Rep. Anthony Weiner and 73 other representatives sent a letter to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas asking Thomas to recuse himself from a potential challenge to the new health care law in virtue of his wife’s lobbying work.
Last year, Virginia Thomas founded a group called Liberty Central aimed at amplifying the concerns of Tea Party members within the Republican establishment. In October, her name was removed from a Liberty Central memorandum calling the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.
In the letter, Weiner argued that Virginia Thomas’ status as a “lobbyist who has gained financially from efforts to overturn health care reform” would represent a conflict of interest should healthcare reform come before the Supreme Court.
“As an Associate Justice, you are entrusted with the responsibility to exercise the highest degree of discretion and impartiality when deciding a case,” the letter reads. “As Members of Congress, we were surprised by recent revelations of your financial ties to leading organizations dedicated to lobbying against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We write today to respectfully ask that you maintain the integrity of this court and recuse yourself from any deliberations on the constitutionality of this act.”
The possibility of the healthcare act getting a hearing before the Supreme Court is appearing increasingly likely as a flurry of federal judges rule against the law. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has said he plans to file a motion to bypass an appeals court and go straight to the Supreme Court.
Weiner’s letter seems to anticipate the judicial calculus that would be involved with such a case, as did Republican Senator Orrin Hatch’s assertion last week that Elena Kagan must recuse herself from such a hearing given her work on the issue as Solicitor General.
The letter also charges that Virginia Thomas’s corporate clients stood to benefit from Clarence Thomas’ ruling in the Citizens United case. The full text is below:
Dear Justice Thomas:
As an Associate Justice, you are entrusted with the responsibility to exercise the highest degree of discretion and impartiality when deciding a case. As Members of Congress, we were surprised by recent revelations of your financial ties to leading organizations dedicated to lobbying against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We write today to respectfully ask that you maintain the integrity of this court and recuse yourself from any deliberations on the constitutionality of this act.
The appearance of a conflict of interest merits recusal under federal law. From what we have already seen, the line between your impartiality and you and your wife’s financial stake in the overturn of healthcare reform is blurred. Your spouse is advertising herself as a lobbyist who has “experience and connections” and appeals to clients who want a particular decision – they want to overturn health care reform. Moreover, your failure to disclose Ginny Thomas’s receipt of $686,589 from the Heritage Foundation, a prominent opponent of healthcare reform, between 2003 and 2007 has raised great concern.
This is not the first case where your impartiality was in question. As Common Cause points out, you “participated in secretive political strategy sessions, perhaps while the case was pending, with corporate leaders whose political aims were advanced by the [5-4] decision” on the Citizens United case. Your spouse also received an undisclosed salary paid for by undisclosed donors as CEO of Liberty Central, a 501(c)(4) organization that stood to benefit from the decision and played an active role in the 2010 elections.
Given these facts, there is a strong conflict between the Thomas household’s financial gain through your spouse’s activities and your role as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. We urge you to recuse yourself from this case. If the US Supreme Court’s decision is to be viewed as legitimate by the American people, this is the only correct path.
We appreciate your thoughtful consideration of this request.
ANTHONY D. WEINER
Member of Congress
Current co-signers to the letter include: Reps. Al Green, EB Johnson, Wm. Lacy Clay, Carnahan, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Karen Bass, Neal, Welch, Chu, Yarmuth, Sutton, Perlmutter, Connolly, Kucinich, Meeks, Schwartz, Doggett, Moore, Polis, Waters, Payne, Rush, Cohen, Crowley, Engel, Cicilline, Susan Davis, Sires, Doyle, Slaughter, McDermott, Velazquez, Garamendi, Carson, Capuano, Berkley, Wasserman Schultz, Tim Bishop, Barbara Lee, Courtney, DeLauro, Conyers, John Larson, George Miller, Boswell, Edwards, Capps, Becerra, Deutch, Israel, Owens, Richardson, Clarke, Hirono, Ackerman, Ellison, Grijalva, Chris Murphy, Woolsey, DeFazio, Jesse Jackson Jr, Reyes, Maloney, Andrews, Pascrell, Filner, Tonko, Fudge, Hinchey, Honda, Eshoo, Pallone, and Stark.