The Supreme Court has faced myriad ethics concerns in recent months after ProPublica reported that Thomas and other justices accepted vacations and luxury gifts from GOP megadonors for decades without disclosure to the court. Thomas had allegedly accepted gifts ranging from private jet flights and private school payments from donor Harlan Crow, prompting calls for his resignation. The court last month adopted an ethics code amid outrage over these scandals.
Thomas is again facing criticism after ProPublica’s latest report. The article published Monday alleged Thomas hinted in discussions with Republican lawmakers in 2000 he may resign unless Congress authorized a raise.
Thomas at the time received a salary of $173,600. However, he was among the least wealthy members of the Supreme Court, allegedly owing “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in debt and had “grown frustrated with his financial situation,” according to the report.
The report outlined a conversation between Thomas and then-Representative Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican, following a conservative conference in January 2000. The conversation allegedly left Stearns concerned Thomas could resign from the court for a more lucrative role. This would potentially give Democrats a chance to fill the position, as former President Bill Clinton would remain in office through the rest of the year.
Following the conversation, Stearns allegedly wrote in a letter to Thomas, “I intend to look into a bill to raise the salaries of members of The Supreme Court. As we agreed, it is worth a lot to Americans to have the constitution properly interpreted. We must have the proper incentives here, too.”
Stearns told the publication, “His importance as a conservative was paramount. We wanted to make sure he felt comfortable in his job and he was being paid properly.” However, the justices did not receive a major raise amid concerns of Thomas’ resignation, which never came to fruition. From 2000 to 2001, justice pay increased to $178,300, less than a 3 percent increase.
The report drew outrage from Thomas’ critics.
Source: News Week