What Should Happen to Clarence Thomas?

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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WikiLeaks Update: U.S.-Swedish Ties Prompt More Interest

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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Olbermann Ouster: In Barracuda Tank, No One Reads Memo

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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Let's Take A Closer Look At Clarence Thomas


The Los Angeles Times published a remarkable story over the weekend about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas that deserves active follow up by bar authorities and the mainstream media, not simply legal reform organizations. We'll be pursuing this at the Justice Integrity Project. But first, we provide the basics with a link to the original story.

Los Angeles Times, Clarence Thomas failed to report wife's income, watchdog says, Kim Geiger, Jan. 22, 2011. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, left, failed to report his wife's income from a conservative think tank on financial disclosure forms for at least five years, the watchdog group Common Cause said Friday. 

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. Thomas failed to note the income in his Supreme Court financial disclosure forms for those years, instead checking a box labeled "none" where "spousal noninvestment income" would be disclosed.

Updates: Reactions varied widely, as indicated below. Roger Shuler, one of our favorite legal commentators, called for criminal charges, as did an activist group that launched a campaign also for the Justice's disbarment.
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.
Meanwhile,the Washington Post helped spin the conventional wisdom: That the justice said he "erred" in failing for 20 years to report the income his lobbyist wife had obtained [to alter United States policies on a wide array of issues] -- and so he was filing the requiring disclosures. This from someone who never deigns to ask a question during oral arguments, and votes almost in lockstep with his conservative colleague Antonin Scalia to transform the nation's laws in ways remarkably consistent with his wife's lobbying.
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Feds Launch More Tools To Capture, Pressure Suspects

Washington Post, Eyes in the Sky: Privacy issues hover over police drone use, Peter Finn, Jan. 23, 2011. The drone technology that has revolutionized warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is entering the national airspace: Unmanned aircraft are patrolling the border with Mexico, searching for missing persons over difficult terrain, flying into hurricanes to collect weather data, photographing traffic accident scenes and tracking the spread of forest fires. But the operation outside Austin presaged what could prove to be one of the most far-reaching and potentially controversial uses of drones: as a new and relatively cheap surveillance tool in domestic law enforcement.

Huffington Post, Twitter Diplomacy: U.S. Diplomacy Embracing Twitter Amid Global Crises, Matthew Lee, Jan. 23, 2011. The State Department is tightening its embrace of Twitter and other social media as crises grip the Middle East and Haiti, with officials finding new voice, cheek and influence in the era of digital diplomacy. Even as it struggles to contain damage caused by WikiLeaks' release of classified internal documents, the department is reaching out across the Internet. It's bypassing traditional news outlets to connect directly and in real time with overseas audiences in the throes of unrest and upheaval.

CBS News, One-Fifth of House Freshmen Sleep in Offices: A Short Commute, Blow-up Mattresses and Crock Pots Spell Fiscal Conservatism Among New Members, Phil Hirschkorn and  Wyatt Andrews, Jan. 22, 2011. At least 21 new members of the House have been dubbed part of the "Slumber Party" -- representatives who have announced they will live and sleep in their office.
Weekly Standard via Paul Ryan website, Knowledge Is Power: Paul Ryan and Bob Corker are unusual members of Congress. They know a lot, Fred Barnes, Jan. 17, 2011. Even with the addition of Corker [R-TN] and Ryan [R-WI], the roll call of members of Congress, past and present, whose mastery of complex issues brought power and prominence is remarkably short.
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Critics Attack Swedish PM

Below is a selection of significant blogs and news articles on legal reform and related political, security and media factors. The articles contain a sample of news. Click the links to see full articles.

Professor’s Blog, Swedish PM Reinfeldt lies in London on Assange extradition, Marcello Vittorio Ferrada de Noli (Italy) Jan. 21, 2011. According to a breaking AP news 21/01 2001, Swedish PM Reinfeldt told reporters Thursday (in London) that "Sweden's policy is not to extradite people to nations with the death penalty. But he said Sweden's courts, not its government, would decide that." This is utterly untrue. Everybody in Sweden with some insight in domestic political affairs, knows that the Swedish government has collaborated in the rendition of political prisoners labeled in the USA as terrorists to countries in which the death penalty is in use. Decisions of this kind taken in recent years by the Swedish government had absolutely nothing to do with the Swedish courts, which have been in the best case overruled or simply -- like in the most notorious cases -- not even engaged.

OpEd News, Justice Department Leakers of Classified Info. Get a Pass, Jesselyn Radack, Jan. 20, 2011. It is indisputable that the Obama, via the Holder Justice Department, has brought more "leak" prosecutions than any presidential Administration, ever. To add hypocrisy to the injury of selective and malicious prosecutions of Shamai Liebowitz, Thomas Drake, Stephen Kim, and Jeffrey Sterling -- the Justice Department's own attorneys are immune from the "war on leaks." U.S. District Court Judge Maxine Chesney ruled last week that the Justice Department does not have to disclose the identities of two lawyers who were found by the Office of Professional Responsibility to have intentionally disclosed classified information to the media in 1996.

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