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Justice Thomas’ Friendship with Conservative Benefactor Raises Ethics Issues

Publication Date: 
June 20, 2011
ABA Journal
Debra Cassens Weiss

A comment made by Professor Deborah Rhode to the New York Times on whether Justice Clarence Thomas should be involved in fund-raising activities is used in this ABA Journal article.

Justice Clarence Thomas has been friends with Dallas real estate magnate Harlan Crow since the mid-1990s, after Thomas joined the U.S. Supreme Court.

Since then, Crow, a Republican campaign donor, has bankrolled several projects that relate to the justice, the New York Times reports. Crow paid $175,000 to help finance a library project dedicated to Thomas. He paid $500,000 for Thomas’ wife, Virginia, to start a conservative group. And he paid to restore a cannery in Thomas’ hometown of Pin Point, Ga., that included a museum about the history of the town.


The Times interviewed two ethics experts, who differed on the propriety of the museum project. Stanford law professor Deborah Rhode said Thomas should not be directly involved in fund-raising activities, no matter how worthy.