Government watchdog group Common Cause says records show Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas failed to report $686,589 in income that his wife earned from a conservative think tank from 2003 to 2007.
Common Cause says IRS records show Virginia Thomas received the money from the Heritage Foundation for her work there over that period. The group’s president, Bob Edgar, said in a statement that his group discovered the discrepancy while researching any potential conflicts of interest in the Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision, which opened the doors for unlimited campaign contributions by corporations.
Under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, all federal officials are required to disclose their spouse’s non-investment income. From 2003 to 2009, Thomas checked “none,” Common Cause says.
According to Steven Lubet, a Northwestern University School of Law judicial expert quoted in the Los Angeles Times, the omission is not likely to merit consequences larger than a potential civil penalty. "I am not aware of a single case of a judge being penalized simply for this,” he told the newspaper.
This is not the first time Thomas has been dragged into the national media spotlight in recent months because of his wife. In late October, Virginia Thomas left a voice mail for Anita Hill seeking an apology for Hill's sexual harassment charges during Clarence Thomas's 1991 confirmation hearings. Not long after the incident, she resigned her post as the head of conservative group Liberty Central, citing “distractions” to the organization’s mission.
Last week, Common Cause asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia should have recused themselves during the Citizens United case because they attended events hosted by Charles and David Koch, billionaires who supported conservative groups that benefited from the decision.