| It’s time for Clarence Thomas to resign.
A New York Times expose published Sunday details the improper ties between Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and influential rightwing funder and activist Harlan Crow.1
Crow is a major contributor to conservative causes and a stalwart supporter of Clarence Thomas. In past years he reportedly gave Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas, $500,000 to exploit the Citizens United decision and start a shadowy, Tea Party-related group called Liberty Central. He gave Thomas a bible (estimated value $15,000) that once belonged to Frederick Douglass, and allegedly provided the Supreme Court Justice with access to his yacht and private jet.
As if that wasn’t enough, the New York Times has revealed that Thomas may have improperly solicited a multi-million dollar donation from Crow to benefit one of his own pet projects near his birth place in a remote coastal community outside Savanna, Georgia.
Shockingly, the Supreme Court is not legally bound by the code of conduct for federal judges, though Justices Breyer and Anthony M. Kennedy have testified to Congress that members of the Supreme Court voluntarily follow the code which explicitly prohibits justices from directly soliciting charitable donations. If Thomas can’t legally be removed from office because adherence to ethics rules for the Supreme Court are voluntary, then we must simply demand his resignation.
Crow is far from a disinterested philanthropist. He has donated nearly $5 million to Republican campaigns and rightwing groups, including a six digit donation to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth which so effectively attacked Sen. John Kerry during the 2004 presidential election. He’s on the board of the ultra conservative American Enterprise Institute which brought a case to the Supreme Court challenging federal voting rights laws, a case that found only one sympathetic vote on the court — that of Clarence Thomas.
Crow is not the sole source of questionable ethical behavior on the part of Clarence Thomas. His highly questionable relationship to an ethically challenged Supreme Court justice is simply the latest to be exposed.
Clarence Thomas participated in a secret political fundraising event put on by the Koch brothers to fund Tea Party infrastructure groups.2
And for years, Thomas disregarded rules requiring him to report his wife’s income on financial disclosure forms. His household received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the conservative Heritage Foundation during a period when he was voting on landmark cases in which the rightwing think tank had a clear ideological stake.3
This type of behavior wouldn’t be tolerated for any other federal court judge. Common Cause Attorney Arn Pearson says in the Times, “The code of conduct is quite clear that judges are not supposed to be soliciting money for their pet projects or charities, period. If any other federal judge was doing it, he could face disciplinary action.”
Even absent a legally binding code of conduct for Supreme Court Justices, a Justice resigning for ethics violations is not without precedent. Justice Abe Fortas resigned in disgrace in 1969 after it was revealed that he had received gifts from interested benefactors similar to those received by Clarence Thomas.4
Fortas, prior to resigning, actually recused himself from voting in cases related to his benefactor. Thomas, however, has refused to recuse himself from cases before the court in which organizations related to Harlan Crow continue to file briefs.
Clarence Thomas’ behavior has long been beyond the pale. In response to these latest revelations by the New York Times it’s long since time to demand Clarence Thomas’ resignation.
Becky Bond, Political Director