Calmes: Clarence Thomas’ Jan. 6 conflicts of interest are showing again.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is hearing arguments in a lawsuit that accuses Clarence Thomas of participating in “a scheme’’ in which he gave special advantages to businesses with which he was affiliated in exchange for political favors.
The case, Klayman v. Holder, centers on a controversy that erupted a year ago when it was revealed that Thomas had accepted gifts from a conservative Florida lawyer, Richard Viguerie, whom he met through his wife, and a company they co-own together.
The gifts included $2,000 in cash to buy Thomas a new car and a $9,000 vacation in the Caribbean. Thomas accepted the cash without disclosing his wife’s involvement, which was not required by law.
“The government has never asserted that Thomas intended to do anything that would cause any potential conflicts,’’ wrote Circuit Judge Merrick Garland in his dissenting opinion. “Instead what the government relies on is the likelihood that Thomas would have done anything in the face of even a hint that something might be revealed that he did not want revealed.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which held that corporations and unions could express political views in election campaigns without being considered political supporters, was a “major victory for the First Amendment,” said Thomas, a former U.S. solicitor general who was appointed to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan. “But what this case demonstrates is the fundamental constitutional underpinnings of the First Amendment.”
The majority opinion in Citizens United has spurred a series of cases across the country. The D.C. Circuit is hearing one in which Thomas is the defendant.
The Obama administration had asked the appeals court to dismiss the suit as a violation of the First Amendment because Thomas “would likely never have been appointed” to the bench if he’d not accepted the gifts.
“Justice Thomas has been an independent