without telling him – so we could have enough paid in to avoid withholding penalties. “Asked a coworker” my hairy white ass.

    Accountants in the Thomas’ tax bracket consult and advise on how to structure tax avoidance schemes like the trick with the real estate that the SC judges seem to be fond of: it hides where the money is coming from and it keeps it from appearing as income. That does not happen by accident – its a loophole the IRS will close but it’s been exploited already. I remember in the 90s the trick was for companies to buy a Ferrari for marketing purposes, and show it off at RSA, Interop, etc., until it was fully depreciated at which point they gave it to the CEO. Depreciated value: $1. Now that loophole is closed there are fewer Ferraris at the shows, there’s probably some other scheme. Maybe the company rents the Ferrari to the CEO’s grandma. And that loophole gets closed and the accountants come up with another one.

    I’d suggest a close look at the Thomas’ investment activity. There are a lot of tricks there for funneling people money. Back in the 90’s it was “friends and family” stock on an IPO. Investment banks that wanted a piece of a hot transaction would offer F&F shares to execs they wanted to “be good friends with” – free money if you flip it on the IPO. The founder of UUNet put me in F&F pool for 2,000 shares (two blocks) and I told the banker whonl called me “I have no influence in the industry” but yeah, a couple days after the IPO my accountant got a call requesting the wire transfer details for my investment account and $80k magically appeared. Nice. I knew people who actually had industry influence who did dozens of F&Fs. With a couple of corrupt sleazes like the Thomas’ you can bet it’s not just real estate.

    [FWIW, Hillary Clinton’s option trades were a similarly rigged operation, intended to buy influence with the Governor her husband. Congress’ investigation into that didn’t go very far because everyone was doing it! Ask any commodities trader who was trading in the 90’s about Clinton’s deal and they’ll say something like “no way, I totally believe Hillary, not even an amateur commodities trader, made a series of completely perfect futures plays. Snort.”]

  9. cartomancer says

    Their loyalty cannot be bought for any price.

    It can, however, be rented scandalously cheaply.

  10. says

    @9 cartomancer
    Their loyalty cannot be bought for any price.

    Precisely. Not any price. It has to meet a specific threshold.

  11. says

    The marriage partners of all high level bureaucrats should be investigated for influence peddling schemes. Tax law in the US has this interesting loophole where money moves untaxably in a marriage. So of you give my partner’s lobbying business $5mn, they can write me a check for, lets say $4mn ($1mn “handling fee”) 20 minutes later and it’s not a taxable event for me. Of course the spouse has to have a tax shelter like rhe Clinton Foundation so they don’t take a big hit, in which case the foundation has to pay them a $400k/yr salary (which is taxable) but in 10years it adds up to $4mn.
    Allegedly the Clintons now keep their finances separate because Bill’s tax dodging is uncomfortably aggressive. He supposedly has hundreds of offshore companies – so he does a talk somewhere, gets $60k paid to an offshore company then layer he can borrow $60k from that entity which later forgives the loan. If that sounds familiar, see: Manafort et al, Hunter Biden et al, Trump family, Epstein, etc. Offshore companies don’t file US W-9 income, so it’s unfortunately easy to forget to file income.

    I knew a big shot corporate exec who used to file a tax return, pay the bill, and wait until 6 months before the statute of limitations expired for a given year’s filing then submit an amended return saying “oops mistake, I didnt owe anything” – IRS then was required by law to send a refund and the clock wound down till the limitations hit. That loophole has also been closed. If I cared, I could ask my accountant what is the current edgy play and he’d rattle a bunch off.

  12. says

    “The tragedy of ABSCAM is not that it shows that lawmakers are for sale, it’s that you or I can afford one” Robert T. Morris sr.

    Prices have gone up since then because of supply/demand.

  13. numerobis says

    Prices are pretty fucking cheap though. You can’t get a Fortune 500 executive to work for you for less than several million a year, but a top legislator only costs a few tens of thousands a year.

  14. robro says

    There’s more political corruption news, this time in the George Santos case, namely questionable accounting and reporting items by he and his campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks. Marks has established herself as a “professional” campaign treasurer, which means she knows campaign laws and how to cut things just within the bounds of legal…and perhaps sometimes not so legal.

    This NY Times piece, “The Obscure G.O.P. Bookkeeper at the Center of the George Santos Mess”, notes donations over legal limits, unexplained spending in the “hundreds of thousands of dollars”, and other anomalies.

    I was particularly amused by the “string of expenses for $199.99” which is just under the limit that requires a receipt. There’s no way to know who received that money.

    I would guess that enforcement of campaign finance law is as gutted by GOP funding cuts as IRS enforcement.

  15. Matt G says

    Crow (or his people) responded that they take an interest in at-risk kids. The “son” of a Supreme Court justice is “at risk”? Or are “black” and “at risk” synonymous to him?

  16. unclefrogy says

    when you money and it’s accumulation and capitalism over “socialism” personal power over social responsibility, you get the results we see. not very surprising really
    now they hardly even try to make it sound all noble and selflessly patriotic
    the idea seem to be do as much as you can get away with and damn the rest.

  17. says

    Also, “raising him as a son” apparently means “shipping the kid off to a school where we won’t have to see him for nine months of the year.”

    Actually, in some upperclass circles, that’s exactly what “raising him as a son” means. When you’re that rich (whether or not it’s your own money), you pay certified experts to do all the specialized and complicated work for you; and raising a son is in that category right along with healthcare, legal services, home remodeling, household plumbing and electrical work, legal advice, TAX ACCOUNTING, etc.

  18. wzrd1 says

    Raising as a son is code for “raising a hellion, who needs to be offloaded”.
    See Trump.
    Both sent to “alternative schools”, one military which obviously failed, the other, to fashion school of the day to fail.
    Both senders, failed themselves as humans.

    @Raging Bee, entertainingly, I’m quite proficient at masonry work, plumbing, electrical work, moderate at carpentry and legal services, suck at taxes, great at health care and IT and electronics.
    All devalued by those in power, who’d wonder at their powerlessness without such support and embrace my sort, as we’re virtual polymaths to them.
    And they remain idiots to me.
    Meanwhile, some of them consider life without all of the rest of society, then would be shocked to starve.
    Not very bright at all, totally failing the IQ test of basic survival.
    Ancient royalty did better, as they knew where their food came from.