Mark Paoletta, a longtime friend of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and lawyer to his wife, acknowledged that GOP megadonor Harlan Crow paid private school tuition for Thomas’ great-nephew, but Paoletta said the justice did nothing wrong.
A new ProPublica report published Thursday morning revealed that Crow spent thousands of dollars on private school tuition for Thomas’ relative, who he was raising “as a son.” Thomas didn’t disclose the tuition payments as gifts, and Paoletta argued disclosure wouldn’t have been necessary.
“Harlan Crow’s tuition payments made directly to these schools on behalf of Justice Thomas’s great nephew did not constitute a reportable gift,” Paoletta wrote in a tweet detailing Crow’s financial support for the family. Paoletta was a lawyer for Thomas’ wife, Ginni, before the Jan. 6 committee last year.
The real estate magnate footed the $6,000-per-month bill for Hidden Lake Academy, a private school in Georgia, for one year, the ProPublica report said, and then paid for tuition at another boarding school in Virginia. It’s unclear how much Crow put down, but if he paid for all four years at the two schools, the bill would be more than $150,000, the report found.
“Let’s be clear about what is supposedly scandalous now: 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 in the statement.
Paoletta called the fresh accusations of wrongdoing by the justice “malicious,” and said that “this story is another attempt to manufacture a scandal about Justice Thomas.”
The ProPublica report included a statement from Crow’s office in response to their questions: “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. “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.”
Thomas’ ties with Crow have come under a microscope ever since ProPublica reported last month that Crow had financed luxury vacations for the justice for over two decades, which Thomas did not report.