May 30, 2011- Eyeing a potential 5-4 decision on President Obama's Affordable Care health care reforms, some Democratic lawmakers are trying to pressure Justice Clarence Thomas to sit out any health care case that may come before the Supreme Court.
And in an added tack to influence the court's decision-making, one election watchdog has demanded an FBI probe of the justice over a 2010 campaign finance ruling.
The months-long efforts to target Thomas focus on his financial disclosure forms, of which amended versions were filed earlier this month and released publicly on Friday. In them, Thomas reveals that his wife, Ginni Thomas, received a salary in 2010 from Liberty Central, a group that she helped found and which supports the repeal of the health care law.
"We knew that Justice Thomas' family had a financial stake in opposing health care reform. Now we know even more," Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. "It's pretty clear the justice has one option here: recusal."
Ginni Thomas announced last fall that she was leaving Liberty Central, less than a year after its creation, to join Liberty Consulting. According to IRS documents released by Liberty Central, she earned $150,000 from the organization in 2010.
Thomas has also earned income from Hillsdale College and the Heritage Foundation, the latter being proof enough, Weiner argued, that the justice is unable to participate in the eventual cases to reach the court.
Defenders of Justice Thomas note that nothing in the ethics rules compels Thomas to report the sums his wife earned on his financial disclosures. They add that it's no secret where Ginni Thomas worked.
Supporters of Thomas also say the effort to remove the justice from the court is an attempt to extract rulings — 4-4 decisions at the high court leave appellate court decisions in place — that they may not otherwise get on a divided court.
"If there's anyone who needs to recuse themselves from the health care cases it's Elena Kagan," said Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director for the Judicial Crisis Network