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Tilting at Windmills

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February 4, 2011

GINNI THOMAS CONTINUES TO BREAK NEW GROUND.... It's probably safe to say there's never been a Supreme Court justice's spouse quite like Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, wife of Justice Clarence Thomas.

Throughout 2010, Ginni Thomas' once-obscure right-wing activism took on a much higher-profile role. She told audiences nationwide that "there's a war going on against tyranny," and in her worldview, the tyrants are America's elected leaders. All the while, Thomas collected large, undisclosed contributions from secret donors, some of whom, conceivably, may have had business before the Supreme Court. (Clarence Thomas was required to report her income on his financial disclosure forms, but for several years, for reasons that remain unclear, he chose not to.)

The creepiness factor went up considerably, of course, when Thomas left an odd, accusatory voice-mail message for Brandeis University professor Anita Hill in October, calling early on a Saturday morning, asking her to apologize for having been sexually harassed by her husband.

Thomas parted ways with her far-right activist group, Liberty Central, and has now apparently designated herself a "Tea Party Ambassador," through her new lobbying outfit, Liberty Consulting. For a price, her clients can even take advantage of Ginni Thomas' "connections."

Thomas already has met with nearly half of the 99 GOP freshmen in the House and Senate, according to an e-mail she sent last week to congressional chiefs of staff, in which she branded herself "a self-appointed, ambassador to the freshmen class and an ambassador to the tea party movement."

But her latest career incarnation is sparking controversy again.

Thomas's role as a de facto tea party lobbyist and -- until recently -- as head of a tea party group that worked to defeat Democrats last November "show a new level of arrogance of just not caring that the court is being politicized and how that undermines the historic image of the Supreme Court as being above the political fray," said Arn Pearson, a lawyer for Common Cause, the left-leaning government watchdog group.

Even for Ginni Thomas, this is pretty bizarre. In fact, while she claims to have met with nearly half of the new GOP freshman class, House Republicans hardly seem to know who she is: "Roughly half a dozen aides for new members told POLITICO that their offices received handwritten meeting requests from Thomas the day after they were sworn in, as well as follow-up e-mails requesting a meeting with her -- but only one of them had met with her. The rest had no plans to do so."

It's not even altogether clear exactly what kind of services Ginni Thomas is selling, since "self-appointed ambassador" isn't quite a traditional position in D.C. Apparently, her clients get "advice for short or long term projects and bringing resources to bear for impact -- whether it includes a short term bill-reading project, assistance on congressional oversight efforts or an effective coalition for impact.

Dave Weigel added, "So you can hire Ginni Thomas to help determine whether a bill will pass constitutional muster if it comes before, you know, her husband."

What a ridiculous mess.

Steve Benen 3:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Can't something be done about this? Where is John Roberts? Why doesn't he sit Clarence down and explain the facts of life?

Posted by: gingerpye on February 4, 2011 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't this the kind of ethical and conflict-of interest problem that the Chief Justice is supposed to deal with? Why isn't Roberts doing something?

Posted by: Cathie from Canada on February 4, 2011 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

She seems to be in need of an intervention.

Posted by: ET on February 4, 2011 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Directly coordinating the power structures in DC is a lot more efficient than having to wind around those pesky ethical rules. If the other side are too weak to make it an issue - why shouldn't she just publicly make deals and rabble-rouse?

If there were a Democratically appointed Justice with a record as pathetic as Thomas, with a spouse so flagrantly abusing her position - you know the GOP would be taking advantage.

The Dems could scream - but they won't. Just uselessly tut tut.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on February 4, 2011 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

If Clarence Thomas's constitutional views were widely held, this wouldn't be a problem because he and Virginia couldn't be married in their state.

Posted by: CJColucci on February 4, 2011 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

More and more, 21st Century Washington is coming to resemble 1st Century Rome.

Posted by: DAY on February 4, 2011 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Ginni Thomas seems to have a need to seek the lime light. This seems to trump her sense of propriety and care about risks to the appearance that her husband is a political actor open to monetary influence. I know this is not an intellectual observation, but she does, in fact, give me the creeps.

Posted by: TuiMel on February 4, 2011 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately for all of Ameria, Eric Cartman's attitude is alive and well among at least one Supreme Court Justice, (and his wife):

"Whatever, Whatever, I do what I want!"

Ginni Thomas and her husband are embarrassments to our established institutions here in the good ol'USA! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on February 4, 2011 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Impeachment anyone? For this, the tax evasion and the perjury in his confirmation testimony?

I guess it's out of the question as long as the House doesn't care about it.

Posted by: Ralph Kramden on February 4, 2011 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Clarence Thomas should be impeached. Period.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 4, 2011 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

jeesh, don't you guys remember, it's OK if you are a republican. (IOKIYAR).

Posted by: Jamie on February 4, 2011 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

CAN you imagine the right's reaction if the wife of a liberal court member took money from the ACLU etc... And opened up her own lobbying firm?

The howl would be heard in Istanbul.

This is a NATIONAL story and deserves to be on pounded into the minds of every citizen of the US, along with the anti-Federalist nonsense as well as the attempt by REPUBLICAN Az Governor Jan Brewer to cut 280,000 people from Medicaid which is EPIC in scale and in consequences for Arizona and the nation.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on February 4, 2011 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

There really has to be a move to demand Thomas recuse himself from cases in which she has been involved. Better yet, he should leave the bench for lying on his federal disclosure forms for years. How can he sit in judgment of anyone when he has committed a crime?

Posted by: Mimikatz on February 4, 2011 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

The woman sounds like as much of an idiot as her husband, but I'm not sure why who she's married to should necessarily restrict her political activity.

Posted by: chi res on February 4, 2011 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

The insane conservative goal of a "permanent Republican majority" marches on, and on, and on.

It's scorched earth time, baby.

And what does it matter to the Republican elite in Washington and on Wall Street boards whether less-elite, less-wealthy, less-influential Republicans are "scorched" in their madness, in their pursuit of what will make their runaway egos happy, the totalitarian domination of America, the subjugation of all American citizens from womb to grave?

The Republican Party IS the Death Panel Party, chanting Death to America, Death to pregnant women facing life-threatening complications, Death to the environment, Death to local, state governments and the federal government, Death to the U.S. Constitution, Death to the Bill of Rights, Death to the separation of church and state, Death to everything in our democratic society judged by Republican elites to be too liberal for their "permanent Republican majority" taste.

To the Republican elite, other less-elite less-wealthy less-influential Republicans (along with all Democrats and Independents) are collateral damage, acceptable losses to the Republican elite's insane quest for a "permanent Republican majority, with the more fanatical religious among the Republican elite believing that all this is a precursor to the return of Jesus, who will arrive at the head of a Rapture Death Panel.

By any definition, the Republican elite are insane.

Posted by: The Oracle on February 4, 2011 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

I don't care if impeachment is a pipe dream with Republicans in charge of the House, House Dems need to be screaming about this all day long.

Posted by: TR on February 4, 2011 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Ginni is quite a character but the conservative Justices themselves are quite involved in planning for the far-right agenda, notable also for being protested:
www dot alternet dot org/news/149730/twenty-five_arrested,_thousands_converge_on_koch_brothers_billionaire's_caucus_in_the_california_desert/
Also some campaign finance conflicts are claimed: p://www.kansascity.com/2011/01/20/2598938/two-justices-had-conflict-of-interest.html
That is even worse from the standpoint of ethics and the gravity and responsibility of their positions in SCOTUS.

Posted by: neil b on February 4, 2011 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

Apart from the obviously unseemly character of what Ms. Thomas does with her 'self-appointed' ambassadorship, she looks so very silly and extremely unattractive. One wonders that her husband has not tried to rein her in, because she looks all too much like the clown that she is... and it reflects even more badly on her husband.

Posted by: jjm on February 4, 2011 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Jesus, she is scumbag of the highest order. Just like her worthless husband.

Posted by: ellie on February 4, 2011 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

I am fortunate enough to recieve federal research grants [thanks very much - we work hard]. When it come stime for proposal reviews, making decisions, etc., we HAVE to disclose potential sources of conflict of interest, [COI] and I even had to recuse myself from discussion of a proposal because another department at the institution gave me office space for a visit - there were no other connections.

So ... Ginni Thomas can haul in > $600k from an obvious and ardent group that has many interests in SCOTUS decisions, filing amicus briefs, trying to influence the court, etc., and this is not a COI how????

Posted by: bigtuna on February 4, 2011 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

I didn't know ambassadors appointed themselves.

Posted by: tamiasmin on February 4, 2011 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

While this is disgusting and should be considered a conflict of interest, I suspect that little, if anything, will be done about it until she and or Justice Thomas commits something egregious and puts themself so far out there that something will have to be done.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on February 4, 2011 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

While this is disgusting and should be considered a conflict of interest, I suspect that little, if anything, will be done about it until she and or Justice Thomas commits something egregious and puts themself so far out there that something will have to be done.
Posted by: ComradeAnon

I think lying on his disclosure forms for years is pretty egregious, but I know, he's a Republican and they have different standards.

Posted by: kc on February 4, 2011 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

It's not even altogether clear exactly what kind of services Ginni Thomas is selling, - SB

Now that is funny, way to go Steve. Happy Friday everybody.

Posted by: Kevin (not the famous one) on February 4, 2011 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

In every law firm in the country, when they are asked to take a case a memo goes out to find out if any member of any family works for a potential client and/or opponent. Why? Because in every law firm in the country, it's not just an ACTUAL conflict of interest that they're worried about -- the mere APPEARANCE of a conflict of interest is often enough for reputable firms to reject clients and/or cases. One would think the highest court in the land would respect such a basic tenet of the law ...

... but, of course, if they did, neither BUSH v. GORE nor the Citizens United case would've been seen, as the Conservative Supremes had and have hardcore conflicts (led by Ms. Thomas, of course - and doesn't this continue to make the case that Clarence Thomas is the worst Supreme Court appointment in American history?).

Posted by: EdgewaterJoe on February 4, 2011 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

Lobbyists are whores for rich people needing insider information. Obviously Ginni Thomas and Clarence Thomas think she is highly qualified for the position. It's insider trading for the rich. While today's adults are squishy on most everything, it will be the young that will revolt. The old folks are pretty much assholes in this era. The Thomas' are no exception.

Posted by: Silver Owl on February 5, 2011 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

Silverowl, I'm sorry your parents are such assholes. They've obviously given you a skewed view of those older than you. As with all demographics, no one set of adjectives describes everyone.

Posted by: mlm on February 5, 2011 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK



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