US: Smell of scandal at the Supreme Court involving a billionaire businessman – Economic Mail

US: Smell of scandal at the Supreme Court involving a billionaire businessman – Economic Mail

In the United States, the relationship between Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and eccentric businessman and Republican financial “blood donor” Harlan Crowe has been at the center of public debate.

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The two men’s friendship, as noted by the Financial Times, spans years: the conservative judge has traveled on the billionaire’s private jet, accompanied him on vacation to Indonesia and vacationed in his Adirondack mansion, where Crowe commissioned a portrait of the two men, and three others, relaxing with cigars on the porch.

But in recent weeks, a scandal over their relationship following a ProPublica investigation has sparked a wider debate about whether the lack of a code of ethics for the U.S. Supreme Court l made them vulnerable to outside influences. On Tuesday, indeed, the Senate Judiciary Committee began a congressional hearing into the relationship between the two men, which the British publication said even included an exchange of real estate.

Who’s Who by Harlan Crowe

Born in 1949, Crowe is the son of a Texas real estate magnate. According to the FT, he expanded his father’s empire by taking on a more diversified portfolio and moving into property management. Crowe invested much of the profits in politics, and he and his wife have donated more than $14 million to political candidates, parties and committees over the past 30 years, according to Open Secrets, which tracks expenses. He has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to some of the top GOP committees and $250,000 to a group that unsuccessfully tried to block Donald Trump from securing the party’s nomination in 2016.

Crowe has also donated to pro-business groups such as the Anti-Tax Growth Club. More unconventionally, he amassed an extensive collection of art and historical objects, ranging from traditional paintings by Renoir and Monet to statues of Stalin and Mao, as well as a copy of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

He and Thomas forged their friendship in the 1990s, according to a previous New York Times account of their relationship. Crowe reportedly gifted Thomas with valuable collectibles, including a Bible that once belonged to absolutist Frederick Douglass. The ProPublica report said Crowe purchased Thomas’ childhood home in Georgia from the judge and his family, a transaction Thomas has not publicly disclosed although he was required to.

Nor did Thomas reveal his lavish vacation on Crowe’s yacht or his frequent use of Crowe’s jet. According to the FT, Thomas and Crowe have responded to any allegations of misconduct. Crowe said he never tried to influence Thomas on a court case and that his hospitality to the judge was nothing more than kindness to a friend. In a statement, Thomas said colleagues in the judiciary told him that “this kind of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who had no business in court, did not have to be made public”.

Political debate

Still, the resulting controversy has led to calls by some Democrats for Thomas’s impeachment, while others have argued that the problematic behavior goes much further than a judge. Some noted that other judges had also taken trips subsidized by wealthy businessmen, donors or universities.

In a separate investigation, Politico recently reported that Neil Gorsuch, another conservative judge, sold Colorado property he co-owned to the head of major US law firm Greenberg Traurig, who had several cases before the court. The head of the law firm said he did not know who the seller of the property was until the deal was completed.

Crowe and Thomas said the billionaire never had any cases in court. But Bloomberg reported last week that the Supreme Court refused to hear a $25 million lawsuit brought by an architectural firm that sued Trammell Crow Residential, the company founded by Crow’s father and in which the group Crow held a minority stake.

The standoff has now entered the political arena, with Senate Democrats calling on Chief Justice John Roberts to testify at Tuesday’s hearing. But some Republicans are reacting, seeing Democrats’ sudden interest in Supreme Court ethics as a liberal attack on the independence of an increasingly conservative bench.

However, many legal experts believe that Congress should adopt a code of ethics for the Supreme Court that would provide guidance on issues such as the disclosure of gifts.

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