It took long enough, but the New York Times finally noticed Ginni Thomas' Tea Party activism and wonders aloud whether it might raise an ethical question. Gosh, ya think?
It is the most partisan role ever for a spouse of a justice on the nation’s highest court, and Mrs. Thomas is just getting started. “Liberty Central will be bigger than the Tea Party movement,” she told Fox News in April, at a Tea Party rally in Atlanta.
But to some people who study judicial ethics, Mrs. Thomas’s activism is raising knotty questions, in particular about her acceptance of large, unidentified contributions for Liberty Central. She began the group in late 2009 with two gifts of $500,000 and $50,000, and because it is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group, named for the applicable section of the federal tax code, she does not have to publicly disclose any contributors. Such tax-exempt groups are supposed to make sure that less than half of their activities are political.
Of course, her husband made this possible. Let's start with that. Also, Liberty Central is purely political. There isn't any other reason for its existence. Ginni Thomas goes off at every opportunity about President Obama's "tyranny" and how Liberty Central educates its members on how to "take their country back."
Without irony, the NYT article makes this stunning observation:
Nonprofit groups with political agendas like Liberty Central are operating in this election cycle under evolving legal and regulatory standards, most notably the ruling last January by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case, which eased restrictions on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions. In that case, Justice Thomas, long an advocate of dismantling campaign finance restrictions, was in the 5-to-4 majority. Wealthy individuals and some corporations, emboldened by the ruling, are giving to such groups to influence the election but still hide their tracks.
To review: Liberty Central operates as a purely political group; Ginni Thomas goes on
Conservative 24/7 TV Fox News to decry our President's tyranny, to advocate against health reform, and to echo right-wing talking points and it was all enabled by the United States Supreme Court when her husband and four other justices endorsed the Citizens United model of political participation.
Here's a lovely example of her non-political activity, paid for with anonymous donors' funds which never, ever have to be disclosed:
This month, Liberty Central began what it called its first ad campaign, but the ads were limited to Web sites for the conservative talk-show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin — suggesting an effort to build membership for Liberty Central, not elect candidates. The ads link to Liberty Central’s Web site and a video of Mrs. Thomas soliciting 100,000 signatures against the “Obama tax increase” — referring to the scheduled expiration of the Bush tax cuts on Dec. 31.
And then there is the watered down description that at least affirms what we all know about the Republican Party and the so-called Tea Party:
Mrs. Thomas’s supporters said she plays an important role as a bridge between grass-roots Tea Party activists and establishment Republicans in Washington. Ryan Hecker, a lawyer in Houston and a prominent Tea Party activist, said he had heard that Liberty Central was “doing a big get-out-the-vote effort” in some Congressional races. Despite the suspicion of many in the Tea Party that Republicans in Washington are trying to co-opt the movement, Mr. Hecker said the “charismatic and very genuine” Mrs. Thomas is not seen that way among activists.
Boy, I'm sure glad there's not much political about that role, aren't you?
Despite all the somber reassurances by conservative legal experts that it's perfectly acceptable for the wife of a Supreme Court Justice to be uttering inflammatory speech against a sitting President of the United States while working hard to undermine him with public statements and political activism, it stinks to high heaven. At the very least it appears improper. If someone took it to the Supreme Court, would Thomas recuse himself?
That sound you hear is me laughing before I cry.