The new conservative advocacy group launched by Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has close ties to Washington’s powerful conservative legal community.
As the Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend, Virginia Thomas recently created Liberty Central, a new lobbying group that seeks to tap into the grassroots energy unleashed by the Tea Party movement.But Thomas will have help from some Republican players with a rather more inside-the-Beltway profile. Leonard Leo, a top official with the Federalist Society, is a director of the new group, according to business records kept by the state of Virginia, and reviewed by TPMmuckraker.
In a 1995 speech to the Federalist Society, Clarence Thomas, a member of the society, described Leo as “my good friend.” A prominent conservative legal scholar and activist, Leo played a key role in successfully shepherding the Supreme Court nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito through the Senate confirmation process.
Neither Virginia Thomas nor Leonard Leo responded to TPMmuckraker’s requests for comment.
It is not illegal for a judge’s spouse to engage in political activity. During the 1990s, Virginia Thomas served as a top aide to Majority Leader Dick Armey. In that role, she helped quarterback the aggressive GOP effort to use congressional investigations to stymie the Clinton administration, and in 1996 prepared an “assault book,” listing a slew of Clinton administration “scandals” for GOP House members to capitalize on in the upcoming election. And as the LA Times notes, while at the conservative Heritage Foundation in 2000, she helped recruit staff for the incoming Bush administration, even as Clarence Thomas was hearing Bush v. Gore, in which he ultimately ruled in Bush’s favor. At the time, Virginia Thomas denied that a conflict of interest existed, saying “we have our separate professional lives.”
During a panel discussion at CPAC last month, Virginia Thomas suggested that her decision to launch Liberty Group was prompted in part by the recent grassroots conservative activism. “I adore all the new citizen patriots who are rising up across this country,” said Thomas. “I have felt called to the front lines with you, with my fellow citizens, to preserve what made America great.” She appears to have had the idea for the group in mind since at least last fall.
Virginia Thomas told the LA Times that Liberty Central plans to issue score cards for members of Congress, and to be involved in the November election, but declined to be specific. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 ruling in the Citizens United case, in which Clarence Thomas voted with the majority, Liberty Central can use corporate money to run ads advocating the election or defeat of candidates.