The Supreme Court fulfills its
vital role in preserving democracy by earning public confidence, as Justice
Stephen Breyer told a packed hall last week in Washington, DC.
But his lecture and book, Making Our Democracy Work, glossed over current controversies, such as the "Virginia and Clarence Thomas Bought by Billionaires" ad shown above, which was released this week by the progressive group Protect Our Elections.
My purpose here is to illustrate how one of the court's top ambassadors responds to specific allegations of corruption that are seldom raised widely in official Washington because the court has such power. This column therefore focuses more on Breyer's responses than the evidence, which is best available via the links below citing work of those investigating this topic.
Fresh from a National Press Club
lecture the previous night where retired federal judge Lillian McEwen said
Justice Clarence Thomas should resign on grounds of corruption, I asked Breyer
during Q&A how the court decides on its
responses to inquiries on such matters. I identified myself as
reporting on this year's allegations of bribery and false statement by Thomas,
and said I've received no response from Thomas on my request for comment.
Breyer, above, responded that he guides the court's spokeswoman when a matter pertains
to himself, and has seven volumes of ethics books and also trusted ethics
advisers that he consults when difficult issues arise.
When a follow-up questioner asked Breyer about abortion, he ducked by joking, "We've already had a reporter gently try to bring up something," and smiling as he waved his hands at his side, as if to shoo away a beggar.
Breyer's inclination to gloss over current controversy at the forum was one way to preserve the court's stature. Another has been his high-minded 2010 book, a national best-seller that was strongly praised by the New York Times, Washington Post and other establishment opinion-leaders and information gatekeepers.
But not everyone was bedazzled. McEwen, author of DC Unmasked and Undressed this year, a former law professor and my guest at this event, told me it seemed like a warmed-over speech for a civics class, not one for a sophisticated DC audience.
The lecture did not address the revelations by Common Cause and others this year of false statements by Thomas in his sworn annual disclosure statements to hide an estimated $1.6 million in reportable income and gifts for him and his wife, Virginia. Forty-six House Democrats have called for a House impeachment probe.
Protect our Elections.org is a progressive group that says it has been working with the FBI since July on an investigation of Thomas and his wife. This week the group published the ad above, headlined, "Clarence and Virginia Thomas: Bought By Billionaires." The text is about David Koch, at far right, and Harlan Crow, shown between the Thomas couple. The ad caption says:
Virginia, Harlan, Clarence and David have been having a good laugh at our expense. How much longer will we let this go on? America's citizens have had it with people in power who violate the law. That includes Clarence Thomas, who has used his position as a Supreme Court Justice to flout the law and enrich himself, his wife and their cronies through corrupt backroom deals with billionaires Harlan Crow, and Charles and David Koch.
This was precisely the kind of controversy for which I have sought responses from those named in the ad and their representatives.
So far, the best I
can get are a few quotes recycled from other news reports. The Supreme Court's
spokeswoman told one reporter that the Thomas false statements on his judicial
disclosure forms were "inadvertent." Thomas told a conservative
audience in February that he and his wife would continue to fight for liberty,
as I reported earlier this week here. I'll update this report if the court, Thomas, Crow or the Koch brothers respond to my comment requests.
The Protect Our Elections allegations are amplified in its 12-page memo it says it shared with the FBI, and in my video interview of McEwen, below on Oct. 26, Clarence Thomas--perjurer, tax cheat, fanatic, party operative--has GOT TO GO, declares Judge Lillian McEwen (his former lover). The allegations against Thomas are reflected also in the request by congressional Democrats for a Thomas impeachment inquiry, as described in Democrats Ramp Up Calls For Ethics Probe Of Clarence Thomas.