Clarence Thomas is a real piece of work. It’s been common knowledge that his wife, Virginia has been working for the Heritage Foundation- a right-wing think tank since 2003. Until recently She’d also been working with an astroturf group called Liberty Central- What they actually did was unclear, but after she was forced out following an ill-advised phone call to Juanita Hill, Ginni Thomas started her own lobbying firm: Liberty Consulting.
What was not common knowledge was that Clarence Thomas had failed to report his wife’s income from these activities on his Financial Disclosure forms. This only came to light when the activist group Common Cause began making inquiries to see if Justices Thomas and Scalia should have recused themselves from the Citizens United hearing since it dealt with campaign finance, and Thomas and Scalia had been attending and speaking at right wing fund-raisers.
But Thomas’ relationship with Citizens United goes back much further than most people realize. In 1991 Time Magazine reported that Citizens Untied, together with the Conservative Victory Committee had spent $100,000.00 to produce and air attack ads against Democratic senators who were expected to oppose Thomas during his confirmation hearings. A number of prominent Republicans –including Thomas- described the ads publicly in such terms as “scurrilous” and “sleazy”, but the ads ran anyway. While they only ran in the Washington DC market, they were reported by news agencies nationwide, generating millions of dollars worth of free publicity.
So Clarence Thomas joined the Supreme Court already indebted to Citizens United- and nearly 20 years later their investment was about to pay massive dividends. Clarence Thomas did not recuse himself from hearing the case of the organization which spent $100,000.00 to get him his lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. He didn’t ask a single question at the hearing. He found in favor of his benefactor and in so doing fundamentally changed our political system. He forced politicians to be more like him. Following the Citizens United ruling, the balance of power has shifted even more toward a small number of very rich people and multinational corporations. And any politician who votes against their interests (which usually run contrary to the interests of the working classes) will have to reckon with an overwhelming tide of money flowing into the coffers of his opponent at the next election. Presumably someone more cooperative. Someone more like Clarence Thomas.