Tell Clarence Thomas: Recuse yourself

To protect the honor of the highest court in the land, Thomas must recuse himself from deliberations on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.


Dear Mark,

A case challenging the constitutionality of the health care reform bill passed by Congress is headed to the Supreme Court, and Justice Clarence Thomas has a supreme ethical conflict.
It’s been widely reported that the Thomas family has financial ties to the conservative organizations leading the campaign to bring down our new health care law – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Anthony Weiner and 73 other members of Congress have signed a letter detailing the appearance of ethical conflict and asking Justice Thomas to recuse himself from deliberations on the constitutionality of health care reform.

We’re asking you to sign a companion letter that Rep. Weiner – a champion of progressive issues – will deliver to the Supreme Court next week along with the letter signed by members of Congress.

The letter to Justice Thomas reads:

As an Associate Justice, you are entrusted with the responsibility to exercise the highest degree of discretion and impartiality when deciding a case. We join Rep. Anthony Weiner and other members of Congress in writing to note our surprise at recent revelations of your financial ties to leading organizations dedicated to lobbying against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We write today to respectfully ask that you maintain the integrity of this court and recuse yourself from any deliberations on the constitutionality of this act.

The appearance of a conflict of interest merits recusal under federal law. From what we have already seen, the line between your impartiality and you and your wife’s financial stake in the overturn of health care reform is blurred. Your spouse is advertising herself as a lobbyist who has “experience and connections” and appeals to clients who want a particular decision – they want to overturn health care reform. Moreover, your failure to disclose Ginni Thomas’s receipt of $686,589 from the Heritage Foundation, a prominent opponent of health care reform, between 2003 and 2007 has raised great concern.

This is not the first case where your impartiality was in question. As Common Cause points out, you “participated in secretive political strategy sessions, perhaps while the case was pending, with corporate leaders whose political aims were advanced by the [5-4] decision” on the Citizens United case. Your spouse also received an undisclosed salary paid for by undisclosed donors as CEO of Liberty Central, a 501(c)(4) organization that stood to benefit from the decision and played an active role in the 2010 elections.

Given these facts, there is a strong conflict between the Thomas household’s financial gain through your spouse’s activities and your role as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. We urge you to recuse yourself from this case. If the US Supreme Court’s decision is to be viewed as legitimate by the American people, this is the only correct path.

We appreciate your thoughtful consideration of this request.

Thomas failed to disclose that his wife Ginni Thomas received a total of $686,589 in compensation from the Heritage Foundation.1 Furthermore his wife is currently advertising herself as a lobbyist who has “experience and connections” to conservative groups who have an explicit agenda to overturn health care reform – by repeal in the Congress or overturning the law in the courts.2

Justice Thomas is no stranger to questions of ethics. Along with Justice Antonin Scalia he attended meetings organized by the secretive, Tea Party-funding billionaire Koch brothers. The Koch brothers have been key players in rewriting the political landscape after the Citizens United Supreme Court decision unleashed the floodgates of corporate money in federal politics.3 And Thomas’ wife has received an undisclosed salary paid for by undisclosed donors as CEO of Liberty Central, a 501(c)(4) organization that was formed to take advantage of Citizens United rules and to play an active role in the 2010 elections.

Unlike other members of the federal judiciary, Supreme Court Justices have no specific code of ethics to which they may be held accountable. But there is a clear appearance of a conflict of interest between his wife’s clear financial stake in overturning the health care law and Justice Thomas’ personal duty to exhibit the highest degree of discretion and impartiality. To protect the honor of the highest court in the land, Thomas must recuse himself from deliberations on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Sincerely,
Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

P.S. CREDO supports a single payer system for health care. In 2010 we fought hard for the public option and opposed “compromising on the compromise.” We continue to work to win real health care reform and in the process are fighting to stop repeal of the modest, though nowhere near comprehensive, gains achieved in 2010.




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