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Watchdog: Of $5M in gifts to all Supreme Court justices, Thomas took $4M

By Ehren Wynder
Judicial watchdog group Fix the Court said Justice Clarence Thomas only reported 27 of the 193 confirmed gifts he's received since 2004. File Photo by Eric Lee/UPI
Judicial watchdog group Fix the Court said Justice Clarence Thomas only reported 27 of the 193 confirmed gifts he's received since 2004. File Photo by Eric Lee/UPI | License Photo

June 6 (UPI) -- Supreme Court justices combined have received nearly $5 million in gifts over the past 20 years, and Justice Clarence Thomas received the lion's share.

Data release Thursday by judiciary watchdog Fix the Court found the high court's nine justices have accepted 344 gifts valued at almost $3 million since 2004. Adding 202 gifts for eight justices who have stepped down since then, that number grows to over $4.7 million.

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Thomas, alone, has accepted 193 gifts valued at over $4 million. The report also noted the George H.W. Bush appointee received an additional 126 "likely but not confirmed gifts."

The report comes ahead of an expected release of the justices' financial disclosure records on Friday.

The group added Thomas only reported 27 of the gifts on his financial disclosures.

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"Supreme Court justices should not be accepting gifts, let alone the hundreds of freebies worth millions of dollars they've received over the years," Fix the Court's Gabe Roth 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."

Thomas' trips to the Bohemian Grove were the most expensive, with six of these visits accounting for almost $300,000.

Real estate mogul Harlan Crowe in 2007 paid for a $160,000 yacht cruise Thomas took around the Greek Greek Islands, and health care executive Anthony Welters paid off a $253,686 balance on the justice's RV loan.

Roth argued these wealthy gift givers are using their "generosity" to buy influence over the high court.

"The ethics crisis at the court won't begin to abate until justices adopt stricter gift acceptance rules," he said.

The late Justice Antonin Scalia received the second-highest gift total, with over $210,000 from 2004 until his death in 2016.

Justice Samuel Alito came in third with over $170,000.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg accepted over $59,000 in gifts, followed by Chief Justice John Roberts, who accepted over $49,000.

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Justice Sonia Sotomayor accepted almost $16,000 in gifts, and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson received almost $9,000.

The three Donald Trump appointees accepted the least in gifts, according to the report. Justice Neil Gorsuch took $2,450, Justice Amy Coney Barrett received $500, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh received a mere $100 worth of gifts.

The report found only two justices reported 100% of the gifts they received. Former Justice David Souter, who stepped down in 2009, reported one gift worth $349. Justice John Paul Stevens, who left the court in 2010, reported over 20 gifts worth $91,408.

Fix the Court noted its total gift calculation may be lower than the actual number, considering certain assets, like Scalia's hunting lodge, could not be verified.

Additionally, Scalia, Ginsburg and Justice William Rehnquist all died in office, so their numbers "might be undercounts."

The Supreme Court signed on to an ethics code last year, which states justices can only receive reasonable compensation and reimbursement of expenses from accepted activities.

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Justices have to report gifts over a designated amount -- $480 in 2023 -- on financial disclosures per the new ethics code.

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