The fickle D.C. spotlight seems to have turned to Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In her new self-described role as a "social entrepreneur," she has launched Liberty Central, a new Web site that aims to serve "the big tent of the conservative movement" with educational materials and as a forum to help "new citizen activists."
We wrote about her effort here on Feb. 23, but in recent days it has garnered more attention as a possible cause for conflict issues for her husband. NPR's Nina Totenberg reported on it here this morning, suggesting that ethical concerns might arise if corporations or individuals with cases before the high court contribute to her 501(c)4 organization.
In a statement reported by NPR, Virginia Thomas said, "I did not give up my First Amendment rights when my husband became a justice of the Supreme Court. My involvement with LibertyCentral.org has been vetted by the Supreme Court ethics office and Liberty Central's own board of directors. There have been many other judges who have spouses that are politically active."
The Supreme Court has no ethics office as such, so we checked with the Court on what she meant. Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg responded that Mrs. Thomas had "reviewed her involvement with the Court's legal office."
The Court's little-known legal office was created by then-Chief Justice Warren Burger in 1972 to assist with Court legal matters in a sort of "house counsel" capacity. The office advises on matters including contracts, legislation, and litigation directed at the Court -- such as by protesters arrested in front of the Court. The office also works on some motions and case preparation, and advises on personnel and ethics matters.
The current Court counsel is Scott Harris, a former assistant U.S. attorney in D.C. and onetime associate at the firm then known as Wiley, Rein & Fielding.