Group Directed $100K to Ginni Thomas Before SCOTUS Brief

Make 'no mention of Ginni, of course,' wrote Leonard Leo to Kellyanne Conway
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2023 7:52 AM CDT
Group Directed $100K to Ginni Thomas Before SCOTUS Brief
In this Nov. 16, 2016 file photo, Federalist Society's Leonard Leo speaks to media at Trump Tower in New York.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Friday brings another report of an ethics issue related to Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, this time from the Washington Post. The newspaper uncovered a secret payment to Thomas' wife, directed by a conservative judicial activist who advised a nonprofit that would later file a brief to the Supreme Court in a landmark voting rights case. With the scandal surrounding the Thomases "growing bigger by the day," per Rolling Stone, the Post reports that, in January 2012, activist Leonard Leo instructed GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway of the Polling Company to bill his Judicial Education Project for "another $25K" and use the money to pay Virginia "Ginni" Thomas for consulting work. He specified the paperwork should have "no mention of Ginni, of course."

Months later, the Judicial Education Project submitted an amicus brief in Shelby County v. Holder, which challenged part of the Voting Rights Act "aimed at protecting minority voters," per the Post. The court ultimately struck down a formula that determined which jurisdictions had to preclear election rule changes with the federal government, allowing states including Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama, to enforce strict photo ID laws that were previously barred. Conservative groups including the Judicial Education Project had pushed for such an outcome. Clarence Thomas was on the side of the majority in the 5-4 vote, as he was when the court ruled in the 2014 Hobby Lobby case, again aligning with the nonprofit's preferred outcome.

Some, but not all, legal experts say Clarence Thomas should have recused himself from Shelby County v. Holder. Conway's firm had not only billed Judicial Education Project for $25,000 the same day Leo made his request, but directed $80,000 to Ginni Thomas' Liberty Consulting firm between June 2011 and June 2012, per the Post. "And it expected to pay $20,000 more before the end of 2012," the outlet adds. In a statement, Leo said, "Ginni Thomas has a long history of working on issues within the conservative movement, and part of that work has involved gauging public attitudes and sentiment." He stressed her paid work was unconnected with Supreme Court business and the effort to keep her name off paperwork was for privacy reasons. (More Clarence Thomas stories.)

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