Wow, Ginni Thomas can be shamed. Today she announced that she’s leaving as head of her Tea Party group, Liberty Central. This after months in which Thomas and her husband, Justice Clarence Thomas, gave no ground publicly in the fight over whether Liberty Central’s fundraising meant that Justice Thomas was flouting the rules of judicial ethics. In its sharpest form, the question is whether a company or individual could give anonymously to Liberty Central, and then Justice Thomas could sit on a case involving that person or group. We’d never know, since anonymous gifts are allowed by Liberty Central’s tax status. Justice Thomas wouldn’t be accountable, either, since the justices have complete authority to make their own recusal decisions, with no oversight or explanation. It’s not a hypothetical question: Liberty Central has pulled in anonymous gifts of $500,000 and $50,000.
Judges are supposed to avoid the appearance of impropriety as well as impropiety itself. Maybe that’s what Ginni Thomas is acknowledging by announcing today that she is stepping down from heading up Liberty Central and, according to the Washington Post , handing control to another like-minded organization, the Patrick Henry Center. “She’ll take a back seat so that Liberty Central can continue with its mission without any of the distractions,” a P.R. spokeswoman said. Dave Weigel says the P.R. firm now claims that quote was off the record. That must be why it’s such an excellent reminder that in Washington, the sky is green until it’s not anymore.