Justice Thomas raked in staggering $2.4 million in gifts, watchdog says, dwarfing the next highest justice

Supreme Court justices received $3million in gifts throughout the last two decades, a watchdog group revealed on Thursday - with controversial Justice Clarence Thomas accounting for nearly 80 percent.

Thomas, who has come under fire for accepting gifts from billionaire Harlan Crow, led the group of justices with the highest value of gifts accepted at $2.4million, according to Court News Service.

Fix the Court, the group that released the findings, calculated the total in gifts from January 2004 to December 2023 and said the nine current justices received 344 gifts totaling nearly $3million.

When the justices who have left the court since 2004 are included, the total jumps to $4.7million.

Thomas, who was appointed by George H.W. Bush in 1991 and is a conservative stalwart, has been under fire since reports of his gifts first emerged. Those gifts included free trips and stays at Bohemian Grove and Topridge. News of Thomas gifts has spurred calls for ethics reforms for the nation’s highest court, that have only grown with other controverises in recent months.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas received $2.4millon in gifts, a watchdog found amount for nearly half of the $3million justices have  received since 2004. (AP)
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas received $2.4millon in gifts, a watchdog found amount for nearly half of the $3million justices have received since 2004. (AP)

In 2004, Thomas flew on billionaire Wayne Huizenga’s personal 737 jet to Ft Lauderdale, Florida — twice. Huizenga founded Waste Management and Blockbuster and owned sports teams in Miami. The trips were worth $130,000 each.

The new numbers are largely based on ProPublica reporting from last year that found that Justice Thomas had been receiving the gifts from Crow. In 2007, the real estate mogul footed the bill for Thomas’ $160,000 yacht cruise around the Greek Islands. The following year, healthcare executive Anthony Welters paid the outstanding balance on Thomas’ RV loan, which totaled a whopping $253,686. He also paid for Thomas’ roundtrip flight to Trinidad in 2010 worth $97,000.

Many expressed concerns about the gifts and how they could influence justices in their decisions.

“Supreme Court justices should not be accepting gifts, let alone the hundreds of freebies worth millions of dollars they’ve received over the years,” Gabe Roth, executive director at Fix the Court, said in a statement.

“Public servants who make four times the median local salary, and who can make millions writing books on any topic they like, can afford to pay for their own vacations, vehicles, hunting excursions and club memberships — to say nothing of the influence the gift-givers are buying with their ‘generosity.’”

The justices agreed to comply with an ethics code last year that updated gift regulations. The judges can accept reasonable compensation and reimbursement of expenses for permitted activities. Still, they must report gifts worth more than $480 in financial disclosure forms.

Justices of the US Supreme Court pose for their official photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on October 7, 2022. (Seated from left) Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Samuel Alito and Associate Justice Elena Kagan, (Standing behind from left) Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson (AFP via Getty Images)

Fix the Court asserts that the total in gifts for justices is likely an undercount. Only 8.5 percent of Thomas’ gifts noted by the watchdog group came from his financial disclosure forms.

The other justices paled in comparison to Thomas’ total, with Justice Antonin Scalia coming in second with $120,000 received in gifts. Justice Samuel Alito came in third with $170,095. Thomas, Scalia and Alito are some of the most consequential justices on the court.

Justices appointed by Former President Donald Trump received the least amount in gifts. Justice Neil Gorsuch took home about $2,450, Amy Coney Barrett received $500 and Justice Brett Kavanaugh only received $100.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who died in 2020 and was replaced by Barrett, accepted over $59,000 in gifts. Justice Sonia Sotomayor received about $16,000 in gifts, and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson received about $9,000 in gifts.

Chief Justice Roberts has accepted over $49,000 in gifts, which includes honorary memberships to clubs.