Virginia Thomas, wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, extends her conservative reach for 2020
Conservative activist Virginia “Ginni” Thomas plans to launch a new PAC and 501(c)(4) nonprofit, according to a report published in the Intercept this week. Dubbed “American D-Day,” the groups will be part of a broader project called Crowdsourcers, with the goal of protecting President Donald Trump.
If Thomas’s name sounds familiar, it may be because she is married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who has been on the bench for nearly three decades. But Ginni Thomas has long carved out her own place in conservative politics — sometimes to the chagrin of those who say her involvement poses a conflict of interest due to her husband’s role.
American D-Day isn’t Thomas’s first venture into the world of political campaigns. She served as a legislative staffer in the early 1980s before joining the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In 1991, the same year her husband was nominated to the Supreme Court, she returned to work for the federal government, serving as the deputy assistant secretary for congressional affairs at the Department of Labor. She eventually moved to the Heritage Foundation, where she was the White House liaison during the George W. Bush administration.
In 2009, Thomas founded the group Liberty Central, a 501(c)(4) created to “promote education and civil discourse focused on protecting the core founding principles of the United States,” according to its website at the time. The group received nearly $1.5 million in its first two years from undisclosed donors. As a so-called “dark money” issue-advocacy group, it was not required to reveal the source of its donations.
Liberty Central’s officers included several prominent conservatives, including current president of the Federalist Society Leonard Leo, current chairman of the American Conservative Union Matt Schlapp, and former FBI agent Gary Aldrich, who gained fame for writing a book critical of the Clinton administration’s security protocols.
According to tax documents, Liberty Central had approximately 25 employees in 2010, as well as 10 volunteers. That year, it spent $600,000 on payroll (including a $120,000 salary for Thomas) and an additional $850,000 on “other expenses.”
Liberty Central’s now-defunct website featured various forms of conservative advocacy. A blog entry from June 7, 2010, for example, encourages readers to contact their senator and encourage a “no” vote on a cap-and-trade bill. When the Supreme Court took up the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2011, more than 70 Democratic members of Congress wrote a letter calling on Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from the case on the basis that his wife’s anti-ACA lobbying activities through Liberty Central made it impossible for him to remain unbiased. Justice Thomas declined to do so and ultimately wrote his own dissenting opinion in the case.
Liberty Central folded after only a few years, filing tax forms for the last time 2012. Thomas founded a new venture in early 2011, a consulting group called Liberty Consulting, where she billed herself as an ambassador to the newly-elected Tea Party Republicans in Congress. Critics decried Thomas’s claim that she would use her “experience and connections” to help clients, arguing that there was potential for conflicts of interest given her husband’s position.
After initially supporting Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the 2016 presidential primary, Thomas threw her support behind Donald Trump when he won the Republican nomination. She has since been a vocal advocate for the president, including on her Facebook page, where she has more than 9,000 likes. Her online presence has caused controversy several times in recent years over posts suggesting that special counsel Robert Mueller was fabricating a fake scandal and a meme criticizing the Girl Scouts for promoting Planned Parenthood, among others. More recently, she has shared articles denouncing Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), the only Republican member of Congress who has called for Trump’s impeachment.
Thomas also drew criticism in 2017 after she used a conservative listserv to send an email about grassroots organizing for Trump shortly after the travel ban when the ban had the potential to be considered by the Supreme Court, though her email did not mention any specific policy.
During the 2018 midterm cycle, Thomas contributed to two candidates, giving $1,000 to now Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and $750 to Cynthia Dunbar, a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives in Virginia’s 6th District, who lost in the primary. She is not the only Supreme Court spouse to make political donations: Joanna Breyer, a Cambridge, Mass.-based psychologist married to Justice Stephen Breyer, has donated to several Democratic politicians in the last decade, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass).
Thomas’s advocacy work, though, sets her apart from other Supreme Court spouses.
While further details on Thomas’s future campaign activities are scarce, the Intercept also reported that D.C. lawyer Cleta Mitchell will be setting up the American D-Day PAC and 501(c)(4). Mitchell, currently a partner at the law firm Foley & Lardner, has previously served as a lawyer for the Wellspring Committee, an influential 501(c)(4) which shut down at the end of 2018. According to its last available IRS filing in 2014, Wellspring gave nearly $6.7 million — more than two-thirds of its expenditures that year — to the Judicial Crisis Network, a group dedicated to promoting conservative judges.
Crowdsourcers and American D-Day have yet to file with the IRS.
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