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POGO Calls for DOJ to Investigate Clarence Thomas, Seek Civil Penalties

“On behalf of the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), we write to urge the Department of Justice to investigate the recently reported decades-long failure of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to disclose his receipt of gifts potentially worth millions of dollars. Unless the investigation reveals that the facts differ radically from what has been reported, the Department of Justice should thereafter initiate an action against Justice Thomas under the Ethics in Government Act seeking a civil monetary penalty for each knowing and willful omission from his financial disclosure reports. The penalty is $71,316 per omission.1 POGO is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that investigates and exposes waste, corruption, abuse of power, and when the government fails to serve the public or silences those who report wrongdoing. We champion reforms to achieve a more effective, ethical, and accountable federal government that safeguards constitutional principles. For over two decades, Justice Thomas accepted gifts of luxury vacation packages potentially worth millions of dollars from a billionaire political activist he met only after his appointment to the Supreme Court. He completed a strange real estate transaction with this same benefactor in 2014.The Ethics in Government Act required Justice Thomas to disclose these gifts and the transaction. He did not. His public explanation suggested that he thought the gifts qualified for a disclosure exception. They did not. Contrary to what Justice Thomas and his defenders would have you believe, limitations on use of that exception, which render it inapplicable to the gifts he received, are not new. Circumstances surrounding the concealment of these reportable items strongly support the conclusion that these violations of the law were knowing and willful. The law was clear. All four federal supervising ethics offices had issued helpful explanations of the law. Three other justices showed they knew to disclose these types of gifts. Justice Thomas himself has disclosed such gifts in the past. He stopped after they prompted embarrassing media coverage in 2004. Furthermore, this is not the first time Justice Thomas has been caught failing to disclose information he should have: In 2011, he had to amend 20 years’ worth of disclosures because he had not reported his wife’s employment information. The Department of Justice has a duty to hold Justice Thomas accountable for this flagrant and repeated law breaking, unless an investigation reveals that the facts radically differ from what has been reported. The department has enforced the disclosure law against other federal officials. There is no reason to treat Justice Thomas differently…”

See also via POGO – Model Code of Conduct for U.S. Supreme Court Justices: “Of all the country’s state and federal courts, only the Supreme Court lacks a code of conduct. Instead, existing rules found in the U.S. Code provide standards concerning financial disclosures and recusals. But this set of standards is limited. And compliance with them, along with all other decisions related to ethical conduct, is left to each Justice’s discretion.”

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