By Andrew Kreig / Director's Blog

Should the Justice Department investigate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for failing to disclose his wife’s income, as required of all judges? That’s a question for Common Cause Vice President Mary Boyle, below at right, today on my Washington Update radio show. She will describe during the noon (EST) show her watchdog group’s revelation that Thomas has never complied with legal requirements to reveal his wife’s income. Beyond that, Common Cause seeks a formal investigation of both Thomas and fellow Justice Antonin Scalia for their featured speeches at policy retreats funded by special interests.

Co-host Scott Draughon, founder of the My Technology Lawyer Radio network that distributes the show nationwide, helps lead the discussion. You may hear it nationwide by clicking here and via archive later at the same site. Call in questions via 866-685-7469 or by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In late January, Common Cause announced its findings that Thomas failed to report his wife's income from a conservative think tank on financial disclosure forms for at least five years. Between 2003 and 2007, Virginia Thomas, a longtime conservative activist, earned $686,589 from the Heritage Foundation, according to a Common Cause review of the foundation's IRS records first reported by the Los Angeles Times. Thomas failed to note the income in his financial disclosure forms for those years, instead checking a box labeled "none" where "spousal noninvestment income" would be disclosed.

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By Andrew Kreig / Project Director

The Justice Integrity Project Feb. 1 filed a “strong objection” to the Florida Bar Association Feb. 1 on its proposed rule to curtail the nation’s historic freedom of the press by inventing a false constitutional distinction between corporate-controlled media and other journalists. Much of proposed rule 2.451 is to enable judges to prevent jurors from using recording devices during trials, which is doubtless a legitimate procedure. But part of the proposal would extend the rule also to others in the courtroom unless they were journalists, according to definitions created by the government.

Our protest said there is no basis in the Constitution for such a distinction, especially since newspaper reporters at the time of the Bill of Rights were far more akin to today’s individual bloggers than the corporate-owned media. Furthermore, we noted that bloggers and other citizen journalists are fulfilling vital civic watchdog functions that the corporate-owned media are abandoning for a variety of reasons, including their dwindling finances, conflict of interest with their corporate affiliates and inexperience by staff. “Citizen journalists, many of whom must work individually, are required to fill the gap,” we wrote in noting our experience at the Project, as well as previous experience of mine own. It includes 14 years working at the Hartford Courant and authoring a 1987 book, “Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America’s Oldest Newspaper about the trend whereby corporate-owned news organizations succumb to conflicts in reporting fairly on major articles involving the public interest.

“Even more important," we said, "the Florida bar’s effort to curtail citizen oversight clearly violates our nation’s constitutional free press protections -- and reeks of improper and illegal self-interest in preventing public scrutiny of the legal process, including incompetent, conflicted or otherwise deficient attorneys.” The deadline for comments in Florida’s fast-track proceeding was yesterday, but it can’t hurt if others fight the proposal as well with late submissions. Further background on this is provided by the article below, published Jan. 31. It prompted me to write a letter and encourage others to do so.

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By Andrew Kreig / Director's Blog

Traditional newspapers and broadcasters are failing to report news of injustice competently or fairly, thereby greatly enhancing the problems for all of us. That‘s a common theme of news developments we have been observing during recent days regarding our project's core mission of legal reform.

Fortunately, two of our favorite legal commentators, Roger Shuler and Scott Horton, have recently connected the dots between festering  problems of gross injustice and the failed journalism that;s helped enable the scandals. Their particular focus is, respectively, several Deep South states and in our nation’s Mideast misadventures. Other writers excerpted below point similarly to problems in election fraud and elsewhere that the traditional media simply do not want to examine.

In response, our project is greatly upgrading our capability to help empower our readers via social media to take direct action.  This has helped prompt a massive response to our recent column on the scandals afflicting Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, with readership more than 50x the normal rate.

Better reach is especially welcome right now because the Florida State Bar has proposed an atrocious new rule forbidding anyone but conventional journalists from being able to use electronic equipment to chronicle activities in Florida courts. The deadline, conveniently for the bar association, is close of business today, Feb. 1. Anyone who reflects upon the meaning of press freedom, particularly its historical roots in the 1700s largely with one-person publications created far more like today's bloggers than corporate media, needs to help thwart this vicious assault on press freedom, as described below. Lawyer journalist Mark Adams describes the situation in his Daily Censored column Jan. 31 and urges comment to these two email addresses by close of business today. Send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. of the Florida Bar Association, with a copy to the Florida Bar's This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.with a subject stating, “Objection to Proposed Rule 2.451″ and with the body stating, “I oppose the provisions of proposed Fla. R. Jud. Admin 2.451 which limit the rights of citizen journalists to record court proceedings.”

Also from the Deep South, the Alabama legal commentator Shuler, right, published a column describing the latest marketing plan by the Birmingham News, his state’s largest newspaper and his former employer. Shuler has a better idea than marketing hokum and razzle-dazzle. It’s what he calls “real, bold, in-depth journalism.” Consider, he says, “some of the numerous stories the News has largely ignored."

• The abusive practices of federal prosecutors in Birmingham (Alice Martin) and Montgomery (Leura Canary);
• The apparent railroad job and wrongful conviction of former Governor Don Siegelman;
• The connections between the Siegelman case and a similar case in neighboring Mississippi involving attorney Paul Minor;
• The dirty-money trail that helped funnel $13 million from Jack Abramoff to Governor Bob Riley's campaign;
• The stain Mississippi gambling interests have placed on the Republican Party in Alabama and throughout the Deep South.

Horton provides a similar view, but one focused on the Mideast. “I spent the last week watching the developments in Egypt from London, where U.S., European, and Arab media are equally accessible,” he writes. ”Watching them side-by-side, sometimes over many hours a day, I was struck by the weakness of the American coverage. Almost every broadcast news source has its high and low points, but the American cable news coverage, which used to command a global audience, were languishing behind its competitors.”

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By Andrew Kreig /Director's Blog

Battle lines are shaping up in predictable fashion over a new scandal involving Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The Washington establishment that automatically defers to pomp, power and fellow insiders maintains that he should simply be allowed to correct his sworn filings omiting vast amounts of family income from his required financial disclosure filings. Others say he should be subjected to penalties that others receive for false statements.

Our Washington Update weekly public affairs radio show next week will present Common Cause, which broke the scandal on Jan. 22 via an article in the Los Angeles Times. In the meantime, check out this selection of commentary by others. Note particularly how others are imprisoned for offenses comparable or even arguably far less culpaple. Different people draw the line in different places. But one of the more dramatic recent imprisonments is described below: An Ohio judge jailed a single-mother for signing paperwork falsely stating that her children lived with her father so that they could attend a better school than in her blighted urban area.

ABC-News, Ohio Mom Kelley Williams-Bolar Jailed for Sending Kids to Better School District:
Judge Sentenced Mother Convicted of Falsifying Residency Records to 10 Days in Jail
, Andrea Canning and Leezel Tanglao, Jan. 26, 2011. Kelley Williams-Bolar was convicted of lying about her residency to get her daughters into a better school district. But it wasn't her Akron district of residence, so her children were ineligible to attend school there, even though her father lived within the district's boundaries.

Legal Schnauzer, What Do Clarence Thomas and Martha Stewart Have in Common? Roger Shuler, Jan. 27, 2011. Stewart, Jones, Bonds, and Clemens, writes one defense lawyer, essentially got in trouble for proclaiming their innocence. If the feds decide a person is lying about his innocence, that person can wind up in prison. As for Clarence Thomas, he did not proclaim his innocence. He simply, over and over, stated that his wife had no non-investment income--even though she was receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from conservative advocacy groups.

Daily Kos, Thomas Should be Indicted, Alaska Dave, Jan. 27, 2011. It is outrageous that Clarence Thomas can get by year after year denying that his wife was being paid over $100,000/year by the Heritage Foundation and yet an FBI agent who fails to disclose on his Financial Disclosure Report gets indicted.

Previous Articles on Justice Thomas Scandal
Legal Schnauzer, Will Clarence Thomas get away with a federal crime? Roger Shuler, Jan. 25, 2011. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is amending financial-disclosure forms dating back more than 20 years, in an apparent effort to avoid prosecution for making false statements to the United States government. Hal Neilson, an FBI special agent in Oxford, Mississippi, undoubtedly wishes he had been given such an opportunity. He also probably wishes the mainstream press would try to make the kind of excuses for him that are being made for Clarence Thomas.

Washington Post, Supreme Court won't be fully represented, Robert Barnes, Jan. 25, 2011. A combination of events, concluding with the question of which justices will attend President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night, has brought complaints, partisan charges and renewed scrutiny to the court. Justice Antonin Scalia's decision to give constitutional pointers Monday to the House Tea Party Caucus headed by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) prompted a debate among judicial ethicists about whether justices should associate with political groups that have clear interests on issues that will probably come before the court. Before that, the first anniversary of the court's decision to give corporations and unions a greater role in campaign spending brought renewed criticism from liberal groups and complaints about two justices from a government watchdog group.

New York Times, Thomas Cites Failure to Disclose Wife’s Job, Eric Lichtblau, Jan. 24, 2011. Under pressure from liberal critics, Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court acknowledged in filings released on Monday that he erred by not disclosing his wife’s past employment as required by federal law.

Legal Schnauzer, Mississippi FBI Agent Is Cleared on Federal Charges Amid More DOJ Ugliness, Roger Shuler, Jan. 26, 2011. So [Mississippi FBI agent Hal] Neilson reported the unlawful targeting of Muslims and wound up being indicted by the Bush DOJ -- and the Obama administration moved ahead with a tainted, and probably bogus, prosecution. To those of us who live in Alabama, that story sure sounds familiar.

Washington Post, Bush officials violated Hatch Act, agency concludes, R. Jeffrey Smith, Jan. 25, 2011. At least seven Cabinet secretaries to President George W. Bush took politically motivated trips at taxpayer expense while aides falsely claimed they were traveling on official business, the independent Office of Special Counsel said Monday night in concluding a three-year probe.

 

Links to each of these articles are provided in the subsite News Reports located via a button at the top of our home page. The articles are arranged by date, with links to the full text.

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By Andrew Kreig / Director's Blog

Independent journalists on both sides of the Atlantic continue to follow up recent revelations by the Justice Integrity Project (JIP) of connections between Swedish and U.S. authorities. These bilateral connections could help explain the extraordinary investigations authorities are undertaking against WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange on sex charges in Sweden and spy-related charges in the United States. On Jan. 24, The Swedish Wire republished JIP’s column, “Karl Rove key player in Swedish WikiLeaks probe,” It opened, “Karl Rove’s help for Sweden as it and the Obama administration investigate WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could be the latest example of the adage, ‘Politics makes strange bedfellows.’” Last week, the Swedish Wire republished our piece, “Partner at Swedish law firm counseling WikiLeaks boss' accusers helped in CIA torture rendition.”

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By Andrew Kreig / Director's Blog

What really caused Keith Olbermann’s stunning announcement Friday evening that the show would be his last on MSNBC? Most of the first stories quoted unnamed sources, who said the forced departure was for confidential reasons and had nothing to do with approval by federal regulators last week to approve Comcast’s control over NBC Universal, which owns MSNBC. That’s not good enough for something this important.

So, let’s establish what we know and make a few obvious inferences. In the world of public affairs, a Friday night announcement shows that those in control wanted to limit news coverage. No wonder. MSNBC fired its top-rated news host Olbermann, right, despite the network’s struggle with bad ratings across its line-up. During the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, MSNBC did the same thing in February 2003 when it ousted Phil Donahue, its top-rated news show host and also a skeptic about a need for the Iraq war. Conventional wisdom is that news organizations are motivated by maximizing viewers, readers and advertisers, within the bounds of reasonable journalism. And even those of us with experience resisting unwarranted pressures from corporate affiliates on our news organizations still hope for leaders to advocate the best and highest-rated shows whenever possible.

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