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The Thomases and the Emerging Ethical Morass on the Supreme Court

Rev. David L. Ostendorf • Oct 27, 2010

In one of the most deflective and deceptive phone messages of the year, Virginia Thomas—spouse of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas—appealed last week to Anita Hill to apologize for the scathing testimony Hill presented at Thomas’ Senate hearing nineteen years ago, in which she accused her former colleague of gross sexual misconduct.  Generating consternation across the country, the phone message seems, more to the point, to be a shrewd political move to shift attention from the Thomases’ links to the hard political right and, in particular, Virginia Thomas’ now-blatant efforts as CEO of “Liberty Central” to bring down the “left wing” Obama Administration.

An October 8 New York Times report on Virginia Thomas’ political activism raised significant political and legal questions.  In what is now a well-funded conservative operation, Thomas has declared to make Liberty Central “…bigger than the tea party movement.” With unknown and unrevealed political contributions—thanks to the Supreme Court ruling that her husband supported—her ambition may be within reach.

With her recent Anita Hill phone message Thomas has effectively—at least for the moment—shunted aside questions about her leading role in Liberty Central and its anti-Obama agenda, to say nothing of questions about her status as a spouse of a Supreme Court Justice. Not surprisingly, the Justice himself does not seem to be concerned about the nexus of his wife’s politics and his own role on the high bench.

Justice Thomas, along with Justice Scalia, have themselves appeared at Koch Industries seminars. The billionaire Koch brothers are at the helm of one of the largest energy corporations in the country, and have contributed over $100 million to right wing causes, according to Jane Mayer’s recent expose in The New Yorker.  The tea party movement has been one of the key recipients of their largesse; if Liberty Central does attain Virginia Thomas’ goal of outsizing the movement it will likely do so at the behest of the Kochs, along with a raft of other mega-donors who know full-well the road to power and influence in Washington.

That the Thomases are one of the capital’s rising power couples is obvious.  That there is even a hint of mucking her politics with his judicial responsibilities is dangerous and intolerable—an emerging ethical and legal morass dramatically overshadowing the sordid Senate hearings that allegedly prompted Virginia Thomas’ recent phone message to Anita Hill.  That call was likely the first—and more deceptive—salvos in what may well become one of the more intractable battles encompassing the Supreme Court—and the Congress—in the days ahead as the mantle of “activist judge” is draped on the conservative Justice whose spouse seeks to lead the no-holds-barred political charge against an Executive Branch she openly deplores.

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