Friday, March 04, 2011

Why don't the Democrats demand impeachment hearings on Justice Clarence Thomas?

Rightwing Republican Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia have both been involved in partisan activities of a kind that, to put it mildly, is highly questionable for a Justice of the highest court in the US. Both Thomas and Scalia voted for the majority decisions in Bush v. Gore (2000) and Citizen's United (2010), two of the worst decisions in being destructive to democratic government that the Supreme Court has ever made.

The Democrats no longer have a majority in the House, which would have to make an impeachment vote. But the Dems can certainly use a push for impeachment hearings against Thomas and/or Scalia to raise a stick about the crass partisanship of those Republican Justices.

As Robert Reich notes at his blog in Clarence Thomas and the Politicization of the Supreme Court 03/03/2011, some House Democrats showed the moxie to make a public issue out of Thomas' conduct:

Back in 1991 when Thomas was nominated to the Supreme Court, Citizens United spent $100,000 to support his nomination. The in-kind contribution presumably should have been disclosed by Thomas.

At the very least you’d think that, given his connections with Citizen’s United and with the Koch brothers, Thomas would have recused himself from the Citizens United decision in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. He would have recused himself, that is, if he were as concerned about the legitimacy of the Supreme Court as he says he.

Thomas has also failed to disclose financial information about his wife’s employment. Virginia Thomas is the founder of Liberty Central, a Tea Party organization now receiving unlimited corporate contributions due to Citizen’s United. Among the things she’s lobbying for are the repeal of what she terms the “unconstitutional” healthcare legislation.

Because of his wife's direct involvement, seventy-four House Democrats have sent a letter to Justice Thomas asking him to recuse himself from any case questioning the constitutionality of the legislation. "Your spouse is advertising herself as a lobbyist who has 'experience and connections' and appeals to clients who want a particular decision," the legislators wrote. "They want to overturn health-care reform."
The Democrats needed to raise the roof in 2000-1 about Bush v. Gore. When the Court issued it's plutocrat Citizen's United decision, President Obama declared in his weekly address on 01/23/09, the White House transcript of which is grandly titled, President Obama Vows to Continue Standing Up to the Special Interests on Behalf of the American People:

But this week, the United States Supreme Court handed a huge victory to the special interests and their lobbyists – and a powerful blow to our efforts to rein in corporate influence. This ruling strikes at our democracy itself. [my emphasis]
This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy. It gives the special interest lobbyists new leverage to spend millions on advertising to persuade elected officials to vote their way – or to punish those who don’t. That means that any public servant who has the courage to stand up to the special interests and stand up for the American people can find himself or herself under assault come election time. Even foreign corporations may now get into the act.

I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest. The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington, or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections. [my emphasis]
He called for a "bipartisan" solution, which has become for the Obama Administration has come to mean little more than preemptive surrender to the hardline Republican Party. The Republicans see no partisan incentive to set Citizen's United aside, any more than they saw one in opposing Bush v. Gore. And in fact, Obama and the Democratically-controlled Congress in 2010 did nothing effective to mitigate the disastrous effects for democracy of the Citizen's United decision. Even the mild requirement for reporting donors that the Democrats proposed didn't get enacted.

We should expect more on an issue which the Democratic President said "strikes at our democracy itself"! "I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest," the President said. Accurate words. No follow-up even close to matching the seriousness of the words.

Some relevant stories:

Jed Lewison, Clarence Thomas defends wife, but not himself Daily Kos 03/01/2011

Ben Adler, The bigger Clarence Thomas scandal Salon 02/20/2011

Kim Geiger, Clarence Thomas failed to report wife's income, watchdog say Los Angeles Times 01/22/2011

Lee Fang, Group Requests DOJ To Investigate Scalia and Thomas Involvement With Koch Corporate Fundraisers Think Progress 01/20/2011

Warren Richey, Campaign finance ruling: Should Supreme Court justices have recused themselves? Christian Science Monitor 01/20/2011

John Dean, A Closer Look At The Case From Which Justice Scalia Has Refused To Recuse Himself: The Momentous Stakes, and the Larger Political Context Findlaw 03/26/2004

David G. Savage and Richard A. Serrano, Scalia Was Cheney Hunt Trip Guest; Ethics Concern Grows Los Angeles Times 02/05/2004

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