Justice Thomas Accused of Reporting Violations

Common Cause has sent the letter below to Justice Clarence Thomas raising concerns over his failure to report his wife’s income in prior years. For full disclosure, I have conferred with Common Cause on this nondisclosure issue and participated as an independent expert in the press conference yesterday on the absence of binding ethics rules for the members of the Supreme Court.

In the letter below, Common Cause states:

According to the Heritage Foundation’s Form 990s filed with the Internal Revenue Service, Ms. Thomas earned a salary in excess of $120,000 each year between 2003 and 2007. In 2009, Ms. Thomas became the founding CEO of a new 501(c)(4) organization, Liberty Central. The current CEO, Sarah Field, told the New York Times that Ms. Thomas was compensated for her work at Liberty Central at a salary set by the board.

Federal law requires the disclosure of spousal income and records indicate that Virginia “Ginny” Thomas was paid $686,589 by the Heritage Foundation from 2003-07. Likewise, published reports indicate that she drew a salary from Liberty Central, a political education and action group she co-founded in 2009. However, none of this income is reported on the annual forms, according to Common Cause.

Title VI states:

§ 102. Contents of reports


(1) Except as provided in the last sentence of this paragraph, each report required by section 101 shall also contain information listed in paragraphs (1) through (5) of subsection (a) of this section respecting the spouse or dependent child of the reporting individual as follows:

(A) The source of items of earned income earned by a spouse from any person which exceed $1,000 and the source and amount of any honoraria received by a spouse, except that, with respect to earned income (other than honoraria), if the spouse is self-employed in business or a profession, only the nature of such business or profession need be reported.
(B) All information required to be reported in subsection (a)(1)(B) with respect to income derived by a spouse or dependent child from any asset held by the spouse or dependent child and reported pursuant to subsection (a)(3).
(C) In the case of any gifts received by a spouse or dependent child which are not received totally independent of the relationship of the spouse or dependent child to the reporting individual, the identity of the source and a brief description of gifts of transportation, lodging, food, or entertainment and a brief description and the value of other gifts.
(D) In the case of any reimbursements received by a spouse or dependent child which
are not received totally independent of the relationship of the spouse or dependent child to the reporting individual, the identity of the source and a brief description of each such reimbursement.
(E) In the case of items described in paragraphs (3) through (5) of subsection (a), all
information required to be reported under these paragraphs other than items (i) which the reporting individual certifies represent the spouse’s or dependent child’s sole financial interest or responsibility and which the reporting individual has no knowledge of, (ii) which are not in any way, past or present, derived from the income, assets, or activities of the reporting individual, and (iii) from which the reporting individual neither derives, nor expects to derive, any financial or economic benefit.
(F) For purposes of this section, categories with amounts or values greater than $1,000,000 set forth in sections 102 (a)(1)(B) and 102 (d)(1) shall apply to the income, assets, or liabilities of spouses and dependent children only if the income, assets, or liabilities are held jointly with the reporting individual. All other income, assets, or liabilities of the spouse or dependent children required to be reported under this section in an amount or value greater than $1,000,000 shall be categorized only as an amount or value greater than $1,000,000.
Reports required by subsections (a), (b), and (c) of section 101 shall, with respect to the spouse and dependent child of the reporting individual, only contain information listed in paragraphs (1), (3), and (4) of subsection (a), as specified in this paragraph.
(2) No report shall be required with respect to a spouse living separate and apart from the reporting individual with the intention of terminating the marriage or providing for permanent separation; or with respect to any income or obligations of an individual arising from the dissolution of his marriage or the permanent separation from his spouse.

This income is particularly controversial because of the concern over Thomas’ connections to conservative donors and groups — particularly in light of his participation in the Citizens United decision. On the forms, there is a specific place for reporting spousal income and Thomas states “none.”

Reporting significant income from such groups would have raised additional questions at the time of the decision. Once again, as noted yesterday, these allegations only serve to highlight the relative absence of binding rules and procedures that apply to members of the Supreme Court.

None of his wife’s earnings are disclosed on Justice Thomas’ annual financial disclosure forms, however. The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 requires federal officials, including Supreme Court justices, to disclose their spouse’s income. On the appropriate section of his 2003 to 2009 disclosure forms, Justice Thomas checked the box for “none.”

On another development today, the Supreme Court spokesman released a statement on the alleged participation of Scalia and Thomas in Koch events. Tom Hamburger of the Los Angeles Times reports:

Supreme Court spokesperson Kathy Arberg said that Justices Thomas and Scalia had traveled to Indian Wells, California to address a Federalist Society dinner sponsored by Charles and Elizabeth Koch but did not actively participate in the separate Koch strategy and policy meetings. Justice Scalia spoke about international law at the January 2007 meeting of the quasi-academic Federalist Society and did not attend the separate political and strategy meeting hosted by the Kochs, she said. Justice Thomas spoke to the Federalists at the same location in January 2008 about his recently published book. Thomas then dropped by one of the separate Koch meeting sessions. “It was a brief drop by,” Arberg said. “He was not a participant.”

It is not clear what “dropping by” means in this context. The Koch sessions are a strong ideological and political theme — often soliciting support to change Congress and fight liberal members. What I do not understand (in light of this denial) is why Scalia and Thomas as listed in Koch promotional material with Ed Beck and Rush Limbaugh. On page 13 of the brochure below, the Koch organization states:

This action-oriented program brings together top experts and leaders to discuss –and offer solutions to counter – the most critical threats to our free society. …Past meetings have featured such notable leaders as Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas; Governors Bobby Jindal and Haley Barbour; commentators John Stossel, Charles Krauthammer, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh; Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn; and Representatives Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, and Tom Price.

Koch event packet

This passage will raise question as to what Koch events these justices did attend.

Here are the Common Cause letters and documents:

Thomas nondisclosure table and statute

Common Cause letter to Judicial Conference re. Thomas non-disclosure 1.21.11

DoJ letter day 2 release 1.21.11

Jonathan Turley

38 thoughts on “Justice Thomas Accused of Reporting Violations”

  1. Federal executive branch employees have been convicted under 1001 for false financial disclosure statements, and the express civil penalties in the law did not negate the application of 1001. (Also, a former Member of Congress was convicted under the old 1001 – Rep. George Hansen – but that was pre-Hubbard – before the law expressly applied to false statements to the legislative branch – and the conviction was overturned after the Hubbard decision). There is really no reason, including no viable separation of powers reasons why the law should not apply to false statements within the jurisdiction of a federal agency made by a Supreme Court Justice. However, remember, 1001 is a specific intent statute, and requires not only a false statement (such as writing “none” when referring to a spouse’s outside earned income), but also an intent to deceive rather than merely a “mistake” of fact or law.

  2. Professor Turley: Does the existence of civil penalties in 5 USC 104 suggest that criminal penalties cannot be imposed under 18 USC 1001 for filing a materially false financial disclosure statement? This repeated and significant omission by Justice Thomas seems more than trivial. As you well know, this was the provision used to convict Senator Ted Stevens for the same type of failure to report income/gifts on a required financial disclosure form (conviction overturned on other grounds due to failure of the government to produce exculpatory material). Is it unreasonable to expect a significant judicial penalty for Justice Thomas? What about impeachment?

  3. If a society has no laws, I will find that society lawless.

    If a society has laws impossible to obey, I will also find that society lawless, and I will further find it utterly abusive as well.

    While a society made lawless by an unfathomable, incomprehensible array of oft-mutually conflicting laws may be functionally as lawless as one without laws, the hyperlaw-ridden society is also utterly, unconscionably a biological atrocity.

    I never advocate a society without laws, such a society will always end up making so many laws as to be at least as functionally lawless as a society without laws, and will have the added feature of being catastrophically abusive its members in stunningly addictive ways.

    Which is where we are now. Which is why lawyers, who have created a Ponzi scheme which makes Wall Street seem angelic in terms of selfishness, criticize me and my work while I neither criticize lawyers or their work but merely come with what any lawyer of conscience might, upon understanding my work find of formidable value in making law a wisely respected profession.

    Make rules for me that I have to obey, yet, because of the nature and structure of the rules are impossible for me to know and utterly impossible for me to understand, which is the present condition of law as I experience it, and I find I am being abused by being condemned to a cruel, atrocious entrapment.

    There is a method, presently in use, presently working very well, that allows for making laws which people can obey by conscientious will. The method is the method of engineering.

    Until engineers are commanded to obey laws which violate validated engineering principles, engineering works. Remember Challenger? “Think Management, not Engineering?” Dead Teacher not in Space. You don’t remember? I do.

    BIL, I understood and refuted the viewpoint I find you are espousing before I was two years of age. I find your view, as I can understand it, repugnantly childish, in the worst sense possible of “childish.”

    For this, I find no fault with you and have no criticism of you. It is not your fault. As you were raised, so you believe.

    If I hated someone and wanted to hurt them as much as I could, and there was a case in law available to me, I surely would seek out an attorney who believes much as I guess you may do.

    I am familiar with such methods of law practice as I wildly speculate you may practice. After our son and his wife were killed when their car exploded because, at least in part, of defective spot welds, it was an attorney whose practice of law matches, in my mind, your beliefs whose sincere actions made it as though our adopting a neglected child in need of a decent home was the ultimate heinous crime of all time.

    So, while I respect you unconditionally as a person, I cannot possibly abide in your espoused reality model as I can fathom it from your words on this blawg.

    My reality model includes you as a perfectly valid person whose socialization trauma is manifested through your inability to comprehend my work. Alas, I can demonstrate an understanding, from an engineering viewpoint (which, being an engineer, is proper for me) of the contemporary function and structure of law that identifies mistakes in the foundation principles of law which the scientists who took the trouble to talk with me in depth and detail found impossible to refute.

    You will not bother to chat with me, essentially for free, using Skype, whereas I am not afraid to have a decent chat with you.

    Do I have on hand the books I say I have? I can show them to you via Skype.

    It does not surprise me, yet it does sadden me, when someone tells me of socialization trauma flashbacks as I find you do.

  4. I prefer the simpler explanation in the movie, Man Facing Southeast, the problem is not human imperfection, it is the perfection of human stupidity.

    Fortunately, I am so stupid that I cannot fail to know that I am stupid.

    My goodness, others make my arguments for me far better than I can make them.

    If I am so stupid that I cannot understand the law, and if I ask an attorney what the law is, and the attorney says, “I don’t know,” what then is stupidity?

    I may have much company of people who may be about as stupid as I am. My ignorance surely is not less than infinite.

    What is the absolute reference by which human imperfection is measured?

    Or, is belief in human imperfection just another stupid, absurdly insane, religious fantasy?

    Would not human imperfection make all possible understanding of human imperfection imperfect?

    If a mental model of human imperfection is sufficiently imperfect, by what other independent method can we evaluate human imperfection?

    By blind faith, blind even to itself?

    Or, what?

  5. Brian,

    You should stick to topics about which your expertise is actually applicable. The absence of justice is lawlessness. Justice requires – by the terms of the Constitution – an adversarial process to be mediated by judges. Judgment is a logical and fact finding process. That it is imperfectly administered is present in any and all legal systems because they are run by imperfect beings: humans. The only deception here is your self-deception that law is problem and not the solution. A world without the rule of law would result in short, brutal lives where the majority would come to their end by violence and the socially maladaptive actions of others.

  6. RE: michellefrommadison, January 21, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Why is it that no honest Judge can be found? Seems like a simple task.


    Perhaps because the very process of judgment is utterly dishonest and deceptive; so absolutely dishonest and deceptive that it totally deceives all who judge into believing otherwise while making those who judge oblivious to the deception and dishonesty through the very process of judgment itself?

  7. Clarence Thomas is a very angry man. It must positively suck going through life as ticked as he is. I read his book and came away feeling sorry for him, but not for too long.

    I applaud Common Causes efforts. I think there’s a slim chance they’ll prevail but I fully support what they’re doing here.

  8. thomas considers himself self made above the rules a law unto himself, but he’s just another tax dodger in high places. i hope he goes to jail for tax fraud.

  9. One lives to be of service, anon nurse.

    But the true thanks is mine for the good friends I have made over the last couple of years here at the Prof.’s playground.

    They make the world seem a bit less mad . . . even if only for a little while.

  10. Swarthmore mom,

    I just read about this on Huffington Post. Looks like it didn’t take Comcast long to get rid of one of MSNBC’s most liberal and outspoken voices.

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