GOP megadonor friend paid private school tuition for Clarence Thomas’s relative

Republican megadonor Harlan Crow paid the boarding school tuition for a relative of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for whom the jurist had custody, ProPublica has reported.

Mr Crow reportedly paid for the tuition for Mark Martin, Mr Thomas’s grandnephew, at Hidden Lake Academy, a prestigious boarding school in northern Georgia.

A bank statement included in an unrelated financial disclosure from 2009 showed Mr Crow paid the tuition for the month of July 2009. Mr Martin had previously lived with Mr Thomas and his wife in the suburbs of Washington and Mr Thomas had said he “raising him as a son.”

Christopher Grimwood, a former administrator at the school, told ProPublica that Mr Crow has paid for Mr Martin’s tuition the entire time the boy attended the school.

“Harlan picked up the tab,” he said. In addition, Mr Grimwood said that Mr Crow paid for Mr Martin’s tuitition at Randolph-Macon Academy in Virginia, which he recalled learning during a conversation at Mr Crow’s Adirondacks estate.

But Mr Thomas did not disclose the tuition payments on his financial disclosures, but rather in an unrelated filing. Mr Thomas also reported a $5,000 gift for Mr Martin’s education from another friend previously.

Mr Crow and Mr Thomas’s relationship has come under intense scrutiny after reports from ProPublica revealed that Mr Thomas took lavish vacations on Mr Crow’s dime. Mr Thomas also initially failed to disclose that Mr Crow paid Mr Thomas and his family in a real estate deal. This led to the Senate Judiciary Committee holding a hearing on ethics of the Supreme Court earlier this week.

Mr Crow did not dispute the facts of the story in a statement to ProPublica.

“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.”

Mr Crow said he had supported “many young Americans” at a “variety of schools” including Randolph-Macon, his alma mater.

Mark Paoletta, a friend of Mr Thomas, tweeted a statement defending Mr Thomas’s actions.

“The Thomases have rarely spoken publicly about the remarkably generous efforts to help a child in need. They have always respected the privacy of this young man and his family. It is disappointing and painful, but unsurprising that some journalists and critics cannot do the same.”