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General News    H2'ed 10/19/11

Judging The Judge: Citizens Must Unite After 20 Years Of Clarence Thomas

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So, Brown was well-versed in high-stakes attacks. Also, he was able to keep costs low by having the ad produced by the Republican National Committee, according to Capital Games, a book by Timothy Phelps and Helen Winternitz. 

But those facts are not well-known today except by a few progressive groups trying to educate the public about the court's recent history and the real-world impact.

One such group is Protect Our, which has been encouraging Congress to support a criminal investigation of Thomas. The group's counsel is Kevin Zeese, an organizer of the Occupy DC movement that staged a sit-in at the Supreme Court on Oct. 15. That demonstration resulted in 19 arrests, including Dr. Cornel West's. Zeese told me this week he plans to urge others at Occupy DC to support a criminal probe of Thomas, with hopes that such a prosecution finds other widespread support nationally.

His group says it has been in touch with the FBI for months to help document of what they call criminal conduct requiring prosecution and impeachment. Part of their evidence is from their own Freedom of Information requests, part from similar research by Common Cause and part from recent investigative reports or commentaries. Among the latter are those published by the New York Times, the New Yorker and Counterpunch.

This month, Huffington Post reported that 46 House Democrats called for a House ethics probe of Thomas, citing his failure to disclose more than $1.6 million in income and gifts on his sworn, annual financial statements. His wife received most of the money, the justice reported after Common Cause exposed his deceit early this year.

Virginia Lamp Thomas, married in 1987, is a longtime advocate for right-wing causes and their corporate backers. One such job was her leadership in late 2000 of Bush transition planning at the Heritage Foundation. At that same time, her husband was voting in the 5-4 majority in Bush v. Gore to intervene in the Florida recount and thereby enable a Bush Presidency that made his wife's job meaningful.

But the Thomas role in the Citizens United case -- arguably vastly more important for the nation's future than even Bush v. Gore -- deserves the most attention now. Here is a summary of the Protect Our Elections evidence, which is documented on their website and in a newspaper ad they plan to run shortly:

In November 2009, they wrote, two months before the Citizens United decision, Virginia Thomas received from Texas construction magnate Harlan Crow $500,000 to launch Liberty Central, an entity poised to benefit from corporations seeking involvement in political campaigns. The ad continues: 

Two months later, she told the IRS that she was going to be taking $495,000 in salary from Liberty Central over the coming months. The Thomases also used the Citizens United decision to enrich themselves by raising money based on that decision.

In response, the Supreme Court's longtime spokeswoman, Kathleen Arberg, defended Thomas by telling the Huffington Post that his errors on the simple, sworn forms were "inadvertent." I'll update this report also with any reaction from Crow or the justice, who have declined comment to previous news reports.

Thomas avoids jousting with critics, as his colleague Antonin Scalia occasionally enjoys doing. Instead, Thomas tends to attack them from a distance, as in his memoir. Another way is in his private meetings with supporters. For example, he responded to reports of his financial irregularities obliquely in February by telling a Liberty University audience that he and his wife "are focused on defending liberty," according a Politico report that quoted sources at the meeting, which was sponsored by the Federalist Society and closed to the media.

Ordinarily, the Supreme Court is impervious to criticism, in part because its members have lifetime appointments. Also, the major watchdog institutions, both civil rights groups and media organizations, themselves have cases and potential cases before the courts.

But the Thomas scandal that has now been festering for two decades requires something more than a wait-and-see attitude by traditional court-watchers. In The Case Against Clarence Thomas, Huffington Post blogger Andrew Reinbach on Oct. 19 blasted this reluctance by what he called "official Washington" to investigate .

The non-partisan Justice Integrity Project I lead endorses such efforts and will push ahead with our mixture of investigative reporting and legal reform advocacy. This is just as we did in opposing the Supreme Court confirmation of Democrat Elena Kagan on civil rights grounds and exposing irregularities in the federal convictions of Republicans Ted Stevens and Bernard Kerik.

Many logical follow-ups exist to the Thomas scandals. We'll share them with other reporters at a press conference we're hosting at the National Press Club next week featuring the fearless Lillian McEwen on a date TBA, or we'll pursue the stories ourselves if others won't.

We can all learn from each other in this process. Let's find inspiration, for example, in the 1991 TV ad campaign slogan of Citizens United. Do you remember its title?

"Who Will Judge the Judge?"

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Andrew Kreig is an investigative reporter, attorney, author, business strategist, radio host, and longtime non-profit executive based in Washington, DC. His most recent book is "Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters," the (more...)

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