More Controversy for Virginia Thomas; First Anita Hill, Now Health Reform Law

Move reflects sensitivity to reports linking Thomas' politics to husband's job.

October 21, 2010, 12:01 PM

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2010 -- Two days after making headlines for reaching out to Anita Hill, Virginia Thomas' non-profit organization has withdrawn her name from a statement that had been posted on its website advocating the repeal of the Obama administration's health care law.

In a statement, the non-profit group Liberty Central said the organization "assiduously avoids" taking positions on the "constitutionality" of issues.

The memo posted by the Liberty Central came from the Conservative Action Project. Liberty Central said that Virginia Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, was incorrectly listed as the author of the memo.

"The Conservative Action Project memo on spending cuts and the repeal of the health care law mistakenly carried Ginni Thomas' name. She did not review the memo, it was reviewed by staff who mistakenly signed off with her name on it," a statement from Liberty Central reads. "Liberty Central assiduously avoids taking a position on the constitutionality of this, and other issues, and will continue to do so in the future."

The move reflects a new sensitivity to reports linking Virginia Thomas' politics to her husband's job as a Supreme Court Justice.

The Health Care Reform Act is currently being challenged in lower courts and it could well come before the Supreme Court.

Although today's statement says Liberty Central avoids "taking a position" on the constitutionality of issues, the website has postings attacking the health care law as a "bruising blow" to American freedom.

The post that originally was attributed to Virginia Thomas is still up on the website and reads, "With the U.S. Constitution on our side and the hearts and minds of the American People with us, freedom will prevail."

The posting has a note: "Due to a Liberty Central staff error, authorship of this issue brief was previously misattributed. As of October 21, it has been corrected. We regret the error."

In speeches Virginia Thomas has not shied away from criticizing the Obama administration and the health care overhaul. She organized Liberty Central as a movement for citizen's action to combat what she calls President Obama's "hard-left" agenda.

Experts in judicial ethics have been careful to say that even though Virginia Thomas is perhaps the most politically active Supreme Court spouse in history she is entitled to have her opinions and it is up to Justice Thomas make sure there is no conflict of interest. The ethics rules governing the Supreme Court leave decisions regarding recusal largely up to the individual justices.

Virginia Thomas Helped Create Liberty Central

When Virginia Thomas took part in the launch of Liberty Central earlier this year, she met with the Supreme Court legal office to obtain advice.

However, the fact that Liberty Central is funded by undisclosed donors has troubled some, especially those who fear donors might contribute to Liberty Central to gain favor with Justice Thomas. Justice Thomas joined the majority in the controversial Citizen's United ruling last January that overturned decades-old campaign finance regulations. The ruling cleared the way for group's such as Liberty Central to spend money on ads for or against particular candidates.

But Jason Mazzone, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School, discounts connections between the ruling and Liberty Central. In a recent blog on the popular website Balkinization he wrote:

"Every organization is governed by background legal rules (including constitutional rulings from the Supreme Court) that facilitate and limit the organization's activity. Liberty Central is no more the beneficiary of Citizens United than are the many thousands of other organizations that might wish to run political ads. Virginia Phillips is no more a beneficiary than are the millions of other Americans whose organizational activities are now less constrained by federal statutory law. "

Virginia Thomas has cancelled appearances and refused all media requests since the news broke that she had reached out to Anita Hill to ask for an apology regarding Hill's controversial testimony about sexual harrassment two decades ago at Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearing.

Justice Thomas is currently travelling abroad.

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