GOP donor sentenced for sex trafficking and Justice Thomas' latest opulence

A Midwestern Epstein, Pence's national approach to abortion and RFK Jr.'s latest polling numbers are in the headlines as the dog days of summer reach their twilight.  


  • A federal court sentenced Anthony Lazzaro, a major Minnesota GOP donor, to a 21-year prison sentence for his direct involvement in child sex trafficking. In March, a federal jury found Lazzaro guilty of engaging in "commercial sex acts" with five underage girls. Lazarro has donated $270,000 to Republican candidates and PACs; In one instance, he provided U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) — who became House majority whip this past January — with $15,600 in donations.

Lazzaro has also been photographed with former President Donald Trump.

  • News Corp, Fox mogul Rubert Murdoch’s media conglomerate that owns major publications like The Wall Street Journal and book publisher HarperCollins, recently reported that its profits have plummeted. The multinational company declared $187 million in profits for the fiscal year, as compared to $760 million in 2021-2022. This is a 75% dip in profits.

News Corp’s broader collection of news assets, such as the New York Post and British publications like The Times and The Sun, saw a 9.2% revenue decline. And advertising revenue across all units fell 11% to $424 million.  

  • At the Iowa State Fair, former Vice President and 2024 presidential candidate Mike Pence implied that, unlike primary rivals Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis, he would take federal action on abortion and did not see the politics of reproductive rights as being exclusively a local matter:

"I don't see the question of abortion as only a state issue," he told a gaggle of reporters.

Justice Clarence Thomas revealed to have received even more gifts from billionaires

Earlier this year, investigative newsroom ProPublica discovered that Clarence Thomas, the longest-tenured Supreme Court justice, had been the beneficiary of numerous gifts from right-wing real estate tycoon Harlan Crow. These include lavish vacations, tuition for his relatives and a home for his mother. The bombshell report, which demonstrated that Thomas had not been transparent about such gifts and had refused to recuse himself when Crow-affiliated firms came before the Court, shook the already shaky public support for the institution.

Now, additional reporting from ProPublica has unearthed even more luxury handouts to the controversial Thomas, but not just from Crow. David Sokol, H. Wayne Huizenga and Paul “Tony” Novelly — all members of the point-one percent who donate to Republican causes — also provided him with fanciful largesse.

“At least 38 destination vacations, including a previously unreported voyage on a yacht around the Bahamas; 26 private jet flights, plus an additional eight by helicopter; a dozen VIP passes to professional and college sporting events, typically perched in the skybox; two stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica; and one standing invitation to an uber-exclusive golf club overlooking the Atlantic coast,” the ProPublica piece by Brett Murphy and Alex Mierjeski reads.

While Democrats have been calling on Thomas to resign since the Crow controversy arose, the new reporting initiated a direct call-out by longtime Democratic leader and U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA).

“Justice Thomas has brought shame upon himself and the United States Supreme Court with his acceptance of massive, repeated and undisclosed gifts,” Lieu wrote in a statement published on X (formerly Twitter).  

“No government official, elected or unelected, could ethically or legally accept gifts of that scale. He should resign immediately.”

Poll Watchers:

It appears that the polemic black sheep known as Robert F. Kennedy might be better at courting voters from the right side of the aisle. An assortment of different polls collected from last month by FiveThirtyEight found that Republicans hold the slated scion in substantially higher regard than their Democratic counterparts. There’s only one problem: RFK Jr. isn’t running in the GOP primary.

Subscribe to The Lede

Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.
Jamie Larson