According to documents reviewed by The Washington Post, conservative justice activist Leonard Leo more than a decade ago arranged for the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to be paid tens of thousands of dollars for consulting work, specifying that his Name to be removed from claim paperwork. ,
In January 2012, Leo instructed Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway to use a non-profit bill she advises and funds to pay Virginia “Ginny” Thomas, documents show. That same year, the nonprofit Judicial Education Project filed papers with the Supreme Court in a landmark voting rights case.
Leo, a prominent figure in a non-profit network working to support the conservative judge’s nomination, told Conway she wanted to give “an additional $25,000” to “Ginny Thomas”. “There is certainly no mention of Genie,” he insisted in the dossier.
Conway’s company The Polling Company billed $25,000 to the Judicial Education Project that day. At Leo’s direction, the document states that it is intended to be “supplementary material for constitutional opinion polls and opinion consultations”.
According to the documents, the voting firm paid Thomas’ firm, Liberty Consulting, $80,000 between June 2011 and June 2012, and expects to pay another $20,000 by the end of 2012. The article reviewed by The Post is not at all clear. The nature of the work Thomas did for the Judicial Education Project or the polling company.
The agreement shows that Leo, a longtime Federalist Society leader and friend of Thomas, acted not only as an ideological ally for Clarence Thomas, but also to provide financial compensation for his family. Did. And it shows Leo arranging to extort money from a non-profit organization that will soon become a point of interest in court.
In response to questions from The Post, Leo issued a statement defending Thomas. “It’s no secret that Ginny Thomas has been working on issues within the conservative movement for a long time, and part of that work involves gauging public attitudes and feelings. What he did here did not involve anything related to court business or other legal matters,” he wrote. “As an advisor to JEP, I have long supported JEP’s research on opinion related to limited government, and the polling company, with the assistance of Ginny Thomas, has been an invaluable resource for gauging public attitudes. ”
In response to attempts to keep Thomas’ name hidden from the paperwork, Leo said:
Leo’s statement did not answer questions about whether he arranged other work for Ginny Thomas or the amount he directed to the nonprofit.
Conway, a senior Trump White House adviser, did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Thomas did not respond to messages seeking comment. Political activist and former Republican congressional aide Ginny Thomas has long argued that she and her husband should separate their careers.
In December 2012, the Judicial Education Project challenged a landmark civil rights law intended to protect minority voters, Shelby County v. The Court struck down the formula in the Voting Rights Act that determines which states must obtain federal approval before making changes to voting rules and procedures. Clarence Thomas had a 5-4 majority.
Thomas expressed a concurrence on the case, arguing that the prior authorization requirement itself was unconstitutional. In line with previous comments he has made, Thomas’s comments supported the findings advocated by the Judicial Education Project and several other conservative groups in their amicus briefings. He did not cite the outline of the judicial education project.
Legal ethics experts disagreed on whether the settlement outlined by Leo and Conway’s payment would have forced Thomas to walk away from the Shelby case.
Experts said federal law requires judges to recuse “where their impartiality can reasonably be questioned,” but the standard is not well-defined as it applies to amicus filers. Kathleen Clark, a law professor at the University of Washington, said that if the Judicial Education Project had paid Ginny Thomas the $100,000 a year and a half before submitting its report, the size and timing of the payment would be enough to call Clarence Thomas into question. fairness. said that he would have done so. his reaction. But New York University law professor Stephen Gilers said that as the current rules are interpreted, that link appears too “weak” to require ripping.
But both experts said the agreement shows that current ethics rules and disclosure requirements do not protect public confidence in the independence of the court.