Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is a longtime political activist.
The latest news of her political activism makes me wonder: Does this married couple ever talk about their day when they’re home at night? Ever?
Conflicts of interest are nothing new in Washington, or in Austin, or even in Amarillo for that matter. It is troubling in the extreme, though, when a sitting justice is married to someone with such a heavy-hitting role in political causes that might become the subject of, say, appeals before that very court.
Mrs. Thomas’s role in these endeavors is troubling to be sure.
The government watchdog group Common Cause questioned whether Justice Thomas should have taken part in the landmark Citizens United case that enabled corporations to make unlimited campaign donations because, according to Mother Jones magazine, the justice well could have taken part in Citizens United strategy sessions before it made its case before the court.
Ginni Thomas has been involved with groups opposing the Affordable Care Act. Her husband voted with the minority that sought to repeal a key portion of the law.
It’s fine for the spouse of a high-ranking public official to be involved politically. It’s quite a different matter, though, when a perception emerges that the spouse’s involvement might affect the public official’s performance of his or her duty.
Justice Elena Kagan once was solicitor general of the United States, meaning she argued the government’s position before the court. One of the cases she argued had to do with Arizona’s strict immigration law. How did she vote when the case came before the court? She didn’t. Justice Kagan recused herself.
Justice Thomas should do the same whenever cases connected to political causes involving his wife come before the court.