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Senate tax chief says billionaire Crow ‘stonewalling’ over perks for Clarence Thomas

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Wyden had asked for details on the gifts Crow lavished on Thomas for over two decades, as reported by ProPublica, that included trips aboard the billionaire’s superyacht to Indonesia, New Zealand and Greece and free use of his private jet.

Although Thomas neglected to report the gifts on his annual disclosure forms, Wyden argued they were substantial enough that Crow would have been obligated to report them on his annual gift tax returns to the IRS.

On Tuesday, Wyden repeated a vow he had previously made to use “any of the tools at [the committee’s] disposal” to compel answers from Crow and said he would confer with his Democratic colleagues on Finance.

In the letter to Wyden that was obtained by POLITICO, Crow’s attorney, Michael D. Bopp, argued that the Finance Committee lacks authority to compel the gift records from Crow and is “attempting to tarnish the reputation of a sitting Supreme Court Justice and his friend of many years, Mr. Crow.”

The committee’s next steps could include subpoenaing Crow for the requested records or using a section of the tax code that vests the chairs of Congress’ tax committees with the authority to obtain a private citizen’s tax returns directly from Treasury — a power that House Democrats used last year to publish the taxes of former President Donald Trump.

Attorneys for Trump had tried to derail that effort by insisting Democrats lacked a “legitimate legislative purpose” for seeking his returns, but federal courts rejected the argument in that case. Democrats had maintained throughout the litigation that obtaining Trump’s taxes was necessary to examine a program at the IRS that required the auditing of all sitting presidents.

Bopp used a similar argument in defense of withholding Crow’s information, saying the committee has jurisdiction of federal gift tax laws but is not empowered to initiate tax audits to expose the activities of private citizens.

Wyden countered that “the assertion that the Finance Committee lacks a legislative basis for an investigation of the abuse of gift taxes by the wealthy is simply preposterous.”

“I have used my Chairmanship of the committee to shine a bright light on tax schemes undertaken by the ultra-wealthy, including untaxed transfers of wealth,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Mike Crapo, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, made it clear Tuesday that he would oppose any efforts to force Crow to provide the information, saying they would “undermine the independence of the Supreme Court and its individual Justices.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and 13 other Republican senators also wrote to Wyden on Monday to express concerns about Wyden’s request to Crow. The GOP lawmakers asserted the demands amounted to intimidation of a private citizen that had the ultimate goal of discrediting Thomas.

“We reject this manufactured ‘ethics crisis’ at the Supreme Court as a ploy to further Democrats’ efforts to undermine public confidence and change the makeup of the Court,” the Republicans wrote.

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#Senate #tax #chief #billionaire #Crow #stonewalling #perks #Clarence #Thomas
( With inputs from : www.politico.com )

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