On Friday, October 27, 2023, Salon reported that the U.S. Senate Finance Committee released a report revealing that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas may have had a significant portion of a loan for a luxury RV forgiven by a wealthy friend, which has raised ethical concerns. According to the report, Thomas did not repay a significant portion of the loan principal, and the loan forgiveness was not properly reported on his ethics forms.
The investigation was sparked by a New York Times report in August that revealed Anthony Welters, a billionaire friend of Thomas, had loaned him money to buy a used Prevost Le Mirage XL Marathon, a luxury RV that cost $267,230 in 1999. Welters told the newspaper that the loan was satisfied, but the Senate memorandum states that documents reviewed by committee staff suggest that Thomas did not repay a significant portion of the loan principal.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden has called on Thomas to inform the committee of the exact amount of debt that was forgiven and whether he properly reported the loan forgiveness on his tax returns and paid all taxes owed. Wyden has also directed the committee to share their findings with the Judiciary Committee to evaluate the ethical implications of the disclosure.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin has criticized Thomas for his relationships with billionaires and his failure to disclose gifts and loans. Durbin has pledged to take the report into account as his panel presses forward with ethics reform and has called on Chief Justice John Roberts to act on ethics reform.
The report has sparked renewed calls for Thomas’ resignation and demands for reform legislation, including expanding the court. Congressman Bill Pascrell has stated that Thomas is corrupt and should resign, while others have highlighted that Thomas voted to strike down President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan, which would have canceled up to $20,000 per federal borrower.
Prior to this controversy, AbusiveDiscretion reported that Clarence Thomas’s participation in donor events organized by the hard-right Koch network had sparked outrage and renewed calls for Supreme Court reform. Thomas attended Koch events at least twice, including one at the exclusive all-male resort Bohemian Grove in California, raising serious questions about his impartiality in cases before the court. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have decried Thomas’s “undisclosed private jet travel” and “engagement with billionaire-funded organizations.” Committee Chair Dick Durbin noted the “Koch brothers are the architects of one of the largest political operations” and criticized Thomas for hiding his involvement. Kyle Herrig of Accountable.