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Is Ginni Thomas' Expanding Activism a Problem for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas?

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: supremecourt, usa, americans, corruption, ethics, government, healthcare, healthcare, media, propaganda, politics )

- 1785 days ago -
Her fierce political advocacy with Groundswell revives conflict of interest questions surrounding her husband.

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JL A (281)
Monday July 29, 2013, 6:30 pm
Mother Jones
Is Ginni Thomas' Expanding Activism a Problem for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas?
Her fierce political advocacy with Groundswell revives conflict of interest questions surrounding her husband.

By Stephanie Mencimer | Fri Jul. 26, 2013 10:03 AM PDT

Virginia "Ginni" Thomas is no ordinary Supreme Court spouse. Unlike Maureen Scalia, mother of nine, or the late Martin Ginsburg, mild-mannered tax law professor who was good in the kitchen, Thomas came from the world of bare-knuckled partisan politics. Over the years, she has enmeshed herself ever more deeply in the world of political advocacy—all the while creating a heap of conflict of interest concerns surrounding her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Her role in Groundswell [1], the coalition of conservatives waging a "30 front war" against progressives and the GOP establishment that was revealed by Mother Jones on Thursday, revives questions about the propriety of Thomas' activism on issues that have or could become the subject of Supreme Court cases.

Conflict of interest issues were first aired during Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearings in 1991 [2], when critics argued that Ginni Thomas' political work might compromise her husband's objectivity. At that time, her political resume included stints as a Capitol Hill aide to a Republican congressman; a staffer at the US Chamber of Commerce, where she fought the Family and Medical Leave Act; and as a political appointee at the Labor Department during the first Bush administration. Thomas didn't leave politics after her husband was confirmed. "I did not give up my First Amendment rights when my husband became a justice of the Supreme Court," she has said in the past. She would later return to the Hill as a staffer to House majority leader Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas) and work for the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank. But in those jobs, Thomas kept a relatively low profile.

That changed around the same time that the tea party exploded in American politics, and Thomas became an outspoken member of the movement. In late 2009, Thomas founded the political advocacy group Liberty Central, which would later become a fierce player in the opposition to health care form. Detractors pointed out that Liberty Central was a potential vehicle for people with interests before the Supreme Court to make anonymous donations that might influence her husband.

The group was formed with a $500,000 anonymous donation that came as the Supreme Court was considering Citizens United, a case that ultimately resulted in loosening the restrictions on corporate giving to political campaigns. The anonymous donor was later revealed to be Harlan Crow, the Texas real estate developer. Crow was also a friend of Clarence Thomas', and he was later linked to a scandal involving the justice's failure to publicly disclose gifts from t [3]he developer and trips aboard his private jet. (It didn't help that Justice Thomas had also failed to include his wife's $150,000 [4] annual salary from Liberty Central on his financial disclosure forms, which he later had to amend.) In January 2011, the good-government group Common Cause asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Justice Thomas should have recused himself from Citizens United [5] based on his wife's role at Liberty Central. (Common Cause also asked the IRS to revoke Liberty Central's nonprofit status. Nothing came of either request.)

Thomas ultimately stepped down from Liberty Central, and the group merged with the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty, a nonprofit started by former FBI agent Gary Aldrich (who's best known for writing a book [6] claiming that Bill and Hillary Clinton hung sex toys on the White House Christmas tree while Clinton was president). But she continued to be deeply involved with the opposition to Obamacare. She formed Liberty Consulting, which focused on health care issues, and, while never registering as a lobbyist, she began visiting members of Congress as an "ambassador" from the tea party movement. Due to her outspoken anti-Obamacare advocacy, and the fact that she was earning a living in connection with it, liberal activists called on Justice Thomas [7] to recuse himself from ruling on matters related to Obamacare. He declined to do so and later joined the minority in voting to overturn the health care law, as he was widely expected to do.

The recent revelations about Thomas' role in Groundswell will no doubt resurrect the debate over whether her advocacy causes conflicts for her husband. Gun safety, immigration, voting rights and voter ID, environmental concerns—all of these issues have been covered by Groundswell, and all of them are subjects that regularly come before the Supreme Court. (Ginni Thomas did not respond to a request for comment.)

Arn Pearson, vice president for policy and litigation at Common Cause, says that Thomas' work with Groundswell raises "important questions about appearances of conflict, especially if the things she works on end up coming before the Supreme Court, and especially if [the members of Groundswell] end up getting involved in elections." The work she's doing now, he says, doesn't pose quite the same conflicts as her anti-Obamacare advocacy, in which she was directly attacking a specific law whose future rested with the Supreme Court her husband sits on.

The broader problem, Pearson says, is that the Supreme Court has no real mechanism for dealing with possible conflicts of interest, because the high court has refused to subject itself to the same code of conduct [8] that applies to the rest of the federal court system. That code spells out the rules judges must follow to avoid conflicts—rules that include not making speaking appearances at politically tinged fundraisers, as Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito have done in the past. Another rule requires federal judges to recuse themselves from cases in which a spouse has a financial interest, a provision that would seem to be relevant to the Thomases.

Democratic members of Congress, including Connecticut Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), are trying to remedy the situation with two bills that would bind the Supreme Court to the same ethics rules as lower court judges. The bills could be introduced as early as next week, but they don't have a single Republican co-sponsor, making their future fairly dim.

One thing that may insulate Justice Thomas from potential conflicts over his wife's work, in the near-term at least, is congressional gridlock. "I don't know how we're going to get any more conflicts out of Congress because they don't pass anything," Pearson says.
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Jae A (316)
Monday July 29, 2013, 6:46 pm
Thank you JLA. Interesting...information. A real..'food for thought' ...article. I'll start reading the other links now..Thank you for those also !

Alan Lambert (91)
Monday July 29, 2013, 8:50 pm
Why should it worry him now, he's the Supreme Court's Alfred E Newman.

JL A (281)
Monday July 29, 2013, 9:03 pm
Alfred E. Neuman
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Alfred E. Neuman is the fictitious mascot and cover boy of Mad magazine. The face had drifted through U.S. pictography for decades before being claimed and named by Mad editor Harvey Kurtzman. He currently appears in the animated Mad.


Since his debut in Mad, Neuman's likeness, distinguished by jug ears, a missing front tooth, and one eye lower than the other has graced the cover of all but a handful of the magazine's 500 issues. His face is rarely seen in profile; he has virtually always been shown in full frontal view, directly from behind, or in silhouette. Harvey Kurtzman first spotted the image on a postcard pinned to the office bulletin board of Ballantine Books editor Bernard Shir-Cliff. "It was a face that didn't have a care in the world, except mischief," recalled Kurtzman. Shir-Cliff was later a contributor to various magazines created by Kurtzman.[1] In November 1954, Neuman made his Mad debut on the front cover of Ballantine's The Mad Reader, a paperback collection of reprints from the first two years of Mad. The character's first appearance in the comic book was on the cover of Mad 21 (March 1955), as a tiny image as part of a mock advertisement. A rubber mask bearing his likeness with "idiot" written underneath was offered for $1.29.
First cover appearance of Alfred E. Neuman, on Mad #21

When Mad switched to a magazine format starting with issue #24, Neuman's face appeared in a central position on the illustrated border used on the covers, with his now-familiar signature phrase "What, me worry?" written underneath. Initially, the phrase was rendered "What? Me worry?" These borders would be used for five more issues, through Mad #30 (December 1956).

Unfortunately I'm told it is too soon to send you a star Alan.

David C (29)
Monday July 29, 2013, 10:10 pm
Can I take a outsider view on this....

In the USA you have First Amendment rights, rights that most country's do not have, and in this case she does have the right to think and do what she wishes, and so does her husband.
I have no love for the right-wing in the USA, but there has always been a possible conflicts of interest when you have any Supreme Court Justice put in place by the party in power as they will be picked as they think the way of that party. We on the left must take great care on what we say or do about this.

Jae A (316)
Monday July 29, 2013, 11:20 pm
"thank you!
we've sent David your green star "


Barbara K (60)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 6:23 am
I think it is a conflict of interest. ie: The wife of a Judge cannot serve on a jury that her husband is judging., etc.

Robert K (31)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 7:22 am
According to voice stress analysis Anita Hill was telling the truth and Clarence Thomas was lying. He has neither the honesty, honor or intelligence to be on SCOTUS. There are 4 justices that need impeachment but he's the poster boy for the necessity of impeachment. Replacing a giant like Thurgood Marshall with a pea brain like Thomas and saying they were preserving a place on the court for blacks is beyond ignorant.

Gene Jacobson (290)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 8:57 am
All I can say to this is I sure hope so. Anything that can help get that horrible man off some cases and in the best interest of the nation, off the court is a good thing. The single worst Justice in history.

JL A (281)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 10:02 am
You cannot currently send a star to Jae, Barbara, Robert or Gene because you have done so within the last day.

It does seem that this is why the constitution includes provisions for impeaching someone on SCOTUS.

Michael M (60)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 4:39 pm
It was quite clear that Anita Hill was telling the truth - this is one of, or perhaps the first case which made me aware of the tactic of smearing the reputation and integrity of a person - delegating her to a lower social class in the eyes of a culture, in order to obscure truth.
Always take care that you evaluate someone with your innate human skill (we do share this with many other animals) and be aware of your tendency to overprize the valiidty of assertions of those whom you associate with higher social classes.
As a species we are massively prone to use stereotypes in this fashion. It is a grave error to prefer another merely because they are or have attained to high-status ingroups.

JL A (281)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 5:01 pm
Excellent observations Michael! Thank you for reminding us of the risks of such biases.

Lynn Squance (235)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 5:30 pm
Thomas and Scalia are the first 2 Injustices that need to go, and the sooner the better, especially with the spate of states enacting voter suppression laws now that sections 4(b) and 5 of the VRA have been struck down. There are likely more cases that will end up in the SCOTUS. Impeachment would be lovely however, as I understand, impeachment of any of the Injustices would come from the Congress, and with Republicanus/Teabaggers dominating, that just isn't going to happen. A snowball in hell has a better chance.

I also believe that a code of conduct should be in place and enforced like it is in all other courts. Why such was not done in the first place is beyond me. At some point, I guess people did not anticipate the current slate of activist Injustices.

As to Ginni Thomas, you can't tell me that her work does not enter into their pillow talk. I definitely think there is too much conflict of interest.

Mitchell D (87)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 6:32 pm
Before I read anyone's comment, I was cheering her on... to the impeachment of this clown!
His presence on the bench, along with Scalia's is more than enough recognition that we must continue to elect Democratic, or Progressive presidents. These guys are like human waste left behind by a once sitting president.

JL A (281)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 6:34 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Mitchell because you have done so within the last day.

Mitchell D (87)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 6:37 pm
So, if Robert K. is right about voice stress analysis, can Thomas be impeached, and/or brought up on charges of perjury before congress?
That could, maybe, make me believe in miracles.

Sheila D (194)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 6:51 pm
If she continues on so blatantly it will have to be acknowledged and Thomas will have to be publicly called on her actions. Problem as I see it is the Republican House. However, in 2014 we can and must change that - without changing the Democratic Senate. Then SCOTUS will have to be cleaned and fumigated...Priority.

JL A (281)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 7:02 pm
You cannot currently send a star to GGma Sheila because you have done so within the last day.
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