While the media was preoccupied with Congressman Anthony Weiner’s wiener, the real news — released last Friday night just before a major holiday weekend so it would be buried — was the release of the data about a major conflict of interest for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Why did I mention Weiner? Because he has been pushing Thomas to release this information, so I’m probably not the only person who wonders about the highly coincidental timing of Andrew Breitbart’s attack on Weiner.
Thomas had been dragging his heels for months about releasing information about his wife’s income earned while working for Tea Party group Liberty Central, which was one of the main organizations fighting Obama’s health care reform law. Not only did she earn $150,000 from Liberty Central as its president and CEO, but after that she formed her own anti-health-care reform lobbying firm, Liberty Consulting, where she was paid thousands of dollars to fight Obama’s bill. Thomas had failed to disclose his wife’s income (as required by law) on his financial disclosure forms for 20 years. Under pressure from Weiner (and others) he amended his old disclosures to reflect even more money she had earned working for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that also worked actively to fight health care reform.
This constitutes a pretty obvious conflict of interest for Justice Thomas when challenges to Obama’s health care reform law (inevitably) end up in front of the Supreme Court. How could Thomas possible be objective and fair when a major source of his wife’s income is from lobbying against the very bill he is supposed to impartially judge? US Title 28, Section 455 states “Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” Unfortunately, when it comes to the Supreme Court, it is up to Thomas to decide if he should recuse himself.
UPDATE: The newly released financial disclosure forms show that Justice Thomas received $100,000 in support from Citizens United during his nomination, and then ruled in favor of Citizens United without disclosing that fact or disqualifying himself. In addition, he apparently engaged in “judicial insider trading” by having his wife set up Liberty Central, which would benefit from the Citizens United decision, before the decision was decided but after the case was argued before the court.
UPDATE 2: Weiner confesses.