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Clarence Thomas Failed to Report Wife’s Income

Justice Clarence Thomas failed for more than a decade to disclose his wife’s income, as required by law.

Clarence Thomas has amended 13 years' worth of disclosure reports. | AP Photo

Clarence Thomas has amended 13 years

Politico:

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has amended 13 years’ worth of disclosure reports to include details of wife Virginia Thomas’s sources of income, documents released on Monday show.

The documents indicate that Thomas’s wife, who goes by Ginni, had worked for Hillsdale College in Michigan, the Heritage Foundation and the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, among other entities.

Like all federal judges, Thomas must file annual disclosure reports on his personal finances, but he had omitted details of his wife’s earnings in what he wrote was a “misunderstanding of the filing instructions.” He also had checked a box marking no spousal income.

Thomas did not include in his new submissions any information about Ginni’s work for Liberty Central, a tea-party-affiliated group. The group’s 2009 990 tax form did not include any payments to her and she stepped down from her official role with the group in November.

Last week, watchdog group Common Cause reported that none of the nearly $690,000 the Heritage Foundation said it had paid Ginni Thomas between 2003 and 2007 had been reported on Justice Thomas’s annual financial disclosure forms.

In a statement Monday, the group said did not believe Thomas’s explanation. “Justice Thomas sits on the highest court of the land, is called upon daily to understand and interpret the most complicated legal issues of our day and makes decisions that affect millions,” said Bob Edgar, Common Cause’s president. “It is hard to see how he could have misunderstood the simple directions of a federal disclosure form. We find his excuse is implausible.”

I’d have to concur with Edgar’s assessment.  Especially since Thomas appropriately disclosed his wife’s income through 1996.

What’s odd is that there’s no obvious reason that Thomas would have needed to hide these activities, which are perfectly legitimate.  Plenty of people in Washington have spouses who are activists and dealing with whatever conflicts of interest arise from that fact is now routine.

Further, Mrs. Thomas has been politically active since 1981 — six years before the couple married — and has been continuously for the past three decades.  She was legislative directorfor a congressman, a lawyer-lobbyist with the Chamber of Commerce, a lawyer for the Department of Labor, a policy analyst for Dick Armey, and has served in various activist roles for Heritage since 2000.  All of these roles pose potential conflicts of interest for a Supreme Court Justice.  But, again, that’s not unusual in modern Washington, where spouses of the powerful routinely have high powered jobs.

UPDATE:  It should also be noted that Thomas routinely recuses himself from cases where he has conflicts of interest.  For example, he never hears cases involving  Wachovia Securities, apparently because his son works for the company.  Indeed, Thomas had recused himself in a remarkable 199 cases by 2004; I can’t easily find more recent figures. The Court only hears 75-85 cases a year.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Hello World! says:

    How do you know they are legit if they were not reported? Someone would have to go back in time and verify this income did not cause reason to recuse himself from the case.

    We are truly living with the worst supreme court in hisory. The liberals on the bench cannot write insightful decisions (even I – a non-lawyer – find them to read like high school essays), and the conservatives all don’t know (or won’t admit) what a conflict of interest is. They keep prooving this over and over….

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  2. jpe says:

    Hello World: Joyner was saying there’s nothing wrong w/ working at a think tank. That is a true statement.

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  3. tom p says:

    >>>.what he wrote was a “misunderstanding of the filing instructions.<<<>>”Justice Thomas sits on the highest court of the land, is called upon daily to understand and interpret the most complicated legal issues of our day and makes decisions that affect millions<<<

    well, that explains his voting record…

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  4. IP727 says:

    Reminds one of rangle who sits as chairman of the ways and means comm. having trouble “remembering” his taxable income.

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  5. sam says:

    Shouldn’t Glenn Reynolds have written a story with the headline, “Truthful Reporting is For The Little People”?

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  6. Muffler says:

    It wasn’t an error. It was a clear conscious thought. Why? Well given that in recent memory or history no SCOTUS member had a spouse that was politically active and represented the same party as the one which appoint him/her. Thomas is not up to the SCOTUS level in any way and his conflicts of interest are so extensive that his use on the court is negated.

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  7. largebill says:

    I do take exception with one sentence: “Bob Edgar, Common Cause’s president. “It is hard to see how he could have misunderstood the simple directions of a federal disclosure form.” Simple? This guy actually used the word simple and federal disclosure form together? I have no idea why Thomas did not report his wife’s income. However, speaking for myself (my wife works for fed govt and has to do these forms) I resent the heck out of filling out these stupid forms every year and bitch about it quite a bit until giving in and filling them out. My position is it’s none of her bosses business what my income and assets might be. Beyond that, it’s a pain in the butt.

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  8. IP727 says:

    Thomas is not up to the SCOTUS level in any way
    midas man

    And sotomayer/kagan are !!!!! LMAO

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  9. mantis says:

    Reminds one of rangle who sits as chairman of the ways and means comm. having trouble “remembering” his taxable income.

    The difference: Reps can be voted out of office.

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  10. floyd says:

    “The difference: Reps can be voted out of office.”

    Mantis;
    Ya Think?… Let’s see what happens to Rangle.

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  11. mantis says:

    Ya Think?… Let’s see what happens to Rangle.

    I said they can be voted out of office. So yes, I think.

    Are you saying its impossible for New York’s 15th congressional district to nominate another Democrat, or vote for a Republican instead of Rangel?

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  12. Davebo says:

    Ya Think?… Let’s see what happens to Rangle.

    Most likely nothing. Mostly because, as the notable liberal Ben Stein explained, his actions don’t support censure.

    But what I really want to say about Charles Rangel is that this man is a genuine American hero.
    In unbelievably difficult service in the Korean War, his unit was swamped, cut off, overwhelmed by hordes of Red Chinese crossing into Korea. In the worst cold weather imaginable, under fire, starving, acting Sergeant Charles Rangel, in a black unit led mostly by white officers, took a large group of men, led them by example, lifted their morale, as they fought their way out to safety. Men were being shot, freezing, getting captured all around him, yet he got most of his men out.
    For this leadership, sacrifice, and courage, Mr. Rangel was awarded a Bronze Star with a V for Valor.
    After that, he served as a prosecutor, and then for 20 distinguished terms, as a member of Congress, for a time as chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. His erudition and fairness earned him high marks throughout his career.
    Now, he has been humiliated over what seems to me like almost nothing.
    Just for me, I hope that history will record that a truly great man, Charlie Rangel, a hero of the first rank, was laid low by trivial, no-account matters, censured by people who mostly have no clue of what true courage, fighting, blood and frostbite mean.

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  13. VB Rowan says:

    Marking a NO block when the truthful answer is YES on a form to a federal agency is a federal crime under 28 USC 1001. In UNITED STATES v. WOODWARD, 469 U.S. 105 (1985) (decided 5 years before Justice Thomas was appointed) a person was found guilty and sentenced to 6 months imprisonment under 28 USC 1001 for checking the NO block on a customs form. Does anyone seriously believe, that a man with a JD and a sitting Supreme Court Justice cannot read the question and the certification at the bottom of the form, or that he did not know his wife was being paid?

    Title 18 U.S.C. 1001 provides:

    “Whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States knowingly and willfully falsifies, conceals or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact, or makes any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations, or makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or entry, shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”

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