Senate panel asks Crow for full accounting of gifts to Thomas, other justices

The Senate Judiciary Committee has sent a letter to University of Arizona President Robert Robbins requesting a full accounting of gifts made to Supreme Court justices and their spouses, including Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife Virginia Thomas, from the university’s Crow Institute for the Study of Evolution.

The letter, signed by Committee Chairman Dick Durbin and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, cites recent reports that the Thomases received gifts from the institute that were not properly disclosed. It also notes that the institute has received significant funding from Charles Koch, a conservative billionaire who has been a major donor to Republican candidates and causes.

The letter asks Robbins to provide the committee with a list of all gifts made to Thomas and his wife by the institute, as well as any other gifts made to Supreme Court justices and their spouses by the university or its affiliates. It also requests information on the sources of funding for the institute and any conditions attached to those gifts.

The Crow Institute was founded in 2018 with a $50 million gift from James S. and Marilyn A. Crown. The institute’s website describes its mission as “to advance the understanding of the principles of evolution and how they shape the world around us.” However, recent reports have raised questions about the institute’s connections to conservative donors and its role in shaping the curriculum at the university.

The letter to Robbins comes as the Supreme Court is set to hear a number of high-profile cases, including a challenge to Mississippi’s restrictive abortion law and a challenge to the Affordable Care Act. Justice Thomas is considered to be one of the court’s most conservative members and has been a frequent target of criticism from progressives.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s request for information on gifts made to Supreme Court justices and their spouses is not without precedent. In 2019, the committee sent a similar letter to the National Rifle Association requesting information on gifts made to Justice Thomas and his wife. The NRA ultimately provided the committee with some information but declined to provide a full accounting of its gifts.

It remains to be seen whether the University of Arizona will comply with the committee’s request for information. However, the letter suggests that lawmakers are paying close attention to the sources of funding for institutions like the Crow Institute and the potential influence they may have on the decisions of Supreme Court justices.

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