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New Clarence Thomas ethics questions about forgiveness on luxury RV loan

Government watchdog Accountable.US launches a campaign to call for recusals from allegedly conflicted Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas on Oct. 2, 2023.
Paul Morigi
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Getty Images for Accountable.US
Government watchdog Accountable.US launches a campaign to call for recusals from allegedly conflicted Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas on Oct. 2, 2023.

The drip, drip, drip of new ethics questions about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's ethicscontinued Wednesday. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., disclosed that documents turned over to the committee indicate that Thomas benefitted by having some or all of a $267,000 loan forgiven in order to purchase a luxury RV.

In August, The New York Times reported that Anthony Welters, a wealthy friend of Thomas's, loaned him $267,000 to buy the RV. The Times reported that Welters, in response to inquiries, said the loan had been "satisfied," but he declined to say whether the loan was repaid. On Wednesday, Sen. Wyden said that after an inquiry in which Welters provided considerable documentary evidence, "the committee has the answer" to that question, though not the full answer.

A Democratic staff memorandum indicates that Thomas made some interest payments on the loan, but there is no indication the actual loan was repaid. Thomas did not include the loan on his ethics disclosure forms, and it is not known whether he disclosed the loan forgiveness to the IRS, as required by law because loan forgiveness is taxable income.

"Justice Thomas should inform the committee exactly how much debt was forgiven, and whether he properly reported the loan forgiveness on his tax returns and paid all taxes owed," Wyden said.

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Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.