In a recent post, “Kids May Not Know Democracy, But They Know a Bum Deal When They See It,” I made the argument that our political system functions quite differently from the idealized system we are taught in school. I specifically argued that it was created and continues to operate to protect the property rights of a tiny minority of society. A recent example of this is the Citizens United case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that corporate funding of political broadcasts could not be limited, since corporations are entitled to the same 1st Amendment protections as individuals. The case was close (5-4). Those who voted with the corporations in Citizens United were beneficiaries of corporate gifts, former board members and/or former CEOs of corporations, drawing into question their independence and objectivity in the case.
Clarence Thomas voted with the majority. His wife, Ginni Thomas, is founder and president of the Tea Party-associated lobbying group Liberty Central. Thomas incorporated her organization as a tax-exempt 501(c)4 just two months before the Supreme Court made its final ruling in the Citizens United case, according to a recent report on Alternet.org. Because Ginni Thomas received a salary and/or expenses from Liberty Centyral and because the ruling had a direct influence on the organization’s success in fundraising and lobbying, there was a very clear conflict of interest for Clarence Thomas, who did not recuse himself from the case, as he should have.
The AlterNet piece also said that Liberty Central was linked to the Missouri Sovereignty Project and Gun Owners of America, whose leaders called for war against the U.S. government, as well as another group, Tradition Family and Property, whose leader called the Spanish Inquisition “a beautiful thing.” These groups were listed as “Friends of Liberty Central” on its Web site. It is highly dubious that a man could serve objectively and independently on the nation’s highest court and fulfill his mandate to uphold and defend the constitution when his own wife is supporting armed overthrow of that same nation.
Liberty Central actively opposed Obama Care, another potential conflict of interest since Clarence Thomas solicited donations for Liberty Central, and since the Supreme Court would likely have to rule on the constitutionality of the law. Clarence Thomas also received money for speaking at a Koch Brothers fundraiser in Palm Springs, California. Antonin Scalia also appeared at the gathering (and voted in the majority in the Citizens United case). The Koch Brothers were large beneficiaries of the Citizens United ruling and would appear to have bought the votes of several members of the Court.