Sunday, the Los Angeles Times' Kathleen Hennessey reported that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's wife, Virginia Thomas, is involved in the Tea Party movement, and recently founded Liberty Central Inc., a nonprofit lobbying group that has a declared nonpartisan position but marked conservative leanings. What's the problem? Hennessey points to the Supreme Court's recent decision in Citizens Untied vs. the Federal Election Commission, a highly controversial ruling that ended many limits on corporate spending on political campaigns. Due to this decision, writes Hennessey, Virginia Thomas's "group may ... spend corporate money freely to advocate for or against candidates for office." The implication, therefore, is that Thomas's part in the 5-4 majority on that case seems a bit fishy.
The story caused an uproar online. Conservative commentators are calling it poor journalism, sexist, and hypcritical. Liberals, outraged by the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case to begin with, are taking Hennessey's side and calling the Thomases' situation inappropriate.
- 'CA-CHING!' Attaturk at progressive blogger hub Firedoglake writes: "It has become apparent that from Roberts, to Scalia, to Alito, to Thomas there is no such thing as an appearance of impropriety to a conservative justice." He goes further: "But how nice for Clarence Thomas that in voting with the 5-4 majority in Citizens United he not only saw no conflict of interest; he managed to give his wife a business opportunity CA-CHING!"
- 'Ponder That for a Moment,' suggests Michael Kieschnick at left-leaning The Huffington Post.
The wife of a Supreme Court justice has organized a political non-profit linked to Tea Party activists whose activities can be supported to an unlimited extent by corporations whose donations need not be disclosed to the public. Similarly, Mrs. Thomas is under no obligation to disclose her compensation to anybody.
None of this appears to be illegal in part due to the recent Citizens United court ruling by the Supreme Court that freed corporation contributions from certain key restrictions. That radical and controversial decision passed by a 5-4 vote, and surprise, Justice Thomas voted yes.
- We Already Knew the Supreme Court Was a Joke Wonkette is a largely satirical site, but Ken Layne's remarks appear partly in earnest. Calling Clarence Thomas "the far right's most reliable stooge," he asks why the public is supposed to "feign outrage" over his wife being "a common teabagger." After all, he writes, "these [justices] threw the goddamned presidential election in 2000."
- If This Isn't Sexism, I Don't Know What Is "According to a piece in the Los Angeles Times today," writes the National Review's enraged Kathryn Jean Lopez, "being married to Clarence Thomas should really prohibit a woman from being involved in politics."
- 'This Article Is a Disgrace,' adds Hot Air's conservative Ed Morrissey. "I really wish the media would get its story straight on spouses and activism," he says, pointing to when focus on Hillary Clinton's activities during Bill's campaign was called sexism. Furthermore, he continues, "Ginny Thomas is hardly a newcomer to activism ... I'm not sure why that gives Hennessey such heartburn, but it hardly sets up any conflict of interest for Thomas … unless Hennessey and the LAT want to argue that wives should do nothing but bake cookies and hold teas."
- And You're Not Worried about Sotomayor? "Prior to her appointment, Justice Sotomayor herself--not her spouse, herself," clarifies the National Review's Andy McCarthy, "was a Leftist activist (board member and top policy maker at the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education fund) who infamously opined that a 'wise Latina' is more apt to make good decisions that a mere 'white male who hasn't lived that life.'" Similarly, he notes, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was "co-director of the ACLU's Women's Rights Project in the 1970s." He clearly finds these more objectionable than Thomas's current situation.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.