WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2011 -- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas amended 20 years worth of financial disclosure forms today after a liberal watchdog group questioned the omission of his wife's place of employment.
"It has come to my attention that information regarding my spouse's employment required in Part III B of my financial disclosure report was inadvertently omitted due to a misunderstanding of the filing instructions," Thomas wrote in a letter to the committee that handles the reports.
The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 requires all federal judges to disclose their spouse's employer. They are not required to list the total income.
Thomas' formal recognition of the errors follows a complaint filed Friday by the group Common Cause that had expressed concern about the "apparent gaps" in his disclosures as required by law.
"Justice Thomas sits on the highest court of the land, is called upon daily to understand and interpret the most complicated legal issues of our day and makes decisions that affect millions," Common Cause president Bob Edgar said after viewing the amendment. "It is hard to see how he could have misunderstood the simple directions of a federal disclosure form. We find his excuse is implausible."
Thomas amended the reports today noting that his wife, Virginia Thomas, drew income from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank where she worked from 1998 to 2003. Thomas also noted that she worked at Hillsdale College for three months in 2008.
None of Thomas' forms, covering activities through Dec. 31, 2009, mention his wife's work at Liberty Central, a conservative political education group she co-founded in January 2009 in part to energize Tea Party activists.
But the group did not officially launch until May 2010, which will only be covered during in the next disclosure period.
"We also continue to be puzzled by omission of Liberty Central as Virginia Thomas's most recent employer," Edgar said.
Thomas had come under fire last year for an article posted on Liberty Central's website originally attributed to her that suggested the recently passed health care legislation was unconstitutional. Critics suggested that her comments compromised Justice Thomas' impartiality on an issue that will likely come before the Court in the future.
Liberty Central released a statement at the time saying it "assiduously avoids" taking positions on the "constitutionality" of issues. Virginia Thomas stepped down from the day-to-day operations of the group in December 2010.