Today, the Supreme Court agreed to hear constitutional challenges brought on by twenty-six states and a business group to President Obama’s healthcare reform bill. There will likely be arguments in the spring and a ruling by July, right in the heat of the presidential election.
This is a good time to recall that seventy-four members of Congress have signed a letter asking Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from any ruling on the Affordable Care Act because of his wife’s work as a conservative activist and lobbyist, where she specifically agitated for the repeal of “Obamacare.” The recusal effort was spearheaded by Representative Anthony Weiner, and his resignation in June slowed the momentum around this issue on Capitol Hill—but there’s still ample evidence for concern.
In 2009, Ginni Thomas founded Liberty Central, a conservative nonprofit that she said would fight President Obama’s “hard-left agenda.” Thomas said she “felt called to the front lines with you, with my fellow citizens, to preserve what made America great.” The group frequently advocates against “Obamacare,” pushing misinformation that it would be a “disaster” for small businesses and urging lawmakers to repeal it.
This created immediate concern among legal experts, who were worried about the obvious conflict of interest, given that her husband would likely rule on challenges to the law. Moreover, Liberty Central was taking unlimited and secret donations, something aided by Clarence Thomas’s ruling in Citizens United. The liberal group Common Cause complained to the Justice Department at the time, and noted “the complete lack of transparency of Liberty Central’s finances makes it difficult to assess the full scope of the ethics issues raised by Ms. Thomas’s role in founding and leading the group.”
Ginni Thomas resigned from Liberty Central late last year amid controversy over her role, though the decision was also aided by fundraising troubles and a bizarre, ill-considered phone call she placed to Anita Hill, the woman who accused her husband of sexual harassment twenty years prior.