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Justice Clarence Thomas formally reports trip to Bali paid for by conservative donor

This 2020 photo shows Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas at the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/File via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) — Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Friday formally disclosed a 2019 trip to Indonesia paid for by GOP megadonor Harlan Crow, a vacation that was at the center of the controversy over his travel.

The trip to Bali was the focus of the original report in ProPublica last year that triggered months of headlines about posh travel accepted by justices. Though the news organization’s reporting raised awareness of the trip, Thomas did not formally disclose it on his previous reports.

Thomas’ annual financial disclosure, which would typically disclose travel, gifts and outside income for the prior year, included a note at the end listing Harlan and Kathy Crow as the source of a trip to Bali in July 2019. The couple paid for “food and lodging,” according to the report. Thomas did not place a value on the travel.

Thomas also reported a trip paid for by the Crows to a private club in Monte Rio, California, that same month.

The annual disclosures, which are required by law, provide only a rough sketch of the finances of the justices and lower court judges. But the reports have drawn considerable attention in recent years amid a series of ethics scandals involving private jet travel and luxury vacations accepted by some of the justices as well as lucrative book deals.

Much of that attention has focused on two members of the conservative wing, Thomas and Samuel Alito. Thomas has come under fire for a series of trips he accepted from Crow. Alito drew fire for attending a luxury fishing trip on the private jet of a conservative hedge fund manager. Most of that travel was not initially disclosed.

As in past years, Alito received a 90-day extension on his report.

The governing body of the judicial branch announced last year that it had tightened the rules. Previously, justices could withhold disclosing certain trips – including private jet travel – by claiming they were extended as “personal hospitality.” Thomas, specifically, explained the travel as “personal hospitality” from “close personal friends.”

Justices and judges must make a “good faith estimate of the fair market value” of that travel if the exact value can’t easily be obtained.

The reports, which cover the 2023 calendar year, are also the first to land since the Supreme Court adopted a code of conduct for the first time in its history last fall. That code, which also came as a response to the travel scandals, was embraced by all nine justices. But the document has prompted skepticism from ethics experts and some Democratic lawmakers because it includes no enforcement mechanism.

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