Politicians are often held in low esteem for wavering on issues and being easily influenced by lobbyists and special interest groups who pressure them into supporting policies that favor corporations, banks, or elite investors over their constituents. Members of the judicial system usually fare a little better than politicians because if they are not elected by the voters, after being nominated for a particular court, they go through a confirmation process that exposes a predilection for a cause, political party, or constitutional issue that disqualifies them from serving. In most cases, politicians are easily replaced in two, four, or six years if the public is aware of their malfeasance and it is why transparency is crucial in a representative democracy. However, removing a judge is not easy and if the judge sits on the nation’s highest court, it is nearly impossible because they serve until they die or resign.
This past week, 46 House Democrats mobilized and asked the Judiciary Committee to investigate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for ethics violations. The Democrats’ complaint contends that Thomas’ actions, including those related to his wife’s political activism, raised concerns over potential conflicts of interest in decisions made in cases before the Supreme Court. Led by Earl Blumenaur (D-Ore) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the Democrats claimed in a letter that, “Public records clearly demonstrate that Justice Thomas has failed to accurately disclose information concerning the income and employment status of his wife, as required by law.” They also questioned whether Justice Thomas accurately reported gifts and inappropriately solicited donations.
According to Common Cause, Mrs. Thomas earned approximately $1.6 million between 1997 and 2011, and Justice Thomas did not report her earnings during that same time span. Clarence said he inadvertently failed to file the information “due to a misunderstanding of the filing instructions.” However, Thomas did file correctly completed reports in prior years making his alleged “misunderstanding” a blatant lie. Kathy Arberg, a Supreme Court spokeswoman said that Justices are not required to disclose the amounts earned by their spouses, but they do have to report the source of the income. Common Cause reported that most of Mrs. Thomas’s undisclosed income came from the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation. Mrs. Thomas stepped down from Liberty Central, a conservative advocacy group she founded because she claimed her celebrity was causing distractions; although it is more plausible that exposure of her work gave the impression that the potential for conflict of interest charges were impending.
Although it is about time Democrats called for an investigation of Thomas, it will hardly gain any traction in the Republican-controlled House. It is also good there is seemingly irrefutable evidence that Thomas deliberately withheld his wife’s income sources, but there is another reason to investigate, and ultimately impeach and remove Thomas from the Supreme Court. The real outrage is Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia’s attendance at Koch Industries secret policy meeting prior to hearing the Citizens United case that has unleashed unlimited corporate campaign financing for conservative politicians and causes that have decimated the middle class and environmental regulations. If Thomas and Scalia had attended a Koch policy meeting, there would be reason to raise questions, but they attended the meeting and then directly decided, with the rest of the conservative court, that corporations deserved the same free speech rights under the provisions of the 1st Amendment that individual citizens are afforded.
It is not clear if Thomas or Scalia took direction from the Kochs or their wealthy industrialist compatriots on how to rule on Citizens United, but the appearance is that they discussed the case, decided the possible merits and benefits to conservatives, and then heard arguments and decided to help corporations. Of course, it is not necessarily the case that either Thomas or Scalia received directions or special “gifts” for their vote to give corporations special privileges in buying elections and influencing legislation, but it is incredibly suspicious nonetheless. As far as Thomas not reporting his wife’s source of income because he misunderstood the filing requirements, his filings prior to her employment by conservative groups certainly proves he deliberately withheld the information for 13 years.
The Democratic request for an investigation into Thomas is too little too late, because Republicans will never investigate a Supreme Court Justice who has ties to the Heritage foundation, Koch Industries, and the tea party. The time to begin an investigation was immediately after the Citizens United case ruling, and after it was revealed that Thomas and Scalia attended the Koch instructional meeting. The only benefit now is that the public may be aware of the devastating effects of the conservative court’s Citizens United decision if the media does their job. Regardless the Republicans’ reticence to investigate their meal ticket on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia need to either resign, revisit their decision, or be impeached for having the temerity to attend a meeting hosted by the people most likely to benefit from their favorable vote. Clarence Thomas is a crooked judge for deliberately concealing his wife’s source of income and expecting the people to believe his filthy lie that he misunderstood filing requirements. The only thing Thomas misunderstands is that a judge, especially a United States Supreme Court Justice, is supposed to be honest, impartial, and above suspicion. Thomas is none of those things and if appearances and evidence are any indication, he is a dirty crook and does not deserve to judge a dog show much less cases before the Supreme Court.