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The "Judicial Insider Trading" of Justice Clarence Thomas and Wife "Ginni"

Sunday, 12 June 2011 07:23 By Brad Friedman, The BRAD BLOG | News Analysis

He had inappropriate sexual entanglements with a number of women and lied about it repeatedly to the American people. Yet nobody --- save for one Colorado law school prof--- seems to be calling for Justice Clarence Thomas' resignation for some reason.

That, even though Thomas, unlike Rep. Anthony Weiner, appears to have actually, and flagrantly, and repeatedly, broken the law.

As we reported in January, Thomas appears to have "knowingly and willfully" filed falsified Financial Disclosure Forms which withheld disclosure of nearly $700,000 his wife received from the rightwing Heritage Foundation for the better part of the last 20 years. Only once it was pointed out publicly this year did Thomas bother to file "self-initiated amendments" to the forms he had signed just above the legal warning in bold and all caps which reads: "NOTE: ANY INDIVIDUAL WHO KNOWINGLY AND WILLFULLY FALSIFIES OR FAILS TO FILE THIS REPORT MAY BE SUBJECT TO CIVIL AND CRIMINAL SANCTIONS (5 U.S.C. app. § 104)"

While there has been little indication that law enforcement is actually investigating the crimes of the U.S. Supreme Court Justice (which, as we pointed out in January, are punishable by up to $50,000 and/or 1 year in jail for each instance of falsification), last Friday when Thomas' Financial Disclosure Form for 2010 [PDF] was released, the matter appears to have gotten shadier still, leading at least one government watchdog organization to describe what Thomas and his wife Virginia "Ginni" Thomas may be been doing as "Judicial Insider Trading."

Connecting the dots, it would seem the couple made huge profits from Thomas' participation and insider knowledge of last year's Citizens United ruling at the U.S. Supreme Court, as we'll show you below.

While Barack Obama's DoJ seems to be looking the other way, there was one person in Congress trying to bring attention to this issue last week with hisConflictedClarence.com website: Rep. Anthony Weiner...

 

For some reason or another, Weiner has been distracted of late, so I was happy to pick up the ball today and cover the new Thomas disclosures on our radio show on L.A.'s Pacifica Radio affiliate, KPFK today. The audio from the show is below. But here are a few quick details, as promised.

Before posting the timeline, one very important point that hasn't received nearly enough attention: during Thomas' contentious confirmation hearings in 1991, he received a huge boost when an outside organization ran $100,000 worth of television commercials attacking those Senators who were threatening to vote against Thomas' confirmation. That organization? A newly formed group called Citizens United.

Twenty years later, and without either Thomas disclosing it, or anyone in the media connecting the dots, Thomas decided in favor of the group in the now-infamousCitizens United v. FEC case, which has allowed a tsunami of corporate money into our political and electoral system.

It was that decision that allowed corporations to pour virtually unlimited money into 501(c)(4) non-profits that could, in turn, use the money to affect elections with millions of dollars in campaign ads, etc.

Ginni Thomas created one of those 501(c)(4) organizations just after oral arguments were argued before her husband in the Citizens United case, and somehow managed to raise some $550,000 in about two months' time before the end of 2009.

Here, courtesy of Velvet Revolution's ProtectOurElections.org campaign:

Sept 9, 2009: Citizens United argued.
Nov 6, 2009: Virginia Thomas launches her new Liberty Central 501(c)(4) organization, which raises 550K in 2009.
Jan 21, 2010: Citizens United decided.
March 15, 2010: Virginia Thomas announces that Liberty Central would "accept donations from various sources — including corporations — as allowed under campaign finance rules recently loosened by the Supreme Court."
November 14, 2010: Liberty Central announces that Virginia Thomas would be leaving the organization.
November 16, 2010: Liberty Consulting incorporated in the state of Virginia.
February 4, 2011: Politico reports that Virginia Thomas had launched Liberty Consulting.
February 8, 2011: ProtectOurElections.org releases its expose of Liberty Consulting
February 12, 2011: Liberty Consulting website is deletedhttp://libertyinc.co/
February 23, 2011: ProtectOurElections.org files a formal bar complaint against Clarence Thomas requesting that he be disbarred on various grounds.

Note the date on which Ginni launched her 501(c)(4), Liberty Central, Inc., and note how quickly she was able to raise half a million dollars from it. And that was evenbefore she told the LA Times that the group would "accept donations from various sources — including corporations — as allowed under campaign finance rules recently loosened by the Supreme Court."

Unlike for the past 20 years, Justice Thomas was able to understand the (incredibly simple) Financial Disclosure Form this time around, for 2010, well enough that he was able to list his "Spouse's Non-Investment Income" including "salary and benefits" from both Liberty Central, Inc., and Liberty Consulting, Inc.

Unfortunately, the form doesn't require him to specify how much she received from each, and Liberty Central has extended its deadline for filing its own disclosure forms until August. So, until then, we're just left to speculate as to how much the Thomases made from those ventures, although the Disclosure Form does reveal that the Thomases invested some of their own money to start up Liberty Consulting, Inc. The form indicates that less than $15,000 was invested.

Setting aside the fact that common sense suggests Thomas should have recused himself from the Citizens United decision (which was decided by a 5 to 4 vote), given the $100,000 in ads from that group that benefited him when he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Ginni's ability to profit from the decision is raising a lot of questions that should be answered.

Today, VR's ProtectOurElections.org sent another letter [PDF] to the DoJ, including the newly released Financial Disclosure Form, asking the department to investigate a number of additional questions that have been raised by the new disclosures, including:

  • Was Mrs. Thomas tipped off to the Citizens United decision before it was rendered?
  • Did Mrs. Thomas launch Liberty Central to take advantage of Citizens United and did she receive any income as a result of Citizens United?
  • What happened to the $550,000 raised by Mrs. Thomas for Liberty Central (which is listed on its 2009 IRS 990 form)?
  • Did Mrs. Thomas raise funds for Liberty Central after the Citizens United decision and if so how much and what was it used for?
  • Is Liberty Consulting engaged in consulting Supreme Court litigants or potential litigants?
  • Is Liberty Consulting engaged in lobbying and if so is Mrs. Thomas lobbying for litigants before the Supreme Court?
  • Is Liberty Consulting a legitimate company or a conduit to raise funds for the Thomas family?

[And by way of my own disclosure, since, unlike Thomas, I happen to believe it's the right thing to do, VR is an organization co-founded by The BRAD BLOG.]

Brad Friedman

Brad Friedman is an investigative blogger, journalist and broadcaster. Frequent contributor to Salon, Truthout and many other sites, publisher and creator of The BRAD BLOG (BradBlog.com) and the host of KPFK/Pacifica Radio's The BradCast. Follow him on Twitter @TheBradBlog.


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The "Judicial Insider Trading" of Justice Clarence Thomas and Wife "Ginni"

Sunday, 12 June 2011 07:23 By Brad Friedman, The BRAD BLOG | News Analysis

He had inappropriate sexual entanglements with a number of women and lied about it repeatedly to the American people. Yet nobody --- save for one Colorado law school prof--- seems to be calling for Justice Clarence Thomas' resignation for some reason.

That, even though Thomas, unlike Rep. Anthony Weiner, appears to have actually, and flagrantly, and repeatedly, broken the law.

As we reported in January, Thomas appears to have "knowingly and willfully" filed falsified Financial Disclosure Forms which withheld disclosure of nearly $700,000 his wife received from the rightwing Heritage Foundation for the better part of the last 20 years. Only once it was pointed out publicly this year did Thomas bother to file "self-initiated amendments" to the forms he had signed just above the legal warning in bold and all caps which reads: "NOTE: ANY INDIVIDUAL WHO KNOWINGLY AND WILLFULLY FALSIFIES OR FAILS TO FILE THIS REPORT MAY BE SUBJECT TO CIVIL AND CRIMINAL SANCTIONS (5 U.S.C. app. § 104)"

While there has been little indication that law enforcement is actually investigating the crimes of the U.S. Supreme Court Justice (which, as we pointed out in January, are punishable by up to $50,000 and/or 1 year in jail for each instance of falsification), last Friday when Thomas' Financial Disclosure Form for 2010 [PDF] was released, the matter appears to have gotten shadier still, leading at least one government watchdog organization to describe what Thomas and his wife Virginia "Ginni" Thomas may be been doing as "Judicial Insider Trading."

Connecting the dots, it would seem the couple made huge profits from Thomas' participation and insider knowledge of last year's Citizens United ruling at the U.S. Supreme Court, as we'll show you below.

While Barack Obama's DoJ seems to be looking the other way, there was one person in Congress trying to bring attention to this issue last week with hisConflictedClarence.com website: Rep. Anthony Weiner...

 

For some reason or another, Weiner has been distracted of late, so I was happy to pick up the ball today and cover the new Thomas disclosures on our radio show on L.A.'s Pacifica Radio affiliate, KPFK today. The audio from the show is below. But here are a few quick details, as promised.

Before posting the timeline, one very important point that hasn't received nearly enough attention: during Thomas' contentious confirmation hearings in 1991, he received a huge boost when an outside organization ran $100,000 worth of television commercials attacking those Senators who were threatening to vote against Thomas' confirmation. That organization? A newly formed group called Citizens United.

Twenty years later, and without either Thomas disclosing it, or anyone in the media connecting the dots, Thomas decided in favor of the group in the now-infamousCitizens United v. FEC case, which has allowed a tsunami of corporate money into our political and electoral system.

It was that decision that allowed corporations to pour virtually unlimited money into 501(c)(4) non-profits that could, in turn, use the money to affect elections with millions of dollars in campaign ads, etc.

Ginni Thomas created one of those 501(c)(4) organizations just after oral arguments were argued before her husband in the Citizens United case, and somehow managed to raise some $550,000 in about two months' time before the end of 2009.

Here, courtesy of Velvet Revolution's ProtectOurElections.org campaign:

Sept 9, 2009: Citizens United argued.
Nov 6, 2009: Virginia Thomas launches her new Liberty Central 501(c)(4) organization, which raises 550K in 2009.
Jan 21, 2010: Citizens United decided.
March 15, 2010: Virginia Thomas announces that Liberty Central would "accept donations from various sources — including corporations — as allowed under campaign finance rules recently loosened by the Supreme Court."
November 14, 2010: Liberty Central announces that Virginia Thomas would be leaving the organization.
November 16, 2010: Liberty Consulting incorporated in the state of Virginia.
February 4, 2011: Politico reports that Virginia Thomas had launched Liberty Consulting.
February 8, 2011: ProtectOurElections.org releases its expose of Liberty Consulting
February 12, 2011: Liberty Consulting website is deletedhttp://libertyinc.co/
February 23, 2011: ProtectOurElections.org files a formal bar complaint against Clarence Thomas requesting that he be disbarred on various grounds.

Note the date on which Ginni launched her 501(c)(4), Liberty Central, Inc., and note how quickly she was able to raise half a million dollars from it. And that was evenbefore she told the LA Times that the group would "accept donations from various sources — including corporations — as allowed under campaign finance rules recently loosened by the Supreme Court."

Unlike for the past 20 years, Justice Thomas was able to understand the (incredibly simple) Financial Disclosure Form this time around, for 2010, well enough that he was able to list his "Spouse's Non-Investment Income" including "salary and benefits" from both Liberty Central, Inc., and Liberty Consulting, Inc.

Unfortunately, the form doesn't require him to specify how much she received from each, and Liberty Central has extended its deadline for filing its own disclosure forms until August. So, until then, we're just left to speculate as to how much the Thomases made from those ventures, although the Disclosure Form does reveal that the Thomases invested some of their own money to start up Liberty Consulting, Inc. The form indicates that less than $15,000 was invested.

Setting aside the fact that common sense suggests Thomas should have recused himself from the Citizens United decision (which was decided by a 5 to 4 vote), given the $100,000 in ads from that group that benefited him when he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Ginni's ability to profit from the decision is raising a lot of questions that should be answered.

Today, VR's ProtectOurElections.org sent another letter [PDF] to the DoJ, including the newly released Financial Disclosure Form, asking the department to investigate a number of additional questions that have been raised by the new disclosures, including:

  • Was Mrs. Thomas tipped off to the Citizens United decision before it was rendered?
  • Did Mrs. Thomas launch Liberty Central to take advantage of Citizens United and did she receive any income as a result of Citizens United?
  • What happened to the $550,000 raised by Mrs. Thomas for Liberty Central (which is listed on its 2009 IRS 990 form)?
  • Did Mrs. Thomas raise funds for Liberty Central after the Citizens United decision and if so how much and what was it used for?
  • Is Liberty Consulting engaged in consulting Supreme Court litigants or potential litigants?
  • Is Liberty Consulting engaged in lobbying and if so is Mrs. Thomas lobbying for litigants before the Supreme Court?
  • Is Liberty Consulting a legitimate company or a conduit to raise funds for the Thomas family?

[And by way of my own disclosure, since, unlike Thomas, I happen to believe it's the right thing to do, VR is an organization co-founded by The BRAD BLOG.]

Brad Friedman

Brad Friedman is an investigative blogger, journalist and broadcaster. Frequent contributor to Salon, Truthout and many other sites, publisher and creator of The BRAD BLOG (BradBlog.com) and the host of KPFK/Pacifica Radio's The BradCast. Follow him on Twitter @TheBradBlog.


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