Ok, let’s start with a few facts about Virginia “Ginni” Thomas:
1) She is married to US SC Justice Clarence Thomas.
2) She founded and is president of a tea party-related “think tank and advocacy group called Liberty Central.”
On the website for said organization, she posted an open letter that starts “Dear Liberty Central Patriots,” in which she assures readers that
Believe me, we are not alone! I conducted market research that identified 57 million of us in this great nation who respect the principles of our founding, and that number is growing daily.
Is that all? Only 57 million Americans respect the principles of our founding? Oh, hold up, I forgot that by “principles of our founding,” Ginni Thomas is undoubtedly cherry picking/making up the particular principles she and her like-minded patriots feel suit them best.
Anyway, if you’re wondering how you might be able to support Ginni’s efforts, fear not! for she has made you a list. You should probably, for instance, “Decorate your car, fly the flag, or wear patriotic things to make a statement.” Do I have to decorate my car with patriotic things or would bedazzling make an acceptable statement? What if my definition of “patriotic things” include gay pride stickers and Obama decals? It ought to go without saying that you should also “support and donate to Liberty Central to put ‘wind in our sails’ for this mighty mission.”
Er, about that. Politico points out that Liberty Central is funded almost exclusively by two very large anonymous donations (one for $50,000 and one for $500,000). And this is where the conflict of interest thing kicks in. It already feels somewhat unseemly for the wife of a Supreme Court justice to engage in fear-mongering rhetoric like “Let me be clear. Unless we all pitch in, we could lose this country.” But at the same time, we can’t know how many of her opinions her husband shares (and conversely, it’s no secret that he’s quite right-wing himself). And part of me thinks good for her for pursuing her own career path, even if I find it odious.
But– so far no one will say whether Liberty Central will disclose the donors to the SC legal office or to Clarence Thomas himself so he could recuse himself from cases in which one of these major donors is a party. And that’s problematic.
Michael Roston made a good point about this in a blog post several months ago–namely, that the conflict of interest is not just hypothetical:
Justice Thomas has evaluated a case, Citizens United v. FEC, which will now allow his wife to raise substantial amounts of corporate money, some of which will go to her personal income (as head of Liberty Central). Moreover, should Congress overturn Citizens United by way of legislation, a court challenge to the bill will no doubt emerge. If Justice Thomas refuses to recuse himself from the case, he will again be weighing a matter that is directly related to his family’s income.