by Beverly Mann
Clarence and Ginny Thomas, the Go-To Folks for Liberty
I’m obviously very supportive of the political goals of both of the organizations whose web sites you’ve pointed me to and asked my opinion about concerning their efforts against Clarence Thomas. But the petition demanding impeachment of Thomas for ruling in favor of Citizens United because in 1991 that organization sponsored television commercials urging Thomas’s confirmation by the Senate strikes me as ridiculous. And not just because the House, which would have initiate an impeachment process and then vote articles of impeachment, is in Republican control.
The problem with Thomas’s participation in the Citizens United case isn’t that the organization that filed the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of some of the McCain-Feingold election-law restrictions happened to be Citizens United. Citizens United actually challenged a regulation in that law that had nothing to do with campaign contributions. It was the Court itself (the five-member majority, obviously) that reached out on its own to address the constitutionality of the restrictions on corporate campaign contributions.
The problem is that Koch Industries, the most prolific and pervasive of corporate campaign contributors in federal and state election campaigns, and the Koch brothers, were huge players in this controversy. The purpose of the Koch campaign contributions is to affect the outcome of elections in order to affect enactment, repeal or enforcement of a vast array of environmental laws and regulations that impact their immense oil, gas, manufacturing, ranching, finance and commodities trading businesses. (I got those listings from Wikipedia.) Scalia and Thomas attended and spoke at Koch-sponsored four-day law conferences at luxury resorts. Their expenses were paid by the rightwing bar group, the Federalist Society, which receives substantial donations from Koch Industries and which may have actually received dedicated funds for those expenses from Koch Industries. If so, Scalia and Thomas may not have known of this.
In any event, the decision by these two to participate in the Citizens United decision is not an impeachable offense. What might be an impeachable offense, in my opinion, is Thomas’ failure to comply the disclosure statute; he lied on his disclosure statement, for at least six years, in what I think is a significant respect. As I wrote last week, that may violate a criminal statute, although that is not my area of expertise and I don’t know whether it does or not. And if it does, I hope he is eventually prosecuted for it.
The information that Thomas withheld was that his wife was paid a very substantial amount of money during those six years by rightwing interests. Comments he made in a speech at a Federalist Society function last weekend hint, if I understand the comments correctly, that he withheld that information in contravention of federal statute as part of what he considers his and his wife’s crusade for Liberty in the name of the Constitution, and that he believes—and he made this clear in that speech, as the speech was reported—that he and his wife are the True Arbiters of the meaning of that word as the Constitution intends it; no one else need apply. They are the liberty messiahs, so they are entitled to violate the law, and certainly ethics codes, in the service of their holy mission. And make no mistake. This is a holy mission.
Here are quotes from a Politico story about the speech:
Thomas spoke in vague, but ominous, terms about the direction of the country and urged his listeners to “redouble your efforts to learn about our country so that you’re in a position to defend it.”
He also lashed out at his critics, without naming them, asserting they “seem bent on undermining” the High Court as an institution. Such criticism, Thomas warned, could erode the ability of American citizens to fend off threats to their way of life.
“You all are going to be, unfortunately, the recipients of the fallout from that – that there’s going to be a day when you need these institutions to be credible and to be fully functioning to protect your liberties,” he said, according to a partial recording of the speech provided to POLITICO by someone who was at the meeting.
“And that’s long after I’m gone, and that could be either a short or a long time, but you’re younger, and it’s still going to be a necessity to protect the liberties that you enjoy now in this country.” …
At one point Thomas recognized his wife in the audience and suggested she was being targeted for her beliefs, telling the audience, according to the recording, “my bride is with me, Virginia Thomas. And some of you may know her. But the reason I bring that – specifically bring it – up is there is a price to pay today for standing in defense of your Constitution.”
Thomas said his wife “started her organization to give 24/7 every day in defense of liberty,” and said he shared her principles.
Yes, that’s right. Thomas thinks it’s his critics who seem bent on undermining the Court as an institution and that could erode the ability of American citizens to fend off threats to their way of life.
Beverly maintains her own blog The Annarborist