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What Else Haven’t They Told Us?

Questions remain on potential conflicts of interest in Citizens United case; Justice Thomas fails to disclose spouse’s income at Heritage Foundation and Liberty Central

WASHINGTON - Today’s acknowledgement by Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas
that they attended functions sponsored by Koch Industries in 2007 and
2008 is helpful, but does not resolve questions about their possible
conflicts of interest in the Citizens United case. In addition,
Common Cause research around this issue has revealed a further problem
involving Justice Thomas – a repeated failure to disclose his wife’s
income in his annual financial disclosure forms.

“Common Cause is concerned about omissions in Justice Thomas’s annual
financial disclosures,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “While
researching potential conflicts of interest in Citizens United, we discovered apparent gaps over seven years in Justice Thomas’s disclosures of his wife’s earnings.”       

According to records filed with the IRS, Virginia “Ginny” Thomas was
paid $686,589 by the Heritage Foundation, a think tank, for her work
there from 2003-07. Published reports indicate that Ms. Thomas also drew
a salary from Liberty Central, a political education and action group
she co-founded in 2009.

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.” Click here to view a chart Common Cause compiled on Thomas’s financial disclosures forms reporting no spousal income.

Common Cause will be calling that apparent discrepancy to the
attention of the Judicial Conference in a letter to be sent later today.

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“The public is entitled to more detail about the nature and extent of
the justices’ involvement with Koch Industries’ closed-door political
strategy sessions,” said Edgar, “And there has been no response to the
equally serious concern raised about Justice Thomas’s financial conflict
of interest due to his wife’s role as CEO of Liberty Central and its
political activities in 2010.”  

Charles Koch’s invitation to their 2011 secretive retreat, to be held
in Palm Springs on January 30-31, states that the “action-oriented
program brings together top experts and leaders to discuss – and offer
solutions to counter – the most critical threats to our free society.”
It added that past “meetings have featured such notable leaders as
Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas,” along with a
host conservative leaders and elected officials, like Glenn Beck, Haley
Barbour and Jim DeMint.

“That doesn’t exactly square with Thursday’s assertions by a Court spokeswoman,” Edgar said. As reported today by the Los Angeles Times,
the spokeswoman stated that the justices attended nearby Federalist
Society dinners, but that Scalia did not attend the January 2007 Koch
seminar, and that Justice Thomas merely did a “brief drop-by” at the
separate Koch meeting sessions.” 

In addition, Justice Thomas’s 2008 disclosure form states that he was
reimbursed by the Federalist Society for “transportation/meals and
accommodations” for a trip to Palm Springs January 26-29. Those dates
appear to coincide with the schedule for Koch Industries multi-day
retreats, and raise some obvious questions: Did Justice Thomas stay at
the same posh resort where the Kochs were holding their event or have
more extensive involvement with the event or event participants? 

Justice Scalia’s 2007 disclosure form only shows reimbursement by the
Federalist Society for “transportation, food and lodging” for Indian
Wells, California for a single day, January 29, 2007. His form also
shows reimbursement by the Federalist Society for a trip to Beaver
Creek, Colorado on September 10-11 of 2007 as well, but we do not know
at this time if that was in conjunction with another Koch Industries
retreat. The last semi-annual Koch retreat was held in Aspen, Colorado
on June 27-28, 2010.


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Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.

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