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Tilting at Windmills

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January 23, 2011

MAYBE CLARENCE THOMAS IS FORGETFUL.... You'd think a sitting Supreme Court justice would be more careful.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas failed to report his wife's income from a conservative think tank on financial disclosure forms for at least five years, the watchdog group Common Cause said Friday.

Between 2003 and 2007, Virginia Thomas, a longtime conservative activist, earned $686,589 from the Heritage Foundation, according to a Common Cause review of the foundation's IRS records. Thomas failed to note the income in his Supreme Court financial disclosure forms for those years, instead checking a box labeled "none" where "spousal noninvestment income" would be disclosed.

Virginia Thomas also has been active in the group Liberty Central, an organization she founded to restore the "founding principles" of limited government and individual liberty.

In his 2009 disclosure, Justice Thomas also reported spousal income as "none." Common Cause contends that Liberty Central paid Virginia Thomas an unknown salary that year.

In October, there were some interesting questions raised about the propriety of Ginni Thomas collecting "large, unidentified contributions" from unknown sources, including, conceivably, interests with business before the Supreme Court.

But this new wrinkle raises separate questions. While Ginni Thomas engaged in all of this political activism, and received compensation for her work, Clarence Thomas failed altogether to report her income on financial disclosure forms. If he'd done this once or twice, it'd be easier to overlook as some kind of clerical error, but doing so every year from 2003 and 2007 suggests a more deliberate effort.

I'm trying to imagine what the response would be if a similar situation arose with a center-left justice. Imagine if, say, Justice Breyer's wife considered Republican officials dangerous radicals, and began collecting six-figure checks from secret donors in order to wage a "war against tyranny." Then, on his financial disclosure forms, Breyer failed to report his wife's income altogether, despite legal requirements.

The question isn't whether congressional Republicans would talk openly about his impeachment, but rather, how many congressional Republicans would do so.

Ian Millhiser added that Clarence Thomas isn't the only conservative justice to play fast and loose with propriety lately: "Justice Antonin Scalia also attended one of Charles Koch's right-wing fundraising and strategy sessions, and Justice Samuel Alito is a frequent speaker at fundraisers for groups such as the Intercollegiate Studies Institute -- the corporate front that funded the rise of Republican dirty trickster James O'Keefe and that used to employ anti-masturbation activist Christine O'Donnell."

Steve Benen 10:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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Maybe Thomas didn't know his wife was making all that dough. Maybe like Inspector Clouseau in the original "Pink Panther" movie, he thought she was just very good with the housekeeping money.

Posted by: Emily on January 23, 2011 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

i hope they remember to declare any income from those cute little foam statue of liberty hats.

Posted by: mell on January 23, 2011 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Dems won't push for impeachment because they are pussies. Next.

Posted by: Chris on January 23, 2011 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe he doesn't think anybody would look. Question, just who is going to hold him responsbible? Second question, much of this crap should have been knowable before November, why didn't it come up then when the house was democratic?

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 23, 2011 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

A 6-figure sum for just churning out predictable propaganda. No wonder these people have such contempt for regular working stiffs.

Posted by: davidp on January 23, 2011 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

No one ever claimed he was the brightest bulb. During his conformation he said he never discussed Roe v Wade (probably forgot); seemed to overlook his sister took care of their aging relatives instead of becoming a lawyer like him; and, oh yeah, forgot about the pubic hair on the coke can.

His best defense will be that he didn't fill out the forms himself.

Posted by: martin on January 23, 2011 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Are there any so called conservatives that is not tainted by corruption or out right lies? The Republican Party should do some house cleaning, starting at the top. Why should Pres. Obama listen to these people?

Posted by: Ted76 on January 23, 2011 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

When accused of impropriety or worse, conservative justices can be counted on to acquit themselves well.

Posted by: Jerry Elsea on January 23, 2011 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

If the "Wise Latina" had done something like this, she's be working as a low-paid lawyer at Taco Bell - and that's if she was lucky.

But Clarence "The ULITIMATE Affirmative Action Hire" Thomas, by the party that doesn't believe in that, and his Mrs, are free to shit on the rest of us with impunity.
If there's a Hell, I hope that Satan positions Thomas directly below Thurgood Marshall up in Heaven, so that if saint's crap and piss, Clarence will have more than just anal and public hairs to wipe off his head - though how he'll tell the difference between that and what's IN his head, is anyone's guess..
What a low rent MFer!!! And her SCOTUS husband, too.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on January 23, 2011 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Income tax evasion, isn't that what brought Capone down? Heck, isn't that what sent Richard hatch to prison?

Posted by: SaintZak on January 23, 2011 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

$686,000 and change - Wow, just think of all the "Long Dong Silver" DVDs he could accumulate?

Posted by: berttheclock on January 23, 2011 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK
When accused of impropriety or worse, conservative justices can be counted on to acquit themselves well.
Because they have no convictions? Posted by: Jim H on January 23, 2011 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Holy bejebus, that's a lot of money! Where do I get one of those jobs? Is Heritage hiring? I'd spew rightwing nonsense for half that much.

And seriously, what's the point of these disclosure forms if they can lie on them with impugnity?

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on January 23, 2011 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Lets stop pussy footing around. While bribery (aka campaign contributions) of Congress has become so routine it doesn't merit news stories, the bribery of a Supreme Court Justice is still (slightly) newsworthy. Presumably conservatives felt that a direct bribe to a justice was too obvious so they took the indirect route to "employ" wives, children, mistresses, etc. The idea that conservative share with Scalia and Thomas is not so much political as it it the love of money.

Posted by: bfr on January 23, 2011 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Thomas obviously believes his own conservative dogma that black people get a free pass in this country.

Posted by: jjm on January 23, 2011 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Still no word on this on Faux Nooze...

Any bets?

Posted by: DAve in Austin on January 23, 2011 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Taxes is complixated. Supreme Court Justice head hurt.

Posted by: SqueakyRat on January 23, 2011 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

if you are a grown-assed man who has been working for more than a year...you don't forget to disclose your spouse's income for one year..yet alone FIVE YEARS.

he's a CROOK, plain and simple.

Posted by: rikyrah on January 23, 2011 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Why was Charlie Rangel thrown under the bus, but Uncle Thomas gats a free pass?


Posted by: Winkandnanod on January 23, 2011 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

What's "none"

Well, come on; let's think about this. In the rarefied elite circles of which Justice Thomas thinks he's a member, an annual income of far less than $200,000 a year IS "none". Geeze, that's more like a tip than "income" ... In fact, has Thomas declared any of his "tips"?

Posted by: zandru on January 23, 2011 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Let's be clear about things here:

1. This was a disclosure form, not a tax return. It would be absolutely astonishing if the Thomases failed to report this income on their tax returns and, frankly, would be clear grounds for impeachment. Given that they undoubtedly filed accurate returns, it's hard to understand how this could have been left off a disclosure form, and we are entitled to an explanation from him, at the very least. I wonder if he is so arrogant or so embittered that he would foolishly refuse to give an explanation and apology.

2. From day one, Thomas has espoused an extreme Conservative judicial philosophy, so I doubt that payments in the last several years to his wife are really attempts to bribe him. The sort of interests which would have the ability to arrange for these payments to his wife didn't need to bribe Thomas; he was already on their side.

Posted by: DRF on January 23, 2011 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

If Thomas doesn't explain this publicly, the Democrats should try to impeach him.

Why wouldn't they talk about impeachment? After all, Thomas is clearly lying on an official U. S. government form. What's the difference between this and Clinton's lying under oath, an offense most Republicans found impeachable. Both offenses are crimes.

The only difference between Clinton's offense and Thomas's is that Thomas's wife's source of income causes one to doubt Thomas's fundamental objectivity in deciding cases, a difference which of course makes his offense all the more impeachable.

It took me two short paragraphs to make this case. Why can't the Democrats?

I say this as someone who believes that our society is to litigious, who doesn't believe in using legal prosecution as a political method. But Thomas's offense truly seems to be impeachable, especially if he doesn't offer a public defense of this action.

Posted by: JD on January 23, 2011 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

The question is does the form require the Justice to affirm its contents are accurate. If it does this is a serious ethical and possibly criminal matter. Now let's see what if anything is done to investigate further and let the chips fall were they may.

Posted by: robert on January 23, 2011 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

I say no impeachment in trade for no senatorial opposition to Obama's next two SCOTUS nominees.

Posted by: Seould on January 23, 2011 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

The Four Stooges on the SCOTUS are an ongoing disgrace to their positions and to the high court. Four ordinary political hacks pretending to project wisdom and dignity.

Posted by: max on January 23, 2011 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Three words: Justice Abe Fortas.
He was forced off the Court in 1970 after word leaked that he was secretly paid $20k a year by crooked financier Louis Wolfson.
So what's the difference this time? The Dems aren't ready or willing to fight.

Posted by: Ron on January 23, 2011 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

Clarence and Ginni Thomas are two of the most greedy, wretched hacks ever to be belched into public life. Nothing matters to them except money. Clarence has been a faithful corporate stooge and Ginni a faithfully unscrupulous gold digger, at the taxpayers' expense. These are hideous people.

Posted by: electrolite on January 24, 2011 at 4:49 AM | PERMALINK

The Fortas case is indeep apt.

"In a government under law, Chief Justice John Marshall observed in the early 19th century, a judge must be "perfectly and completely independent, with nothing to influence or control him but God and his conscience." To help protect him from temptation, the framers of the Constitution created a free and independent federal judiciary, with life tenure, a handsome salary and protection from capricious removal or congressional retaliation. The judge's part of the bargain is implicit but clear. He is expected to adhere to moral standards far more stringent than those of the ordinary citizen. As Washington Attorney Joseph Borkin has written, the judge is "the epitome of honor among men, the highest personage of the law." The American Bar Association stipulates that he must be innocent of "impropriety and the appearance of impropriety."

It thus came as a distinct shock to most Americans when LIFE reported that Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas, an appointee, longtime confidant and private legal retainer of Lyndon Johnson, had accepted a $20,000 fee from the family foundation of Stock Speculator Louis Wolfson, who was then under investigation and is now in jail. Fortaswho admitted that LIFE'S facts were essentially correcthad held the money for almost a year, returning it three months after Wolfson's indictment. Although Fortas had not broken any law, he had clearly been guilty of a gross indiscretion.*

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,902550-1,00.html#ixzz1ByBqFUVS

Posted by: robert on January 24, 2011 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

"The idea that conservative share with Scalia and Thomas is not so much political as it it the love of money."
Posted by: bfr on January 23, 2011 at 11:11 AM

Their political idea -- and the singular is correct, as it's their only political idea -- is the love of money.
Thought you'd have figured that out by now.

By the way, this is the single most brilliant thread I've ever encountered not just at this site, but anywhere. It's the political commentary equivalent of a perfectly-executed Noël Coward scene, clever line trumping clever line, but all with real meaning, not jsut superficial glitz.
So why are "our" Dimocrats so completely feckless, with this kind and depth of talent on their bench, hm?

Posted by: Liar? Stupid? Crazy? YES! on January 24, 2011 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK



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