I was too young to appreciate the gravity of Robert Bork’s failed Supreme Court nomination in 1987, so for me, in my lifetime, the most controversial Supreme Court confirmation procedure was that of Clarence Thomas, which happened when I was eleven years old. I vividly remember the news reports, the television ads, the differing opinions two of my teachers at the time had shared with my classes. I remember the jokes two of my middle school classmates made about pubic hairs on cans of Coca-Cola, which retrospectively are considerably funnier, given we were too young to really know what any of that meant, and how those jokes landed them in detention. Those are my earliest memories of Clarence Thomas… bad jokes, fiery debate, and a confirmation that most of the grown-ups I knew weren’t too happy about.
Today, all these years later, all of those adults who didn’t want to see Clarence Thomas nominated to the Supreme Court seem prophetic. Thomas’ contributions to the Justice system have been questionable at best. With the sole exception of perhaps Justice Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas is arguably the most radical “activist jurist” on the Supreme Court, and not even questions of ethics or possible violations of law will stand in his way when bastardizing justice to suit either his own ends, or the desires of his greatest benefactors.
Case in point? Citizens United v. FEC. This ruling was quite possibly the most corrupt and questionable in the Supreme Court’s history, and much of that controversy circles around Clarence Thomas himself. Did Thomas break the law with his decision? I’m not sure, but possibly. Did he act in a way that was completely unethical and would be grounds for termination if he worked anywhere else in the world? Absolutely.
Remember those advertisements from 1991 I mentioned at the start of this article? One of those ads was created by Citizens United, and was aimed at supporting Clarence Thomas’ ascension to the Supreme Court. Let that sink in for a moment. Clarence Thomas’s confirmation was supported, financially and creatively, by the Citizens United group. That by itself should’ve been grounds for Thomas to recuse himself from Citizens United v. FEC, right? Well, he didn’t… and it gets worse.
Thomas’ wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, has been at the center of radical conservative political action groups for decades, and benefited directly from her husband’s Citizens United v. FEC decision, as groups she’s been involved with over the years have used that ruling to raise massive amounts of funding from corporate donors. One such group, Liberty Central, was co-founded by Virginia Thomas, and was formed with a $500k donation from an unnamed donor… thanks entirely to the Citizens United ruling, which made that sort of fundraising legal.
Thomas has a long history of failing to disclose financial information, which he was forced to amend in 2011. It makes you wonder if there’s anything else Justice Thomas hasn’t disclosed, or how his Citizens United ruling may have financially benefited himself and his immediate family.
And it gets even worse! In 2010, less than a year after the Citizens United ruling, Justice Thomas attended a Koch Brothers fundraiser, along with Justice Scalia. The Koch Brothers have benefited tremendously from the Citizens United ruling, and both Thomas and Scalia ruled in their favor in that case.
Efforts to impeach Clarence Thomas haven’t gotten very far, as it’s nearly impossible to impeach a Supreme Court Justice. And it’s wishful thinking to hope for Justice Thomas to suddenly grow a conscience and decide to resign, given the quagmire of scandals he’s found himself in throughout his tenure on the bench. So what can we do? Hope. Hope the Justice Department grows a pair and investigates Clarence Thomas. Hope he decides to resign from his seat. Hope that enough Americans get wise to Thomas’ controversies that one option or the other becomes inevitable. That’s all we can really do. Hope.
Justice Thomas is relatively young, at 67. It’s conceivable he could hold onto his seat for ten or even twenty years. How many times will American justice be bastardized by his presence on the Supreme Court in that time frame? How many rulings will he deliver that have been drenched in the blood, sweat, and tears of those special interest groups who pick up the tab while taking him out to dinner? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see. But impeaching Clarence Thomas needs to become more of a centerpiece of the liberal platform going forward, because every day he sits on the Supreme Court will be another day justice is marginalized.