House Democrats Urge IRS investigation into Supreme Court 'bribes'

House Democrats Urge IRS investigation into Supreme Court 'bribes'
Image via the United States Supreme Court.

Three House Democrats are requesting the IRS “confirm” if gift taxes were paid by billionaire benefactors to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito after reports show both jurists received luxury vacations and other items of worth.

“Today my colleagues and I are calling on the IRS to probe all the free gifts republican judges Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito have gotten and whether taxes were ever paid on all these bribes,” U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) wrote via social media. Congressman Pascrell is the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Oversight.

“In light of recent reports, we respectfully request that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) examine whether gifts to Supreme Court Justices have been appropriately reported for tax purposes,” wrote Pascrell, along with Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), in a letter addressed to IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel. They add: “we urge the IRS to confirm that appropriate filing requirements were made – and appropriate taxes paid – on these gifts.”

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“Numerous media reports indicate that Justice Clarence Thomas has frequently accepted luxury travel and other gifts from wealthy acquaintances," the letter continues.

“Among other things, these reports allege that Justice Thomas sold his mother’s house (and other properties) to Harlan Crow, a billionaire who has also financed several luxury vacations for the Justice and has given Justice Thomas numerous valuable gifts over the past three decades. Reports also state that Justice Thomas’ purchase of a recreational vehicle was partially underwritten by a wealthy friend; that Mr. Crow paid for Justice Thomas’ grandnephew to attend private boarding school; and that Justice Thomas has consistently failed to disclose these arrangements,” the three Democrats say.

“A separate report, published in June of this year, found that Justice Samuel Alito accepted a free vacation from billionaire
political megadonor Paul Singer – and then never reported the trip.”

Pointing to “alarming concerns,” they add, “most prominently, that billionaires with business before the Court are regularly plying Justices with extravagant gifts.”

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“But they also raise questions about whether appropriate gift taxes were paid by benefactors to the Justices,” the three Democrats say.

“Given that many of the gifts received by Mr. Thomas clearly exceed the limits, Mr. Crow and other benefactors presumably had an obligation to file IRS Form 709, a United States Gift (And Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, so as to report any changes to his lifetime gift tax exclusion (and, to the extent that such exclusion had been exhausted, pay any taxes owed on those gifts).”

Nearly every Republican-appointed justice currently sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court has been tinged by alleged ethics scandals or possible perceptions of conflict of interest. Chief Justice John Roberts’ wife has made millions of dollars recruiting attorneys into high-powered law firms, some of which do business before the Supreme Court. Justices Thomas and Alito have received luxury vacations. Justice Alito’s wife leased land to an oil and gas firm while he wrote an opinion restricting the EPA’s work. Justice Neil Gorsuch sold land, just nine days after being confirmed, to the head of a law firm that does business before the court, without disclosing the buyer. The sale of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s home set off alarms by a watchdog group.

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