Earl Ofari Hutchinson's take on the politics of the day
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Earl Ofari Hutchinson
If Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was not Justice Thomas but an ordinary Thomas he’d be behind bars. He is the ultra-conservative’s equivalent of the Mafia “Made Man.” The tag confers untouchableness on the bearer. Thomas wears the tag for his rock solid ultra conservative views, his showcase value to cover GOP and Tea Party bigotry, and most importantly his knee jerk vote on the High Court against civil rights, civil liberties protections and to expand corporate power. A cursory checklist of Thomas’s financial manipulations, abuse, and duplicity, and outright illegality complete with the legal statues and codes that he’s violated confirm his made man tag, meaning hands off from investigators and prosecutors.
Thomas has received cash, gifts, and foundation donations totaling more than $2 million during the past decade. Since 2004 he has declared none of his largesse to the IRS.
The gifts are improper, could constitute or be perceived as bribes, and may violate
the honest services statute, 18 USC 1346. These gifts could also be considered taxable income and his failure to report them would constitute a clear violation of the tax code.
Thomas' wife, Ginni's big paydays from assorted right wing foundations and think tanks have been well-documented. Thomas did not disclose her earnings initially. He refused to acknowledge her involvement with Liberty Central, her political lobbying group. Thomas at fist claimed ignorance about the filing requirement, and after savage media exposure amended the forms.
Thomas was not ignorant of the requirement to disclose spousal income as he initially claimed. When he chaired the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, he dutifully filed his financial disclosure forms and that included his wife's employment from 1987 to 1997. He continued to disclose income as a federal appeals court judge and for his first few years on the Supreme Court. Thomas also stated that his wife had no non-investment income. This was a falsehood. It was not a memory or ignorance of the law lapse. By failing to file, Thomas violated the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 that requires all federal judges to file yearly financial disclosure forms including sources of income from their spouses. Making false statements on the forms can be prosecuted as a felony under the federal false statements statute, 18 USC 1001 -- knowingly making false statements of material fact to a federal agency. In 2007, Congress increased the civil and criminal penalties for false income statement filings.
Then there’s the issue of conflict of interest. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010 that Thomas backed conferred “personhood” on corporations and allows them to ladle out any amount they want with virtually no reporting requirements directly to candidates and campaigns. Thomas did not disclose that the rightwing Citizens United Foundation, the driving force behind the case, spent as much as $100,000 on commercials that lambasted those senators that opposed his High Court nomination in 1991. Thomas ignored calls for him to recuse himself from the case.
Then there is the strong hint that Thomas perjured himself in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his court confirmation hearings in 1991 and that he compounded that by lying under oath to Congress during the hearings.
Thomas was asked directly by Utah senator Orrin Hatch during his confirmation hearings about Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct and whether he used sexually suggestive language. Thomas answered: "I deny each and every single allegation against me today that suggested in any way that I had conversations of a sexual nature or about pornographic material with Anita Hill, that I ever attempted to date her, that I ever had any personal sexual interest in her, or that I in any way ever harassed her."
Thomas was emphatic, "If I used that kind of grotesque language with one person, it would seem to me that there would be traces of it throughout the employees who worked closely with me, or the other individuals who heard bits and pieces of it or various levels of it." This was stated under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Thomas' sworn testimony was clearly contradicted even then in public statements by witnesses. The witnesses were not called to testify.
In 2010, Thomas' apparent perjured testimony to Congress was back on the legal table when another Thomas intimate confirmed that he engaged in sexual harassment, was addicted to pornography, and talked incessantly and graphically about it and women.
It's also clearly established that a public official -- whether the president, presidential appointees or judges -- can be punished for giving false information (and that's any false information of any nature) to the House or Senate.
A legion of House Democrats has again demanded that Thomas be investigated by variously the Justice Department and the Judicial Conference. The strong suspicion is that there may even be more dubious ethics and legal violations that Thomas may have committed in the nearly three decades that he has been a public official. That makes it even more imperative that Thomas be put on the investigative hot seat. But if Thomas weren’t Justice Thomas that would have long since been done, and he’d likely be in jail.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and on thehutchinsonreportnews.com
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson