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It looks like Justice Clarence Thomas has a bit of a memory problem, and when combined with Ginni Thomas' lobbying efforts, a picture emerges of a deep ethical problem corrupting the highest court in the country.
The video above outlines Virginia "Ginni" Thomas' relationship to Liberty Central and Liberty Consulting. They suggest that Liberty Consulting is a front for Liberty Central, but I'm not sure about that, since the two organizations still keep separate websites, and one is for-profit while the other isn't.
What is clear, however, is that there is direct intent to cloak both operations behind a veil of secrecy while one of our Supreme Court justices takes up questions that deal directly with the very same issue. That's problem #1.
Problem #2 is a little stickier. While we knew that Justice Thomas did not disclose his wife's income from the Heritage Foundation and Liberty Central for the past six years, as was required, it seems that non-disclosure stretches back farther than that.
For twenty years, Clarence Thomas has not disclosed his wife's income, nor the source of that income. Twenty years.
Roger Schuler, at Daily Kos thinks Thomas' failure to disclose could be a felony.
News reports on the Thomas case generally have referenced 5 U.S. Code app. section 104, which calls for a misdemeanor punishment of up to $50,000 and one year imprisonment, or both, for each violation. Given that Thomas apparently violated the statute for roughly 20 years, he could wind up with a substantial penalty under that law.
But the punishment becomes much more severe under 18 U.S.C. 1001, which also appears to apply in the Thomas case. It is a felony statute carrying at least five years in prison, and a former official with the U.S. House of Representatives currently is under indictment for actions that almost mirror those in the Thomas case. Reports POE:
While 5 USC app section 104 makes this conduct a misdemeanor punishable for up to a year in prison, 18 USC section 1001 is a felony statute carrying at least five years in prison. In fact, Fraser Verrusio, former Policy Director for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, is awaiting trial under section 1001 for not reporting income on his "United States House of Representatives Financial Disclosure Statement for Calendar Year 2003."
You can read more about the charges against Fraser Verrusio at the link below. It appears that he was given no opportunity to amend his filings:
Verrusio once worked for U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-AK), and the case has received extensive coverage in the Alaska press. The prosecution reportedly grew out of the Jack Abramoff affair.
His post goes on to discuss the fact that a similar case was heard by the Supreme Court in 1985, six years before Thomas was seated on the court. The court held that failure to disclose required information was a felony, not a misdemeanor.
Up to now, Justice Thomas has simply shrugged off his failure to disclose his wife's income and sources as a mere oversight, despite the fact that he "forgot" for 20 years. But what if it were intentional? ProtectOurElections.org has a theory that he didn't disclose her income or source because he might have been challenged for recusal due to conflict of interest. In fact, from 1993-1998, Virginia Thomas worked for Dick Armey.
If we were to crowdsource an investigation and look at every case Justice Thomas heard from 1993 to 1998, I believe we would find a number of cases then, and possibly later than that where a conflict might emerge. Or, as PreserveOurElections.org suggests:
Kevin Zeese, attorney and spokesperson for ProtectOurElections.org, believes that Justice Thomas may have intentionally withheld the information in order to keep litigants from moving to disqualify him in cases where his wife's employment could cause a conflict of interest or where she could benefit from a decision. "Justice Thomas cast a critical vote in the Citizens United case allowing conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and Liberty Central to raise millions of dollars in secret funds to support and elect conservative politicians," he said. "Had Justice Thomas disclosed that his wife worked for the Heritage Foundation, litigants may have had good cause to disqualify him from hearing that case. In fact, we are left to wonder if Justice Thomas knew that his wife was planning on leaving the Heritage Foundation to launch Liberty Central once Citizens United was decided. Clearly, she has benefitted personally from that decision."
Now my response to his specific assertion about the Heritage Foundation is that it was known and a challenge could have been made, disclosures or no disclosures. Her associations with Hillsdale college and the Heritage Foundation were known before the Citizens United case came to trial, I believe. But what wasn't known was her association with Dick Armey, who is the founding member of Americans for Prosperity, a close cousin of Citizens United. THAT's the connection everyone should be looking at.