Sunday, October 24, 2010

Citizens United and the Clarence Thomas Problem

It was good to see NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd take a merciful breather (for a paragraph or two, at least) from Ginni Thomas' scandalous phone call last week to Anita Hill, and the related, new tales emerging of the decades-old, alleged pecadillos of Mrs. Thomas' famous husband.

That, apparently, is quite long enough to cast troubling light on the genuine appearance of impropriety surrounding the U.S. Supreme Court that flows from the political dealings of Mrs. Thomas, tea-party activist and wife of U.S. Supreme Court Judge, Clarence Thomas.

As Ms. Dowd notes:

Mrs. Thomas, a queen of the Tea Party, is the founder of a new nonprofit group, Liberty Central, which she boasts will be bigger than the Tea Party. She sports and sells those foam Statue of Liberty-style crowns as she makes her case against the “tyranny” of President Obama and Congressional Democrats, who, she charges, are hurting the “core founding principles” of America.

As The Times’s Jackie Calmes wrote, Mrs. Thomas started her nonprofit in late 2009 with two gifts of $500,000 and $50,000, and additional sums this year that we don’t know about yet. She does not have to disclose the donors, whose money makes possible the compensation she brings into the Thomas household.There is no way to tell if her donors have cases before the Supreme Court or whether her husband knows their identities. And she never would have to disclose them if her husband had his way.

The 5-to-4 Citizens United decision last January gave corporations, foreign contributors, unions, Big Energy, Big Oil and superrich conservatives a green light to surreptitiously funnel in as much money as they want, whenever they want to elect or unelect candidates. As if that weren’t enough to breed corruption, Thomas was the only justice — in a rare case of detaching his hip from Antonin Scalia’s — to write a separate opinion calling for an end to donor disclosures.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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