Apps make it easier to follow Clarence Thomas' growing list of ethics violations.
Luxury trips with billionaires. Private planes. Yacht trips. Dark money payments. Dubious real estate transactions... Software makes it easier to stay abreast of details emerging from ProPublica on the Clarence Thomas ethics scandal.
ProPublic April 6: Clarence Thomas and the billionaire. Luxury trips and gifts for over 20 years
Pro Publica April 13: Billionaire Harlan Crow Bought Property From Clarence Thomas. The Justice Didn’t Disclose the Deal.
Staying abreast of the all the corruption involved is hard. Visualization helps. We used the free Kumu app to present relationships between Clarence Thomas, Harlan Crow and others. (Who, what, when and why), and ArcGIS Online StoryMaps to help visualize where the houses Harlan Crow bought from Clarence Thomas and family members.
Visualizing ethics violations of those who would hold themselves above the law
Investigators look for "indicators of suspicion" such as:
Motive - How do you curry favor with a Supreme Court justice? What do you expect in return?
Means - Where did the money to pay for trips and buy houses come from?
Opportunity - Where did the interactions take place? Who paid? Who benefited?
Relationships - How are the different parties in the scheme connected?
It's valuable to be able to add the new information as new details in the investigation emerge.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant
ProPublica's excellent reporting has exposed some very dubious dealings. How do you present and overview for people in a hurry and visual learners? In a form they can explore in any sequence they want rather than sequentially in a written article? And do this easily on a phone or laptop? We used Kumu which is a 'relationship mapping' app. It helps follow the money from Harlan Crow, the luxury trips and dark money groups with cases in front of the Supreme Court. Kumu can be updated with new information at any time. You can see the two versions of the ethics scandal from April 6 to April 13.
Where are the properties Harlan bought?
Where are the properties that Harlan Crow bought from Clarence Thomas and his family members? Public records reported in the ProPublica article have been rightfully redacted, but they are in the vicinity of E 32nd Street, Savannah, Georgia. We used StoryMap to add details in the form of an interactive map.
The transaction marks the first known instance of money flowing from the Republican megadonor to the Supreme Court justice. The Crow company bought the properties for $133,363 from three co-owners — Thomas, his mother and the family of Thomas’ late brother, according to a state tax document and a deed dated Oct. 15, 2014, filed at the Chatham County courthouse. - HuffPost
Commence a proper investigation
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called on the body overseeing the federal judiciary to refer Justice Clarence Thomas to the Department of Justice for investigation into his failure to properly report gifts from a billionaire benefactor. “It would be best for the Chief Justice to commence a proper investigation, but after a week of silence from the Court and this latest disturbing reporting, I’m urging the Judicial Conference to step in and refer Justice Thomas to the Attorney General for investigation,” Whitehouse said in a statement released Thursday night.
Whitehouse, joined by other Democrats, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), previously called on Chief Justice John Roberts to investigate Thomas’ failure to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from billionaire Harlan Crow. Those gifts, uncovered by ProPublica, included multiple expensive luxury vacations on Crow’s superyacht for Thomas and his wife, Ginni Thomas, and regular use of Crow’s private jet. Thomas did not disclose these gifts in his mandated annual personal financial reports.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
All Americans deserve a government that is ethical and accountable for its actions and transparent in its dealings. When the government fails to uphold this principle, historically marginalized communities often bear the brunt of the impact. When that happens, CREW is there to hold the government accountable.
The Department of Justice and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court should investigate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from and property sales to billionaire donor Harlan Crow, according to a complaint sent today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to the Department of Justice and Chief Justice John Roberts.
“Justice Thomas’s acceptance of and failure to disclose these repeated, lavish gifts and shocking real estate sales not only undermines public trust in his ability to serve impartially on the Court, it undermines confidence in the Supreme Court as an institution,” CREW President Noah Bookbinder said.
Fix The Court
The nine Supreme Court Justices need both an official code of conduct and dedicated ethics office at the Court to help the justices interpret their responsibilities as public officials in an ethical and consistent manner. With no ethics code at the Supreme Court, it’s unlikely that the other justices and unnamed judiciary officials would all take the same view about the propriety of Thomas’ trips with the Crows and his decision to exclude them from his annual disclosures. - Fix The Courts
TakeAway: No one is above the law. Conduct a proper investigation to restore faith in the Supreme Court.
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