Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has somewhat of a conflict just being a justice, concerning the very right-wing and very prominent political activities of his wife, Ginni. But that conflict is particularly a problem since the Supreme Court will almost undoubtedly be hearing a case against the Affordable Care Act, the law that his wife has been paid handsomely to fight. A Friday afternoon news dump consisting of his financial disclosure form
highlights this little problem he has.
His new financial disclosure form indicates that his wife, Virginia, who served as Liberty Central's president and CEO, received $150,000 in salary from the group and less than $15,000 in payments from an anti-health care lobbying firm she started.
The disclosure was apparently prompted in part by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who had been needling Thomas (including on Twitter) for months to disclose how much money his wife earned from Liberty Central. That's because challenges to Obama's health care reform law are likely to end up before the Supreme Court sooner rather than later, and if Thomas and his wife benefited from her income working against the bill, the justice has an enormous conflict of interest in hearing any legal challenge. Thomas had failed to disclose Virginia's income on his financial disclosure forms for 20 years; under pressure from Weiner and others, he had recently amended old disclosures to reflect hundreds of thousands of dollars she had earned working for the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank that also opposed Obama's health care plan.
(Gee, I wonder why Rep. Anthony Weiner would be the target of right-wing hackers in a smear campaign over the weekend?)
But, up until now, Thomas had not revealed how much money his wife made from her controversial Liberty Central work. When Virginia Thomas decided to take a high-profile role in the organization, she was immediately criticized because of the potential that her job might compromise her husband's independence on the bench. Eventually, she was forced to step down (a move also apparently prompted by her bizarre October phone call to Anita Hill, the woman who'd accused her husband of sexual harassment during his confirmation hearing). When she left the organization, she created a new consulting firm, Liberty Consulting, which also did anti-health care reform lobbying.
Thomas has already indicated that he has no intention of recusing himself from this case (as has Justice Elana Kagan, who served as Solicitor General in the Obama administration when the law was passed), but this disclosure will intensify calls from defenders of the law for Thomas to bow out. Rep. Weiner has already circulated a letter among Democratic colleagues, netting dozens of signatures, asking Thomas to recuse himself.
Which means basically one thing: more right-wing efforts to smear Weiner.