The publication cited a bank statement that showed Crow paid $6,200 in monthly tuition at Hidden Lake Academy in July 2009 and quoted Christopher Grimwood, a former administrator at the school, as saying that Crow “picked up the tab” for the entire time Martin was a student there, about a year. Grimwood also told ProPublica that Crow told him that he paid tuition as well for Martin at Randolph-Macon Academy, which Martin attended both before and after his time at Hidden Lake Academy.
ProPublica said the exact total Crow paid for Martin’s education remains unclear. But if he paid for all four years at the two schools, the cost could have exceeded $150,000, based on public records of tuition rates at the schools, the publication reported.
ProPublica said Thomas did not respond to questions about the tuition arrangement. Thomas did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday from The Washington Post. Neither Thomas nor the court’s public information office have responded to previous questions about Crow’s spending.
In a previous statement following a ProPublica report on Crow paying for his vacations, Thomas said he and his wife considered Crow and his wife to be “among our dearest friends” and that he had been advised he didn’t have to disclose the couple’s hospitality, which included travel on a private jet and yacht.
In a statement Thursday, Mark Paoletta, a friend of Thomas, said that Crow’s assistance had been limited to two years, one at Randolph Macon, Crow’s alma mater, and one at Hidden Lake Academy.
Paoletta said the funds went directly to the school and that Thomas was not required to disclose them because the definition of a “dependent child” in the Ethics in Government Act does not include a grandnephew.
“Justice Thomas and his wife devoted twelve years of their lives to taking in and caring for a beloved child — who was not their own — just as Justice Thomas’s grandparents had done for him,” Paoletta said. “They made many personal and financial sacrifices to do this. And along the way, their friends joined them in doing everything possible to give this child a future.”
Crow’s office issued a statement in which it did not dispute that Crow paid for Martin’s education.
“Harlan Crow has long been passionate about the importance of quality education and giving back to those less fortunate, especially at-risk youth,” the statement said. “As part of his desire to perpetuate the American dream for all, and believing education is the great equalizer, he and his wife have supported many young Americans through scholarship and other programs at a variety of schools.”
“It’s disappointing that those with partisan political interests would try to turn helping at-risk youth with tuition assistance into something nefarious or political,” the statement said.
The latest revelations come as Democrats are pushing for greater transparency from the Supreme Court and calling on the justices to set stronger rules for reporting and acting on potential conflicts of interest.
Federal ethics law requires top officials from all three branches of government, including Supreme Court justices, to file annual financial disclosure forms listing outside income and investments. A separate judicial code of conduct directs lower court judges to avoid “the appearance of impropriety in all activities.” In addition, a federal law allows for the filing and investigating of misconduct complaints against lower-court judges.
The nine justices do not have such a code, though court transparency advocates and some lawmakers have long pressed the high court to adopt one. The justices have discussed but failed to reach consensus on a binding policy, The Washington Post reported this year, despite talks dating to at least 2019.
In addition to Crow paying for vacations for Thomas, ProPublica has previously reported that he purchased three properties in Savannah, Ga., from Thomas in 2014, including the single-story house where Thomas’s mother was living and two vacant lots nearby.
Thomas did not disclose the $133,363 real estate transaction on his financial disclosure forms. Crow told ProPublica that he wanted to preserve the first property as a museum dedicated to Thomas in the future, and said he had spent tens of thousands of dollars on improvements to the house “to preserve its long-term viability.”
Thomas has not spoken publicly about the purchase.
Justice Neil M. Gorsuch has also come under scrutiny following a Politico report that he did not disclose that the chairman of a major law firm in 2017 bought a Colorado property in which the justice held an interest.
The latest report comes just days after a Senate hearing on Supreme Court ethics in which even some Republican senators suggested the justices should be paying attention to public calls for a more robust and clear code of conduct.
Robert Barnes, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Amy B Wang contributed to this report.