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Clarence Thomas, the Gordon Gekko of the Supreme Court

Prevail: “There’s a scene in Wall Street where Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko is explaining to Charlie Sheen’s Bud Fox the difference between being rich and being rich. “I’m talking about liquid,” he says in the back of his limousine. “Rich enough to have your own jet. Rich enough not to waste time. Fifty, a hundred million dollars, Buddy. A player. Or nothing.” Wall Street came out in December of 1987, when Ronald Reagan was still president and greed was still good. Adjusted for inflation, $100 million back then is almost a quarter billion in 2024 dollars. Very few humans operate at that level of wealth. Most of us have more modest financial goals than owning our own PJ to avoid the TSA line at Newark Airport. Four years after Wall Street’s release, Clarence Thomas was confirmed to the Supreme Court. He grew up poor; he didn’t have indoor plumbing in his house until he was six. For most of his career, he’d worked for the government: as an assistant Attorney General of Missouri, as a legislative assistant for the Department of Commerce, as the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—where he was Anita Hill’s supervisor—and as a judge on the DC Circuit. None of these jobs paid nearly as well as what partners at white-shoe law firms raked in. Thomas was never Bud Fox rich, let alone Gordon Gekko rich. Quite the opposite, as Pro Publica reports…..That all changed in January 2000. According to Pro Publica, Thomas bellyached to some Gordon Gekko types of his acquaintance that if his standard of living didn’t start improving, and soon, he might have to quit the Court and find a better-paying job. Whatever Thomas’s intention, this complaint was viewed as a threat. And lo and behold, money suddenly came pouring in.There was the $1.5 million advance for his memoir—a time-honored way of compensating public figures that is bipartisan. His wife, Ginni, took work with the Heritage Foundation—as well as, secretly “of course,” from Leonard Leo. And that is when his long, strange relationship with Harlan Crow began…”

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