And who funded the $1.5 million ad buy attacking Ketanji Brown Jackson and promoting Justice Thomas?
On Tuesday of this week, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is chairing a subcommittee hearing for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on judicial ethics and transparency. This interrogation of the outside forces undermining the fairness of the U.S. Supreme Court is sorely needed. Respect for the Supreme Court has nose-dived, according to a 2022 Pew poll, with the share of Americans who see the Court in a favorable light reaching the lowest level in nearly four decades. Just 16% of Americans surveyed believe the justices do a good job keeping politics out of their decision-making.
The extremism and extreme partisanship of the right-wing faction dominating the Court has been laid bare by the cases they hand-picked out of thousands to rule on this term, which may result in radically reactionary edicts that overturn Roe v. Wade, gut the EPA, and push religion further into public schools. Such declarations by the Court that Donald Trump packed with the help of dark money would be starkly at odds with long-standing legal precedents and the views of most Americans.
The expanding scandal surrounding Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginni have deepened the crisis engulfing John Roberts’ Court.
One component of the way dark money continues to pervert the Court occurred just last month.
A curious thing happened during the wrangling over Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination: a secretly-funded $1.5 million ad launched, focused on…Justice Clarence Thomas. It used Judge Jackson as a hook to promote a fawning biopic on Thomas.
Just one day later, the Washington Post and CBS broke the news that Thomas’ wife, Ginni, had repeatedly texted Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, to overturn the 2020 presidential election. She even told Meadows which lawyers should lead the fight, namely conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell.
As public outcry over the actions of the spouse of a Supreme Court justice was about to explode, the ad was unveiled, polishing her husband’s image. That’s crisis management 101, and it amounts to a massive gift to the Thomases.
The front group behind the ad calls itself the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), but who wrote the check?
JCN is no impartial party. It’s the signature group of the Thomases’ long-time ally, Leonard Leo, who sits at the center of a court capture network that spent millions in dark money to put three new allies for Clarence Thomas on the Court: Justices Coney Barrett, Kavanaugh, and Gorsuch.
Ginni praised Leo when she gave him an award she created a few years ago:
“I also love …Leonard Leo. [He] has single-handedly changed the face of the judiciary under the auspices of … the Federalist Society… He has many hats, that isn’t even all he does. He doesn’t really tell all that he does, but I know enough to know the man is a force of nature.”
Like Leo, Ginni Thomas also wears many hats. As journalist Jane Mayer detailed in The New Yorker, Ginni has been in the thick of highly political activities, including paid consulting for FedUp PAC, backing Roy Moore’s 2017 Senate bid, and Frank Gaffney‘s anti-Muslim group, Center for Security Policy, which has participated in Supreme Court litigation that Justice Thomas did not recuse himself from.
New revelations show Ginni Thomas wore another hat: trying to dictate who the Trump administration hired.
With each new revelation, new questions arise. Who was paying Thomas’ consulting fees when she sought to install people who fit her political agenda—and purge those who did not—in the White House?
Did Thomas receive any consulting payments while she demanded the White House stop counting Americans’ votes in exchanges with Meadows in November 2020. Was she acting on behalf of a client or in concert with other groups or funders?
Notably, weeks of communications between Ginni and Meadows remain missing. We do know she promoted and attended the event on the Mall that launched the bloody insurrection, but we are entirely in the dark about who was paying Thomas at the time.
Nor do we have any understanding of who Thomas was working for when her husband was the sole Justice to vote against ordering Trump to disclose White House materials related to January 6th to Congress—materials that include communications by his wife?
The financial disclosure filed by Justice Thomas does not reveal how much Ginni was paid in recent years, let alone the identities of her biggest clients or their funders. That’s outrageous and demonstrates that disclosure rules must be reformed.
We the People have a moral right to know who is feathering the nest of a Justice sitting in judgment of cases that reach the Supreme Court. We have a right to know if they have cases before the Court or are funding groups trying to reverse legal precedents and people’s rights.
The American people also have a right to know who bankrolled the PR campaign to promote Justice Thomas as the controversy over Ginni’s activities became public.
From the little that we know already, however, one thing is clear: Justice Thomas should resign; his wife sought to subvert our very democracy.
If he does not, Chief Justice John Roberts should insist that Thomas retire—immediately—rather than let this corruption continue to tar the Court.
The House should initiate Thomas’ impeachment. The January 6th Committee should hold Ginni Thomas to account if she refuses to turn over the complete records.
Finally, Congress must pass the DISCLOSE Act and AMICUS Act, as Sens. Whitehouse, Bloom, and others have implored, in order to prevent something like this from ever happening again.
Americans deserve a fair and honest Supreme Court, above reproach and devoted to the highest standard of ethics—rather than the lowest of the low with Clarence Thomas on the bench.