Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ginni Thomas' latest move . . .

Politico broke the news last Friday:
Justice Thomas' wife, Virginia, now a lobbyist. 
She started as a congressional aide in the 1980s, became a midlevel Republican operative, then briefly left politics, reemerging in 2009 as founder of a tea party group before stepping down amid continued questions about whether her actions were appropriate for the spouse of a Supreme Court justice. 
Now, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, has recast herself yet again, this time as the head of a firm, Liberty Consulting, which boasts on its website using her “experience and connections” to help clients “with “governmental affairs efforts” and political donation strategies.
I did have to giggle (with great dignity) at the wording of that phrase, "governmental affairs efforts." But I'm allowed an occasional giggle at wording, don't you think? And I'm allowed to be grateful that the wording wasn't "judicial affairs efforts." But dignified giggling about the wording has nothing to do with the ethics of Ginni Thomas' actions.

The question is, I guess, can wife and husband refrain from influencing each other professionally? And I ask that question as the legality of health care reform barrels toward the Supreme Court.

Clarance and "Ginni" Thomas
Ginni Thomas has mixed it up with the legality of health care reform before in ways she (or her husband or someone) later thought better of. This was posted on the ABC News website on October 21, 2010, when Ms. Thomas was head of the Tea Party group Liberty Central:
More Controversy for Virginia Thomas; First Anita Hill, Now Health Reform Law: Liberty Central Pulls Memo By Wife of Justice Attacking Constitutionality of Health Care Legislation 
Two days after making headlines for reaching out to Anita Hill, Virginia Thomas' non-profit organization has withdrawn her name from a statement that had been posted on its website advocating the repeal of the Obama administration's health care law. 
In a statement, the non-profit group Liberty Central said the organization "assiduously avoids" taking positions on the "constitutionality" of issues. 
The memo posted by Liberty Central came from the Conservative Action Project. Liberty Central said that Virginia Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, was incorrectly listed as the author of the memo. 
On October 27th, NewsOne for Black America joined other news outlets in reporting that Ms. Thomas had stepped down as head of Liberty Central .“She’ll take a back seat so that Liberty Central can continue with its mission without any of the distractions,” the group’s spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll told the Washington Post Monday. “After discussing it with the board, Mrs. Thomas determined that it was best for the organization.”

But now, she's back, with the aim, according to Liberty Consulting's website, of lobbying all those new Tea Party-backed House members.  
With the new ascendancy of constitutional conservatism, Liberty Consulting and Virginia Thomas will continue to serve as a visionary insider who sees political threats, opportunities and can marshal resources to restore our nation's founding principles.

In launching in 2009, Ginni set out to be an "ambassador" between the new citizen activists (tea party movement), the established conservative movement, the entrepreneurial class, the alternative media and principled statesmen and candidates.

Ginni plans to leverage her 30 years of experience as a Washington "insider" to assist non-establishment "outsiders" who share her belief in our core founding principles and values.
 There's a Protect our Elections video posted on YouTube that alleges (with what appears to be strong evidence) that the "office" of  Liberty Consulting is the same P.O. Box used by Liberty Central. Protect our Elections further alleges that:
"both are fake Astroturf organizations putting up a 5 page website and a P.O. box, all to funnel millions of dollars to influence election and legislation, money from donors they don't have to reveal. We call for immediate criminal and ethical investigations to take place surrounding these allegations and we demand that Clarence Thomas get the equal justice under law that everyone else got that came before him seeking justice." 
Conservative firebrand Sean Hannity asks this question on his website: Should Clarence Thomas recuse himself if the Health Care repeal reaches the SCOTUS? And then posts this answer:
All signs point to the Affordable Health Care Act appearing before the Supreme Court sometime next year. This thread really isn't to debate whether or not you personally believe the act is constitutional or effective. My concerns more lie with a potential conflict of interest issue involving Clarence Thomas. 
Mr Thomas's wife, Ginny Thomas, is a well known supporter of the Tea Party. She has spoken at several events and has made her views abundantly clear. That in and of itself is fine with me. We are all entitled to our own opinions and to express said opinions where we wish. 
However, Ginny Thomas recently became a lobbyist for a group known as Liberty Consulting. One of their highest priorities is apparently the repeal of the Affordable Heath Care Act, something that Mrs Thomas would be directly involved in. 
Considering that Mrs Thomas is actively lobbying against the health care law as part of her employment with the lobbying group, would you consider it a conflict of interest for Clarence Thomas to participate in a vote on this subject? If he chose to, it would seem like he has a personal interest in seeing the law overturned.
Seventy-four House Democrats  have sent a letter to Justice Thomas requesting that he recuse himself from any considerations involved with national health care reform because it creates "the appearance of a conflict of interest."

I googled "Ginni Thomas, support" and couldn't find any.

Your opinion?


  1. Can a spouse refrain from influencing a spouse politically? Sure. James Carville and Mary Matalin are still married, aren't they? My lovely wife and I disagree on a few issues, but I don't adopt her position simply because we live together. If she can convince me with persuasive argument, she can change my position, but I would hope I'm open to that from any quarter.

    The issue that concerns me here is the perception of SCOTUS as a superlegislature. Judges should rule on the law regardless of their political positions on underlying issues. For example, I think that all handguns should be confiscated and melted down, but also that the 2nd Amendment as law really protects the individual right to handgun ownership. If someone were so foolish as to make me a judge, I would have to rule laws like Chicago's or DC's on handgun ownership unconstitutional. The perception that five conservatives on the current Court will strike down the Affordable Care Act because the conservative establishment opposes it assumes that the decision will be made on political grounds or that the justices will find some Constitutional justification for their political position. Could be, but I really hope not. The perception of the justices as politicians is part of the ugly legacy of Bush v. Gore.

    Laurence Tribe wrote a column (NYT?) recently making the point that on purely Constitutional grounds, the Act is hard to overturn. It's an interesting read. Now whether that's legal scholarship or a public amicus brief of sorts can be debated, too.

  2. Thanks, Woody. The Lawrence Tribe piece was indeed in the NYT and to prove it, here's a link:

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