She’s in the headlines again because of a voicemail almost two decades in the making, but the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has hardly been a shrinking violet for the past 19 years.
Virginia ‘Ginni’ Thomas – who made news last night for asking her husband’s onetime accuser, Anita Hill, to apologize for leveling charges of sexual harassment against then-nominee Clarence Thomas -- has taken an increasingly high-profile role as a political activist in recent years, including associations with elements of the Tea Party movement that has arisen this election cycle.
She started a conservative Web site last year and has recently appeared at events alongside conservative fixtures like Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, right-wing Web maven Andrew Breitbart, and former Bush adviser Karl Rove. (Tonight, Thomas is scheduled to participate in an online forum sponsored by the Family Research Council. The title: “The Taxman Cometh: Stopping the Obama Tax Hikes.”) (UPDATE: A spokesperson for Ginni Thomas now says that Thomas and FRC have both agreed that to keep the focus of the event on Obama and taxes, Thomas will not participate.)
In 2009, Thomas founded nonprofit group Liberty Central, a lobbying organization and Web site for conservatives that offers education materials, solicits donations, and “scores” congressional candidates by calculating those who have “the most respect for our five principles: limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, free enterprise, and national security,” per the site.
Under federal tax code, the group is classified as a 501(c)(4) organization that can accept unlimited donations and is not legally required to disclose its donors.
Her bio on the organization’s Web site notes that she is “a fan of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham and other talk radio hosts” and “is intrigued by Glenn Beck and listening carefully.” It does not mention that she is married to a Supreme Court justice.
A former Heritage Foundation legal analyst, Thomas faced questions about potential conflicts of interest in 2000, when Clarence Thomas was one of the five justices who ruled that George W. Bush had won the presidency of the United States. Ginni Thomas was working at the conservative think tank at the time, compiling resumes for potential appointees in a new Republican administration.
Thomas also formerly worked as a legal adviser at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been a foil for Democrats during this election cycle who point out that powerful business coalition has spent millions to support primarily GOP candidates this year.
Supporters of Thomas and her organization note that other high profile members of the nation’s judiciary branch have politically active spouses. A frequent example: Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Ed Rendell, is married to a 3rd circuit appeals court judge in Philadelphia. Per the Washington Post, Judge Marjorie Rendell recuses herself from cases in which one party has contributed to her husband’s political campaigns.
When Liberty Central was founded, Ginni Thomas also emphasized that the court’s “ethics office” had reviewed Thomas’s involvement in the group. (Tony Mauro, a longtime Supreme Court reporter for the National Law Journal, noted that the court does not have an “ethics office” per se, but that the matter had been referred to a little-known “legal office” that “advises on personnel and ethics matters.”)
Thomas has stood by her constitutional right to express her political views, wife of a justice or not.
“I did not give up my First Amendment rights when my husband became a justice of the Supreme Court,” she said earlier this year.