-by: William Rivers Pitt
June 23, 2011-
Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.
– Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart
For the sake of full disclosure, I will tell you that I do not like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In my opinion, he has no business sitting on the high court after the reprehensible treatment he forced Anita Hill to endure, and has been a disgrace to the bench lo these last twenty years. Anthony Weiner, one of Clarence Thomas' most ardent critics, was just run out of Washington DC on a rail for behavior far less offensive; Mr. Thomas is lucky there was no such thing as Twitter when he was sexually harassing Hill, or he'd be chasing ambulances outside of muni court like the hack he is. He sits up there like a lump, never speaking or offering questions to petitioners, and has not had an original thought since his shameful Senate approval.
But his vapid intellectual presence on the bench is only a small part of the story. Mr. Thomas has, by all appearances, turned his position on the court into a license to print money for himself, his family, and a few choice friends.
Conservative corruption is nothing new in Washington, but Mr. Thomas has taken the practice to bold new heights, and finally, people are beginning to sit up and take notice. Thomas has been playing fast and loose with judicial ethics for a long time now, and though Supreme Court Justices are not technically beholden to judicial rules of ethics, his behavior has become so egregious as to warrant deep attention, and in my opinion, removal from the high court.
Justice Thomas is in possession of a gorgeous bust of Abraham Lincoln, which was cast in 1914 by the noted sculptor Adolph Alexander Weinman. The bust was given as a gift to Thomas in 2001 by Christopher DeMuth, president of the notoriously right-wing American Enterprise Institute. The value of the bust was $15,000. In the intervening years, AEI has filed briefs on three separate occasions regarding cases before the high court, and on each occasion, Thomas has ruled in their favor, often going beyond the scope they were seeking.
Thomas has attended fundraisers sponsored by the Koch Brothers in support of far-right media outlets, think tanks and groups. His habit of openly supporting right-wing causes has earned him an enormous amount of financial largesse from heavy-hitting right-wing donors, most notoriously Mr. Harlan Crow, who helped finance the "swift-boating" of John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. Crow financed a library project dedicated to Thomas, and gave Thomas' wife $500,000 to create a Tea Party group that has since been throwing its weight all around the country. Crow, it should be noted, is a trustee of AEI, which gave Thomas that bust of Lincoln.
The list of his brazen improprieties runs long, but the real show centers around his wife, Ginni. Harlan Crow's massive donation allowed her to create Liberty Central (and later Liberty Consulting), an advocacy group dedicated to the overthrow of President Obama's health care reform legislation. The conflict of interest inherent in this – given that Mr. Obama's health care legislation will certainly appear in some form before the Supreme Court – is manifest. The high court's decision in Citizens United, which Thomas voted in favor of, has opened the financial floodgates for groups like Liberty Central, so Thomas' family appears to be reaping wonderful monetary gains from that decision. And there is the fact that Thomas failed to disclose nearly a million dollars of income earned by his wife, and brushed off that failure to disclose with an "Oops, didn't understand the paperwork" excuse.