A new report from Politico has sparked renewed scrutiny of how Ginni Thomas and other conservative activists co-founded a nonprofit right-wing advocacy group — which was funded, in part, by billionaire Harlan Crow — in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.
The report also examines the actions of Thomas and other notable conservatives after she dismantled the group, prompting some to question whether illegal financial activities took place.
The organization, Liberty Central, was founded in late 2009 with the primary goal of blocking key initiatives of the Obama administration. The organization described itself as a “billion-dollar force” that would push for certain cases to be heard by the Supreme Court, with hopes of overturning established precedents on abortion, affirmative action, and other issues.
The organization was co-founded by Leonard Leo, a right-wing power broker and a master of post-Citizens United dark money spending who is currently under federal investigation.
Liberty Central was founded three months after final arguments in the Citizens United case were made before the Court, when it appeared as though conservative bloc members of the Court seemed open to upending regulations on campaign finance laws.
After the group was formed — and after the Court did in fact upend those laws, making it more difficult to track money in U.S. politics — Ginni Thomas was criticized for spearheading an organization whose stated goals were intrinsically linked to influencing the Supreme Court’s work (including the work of Justice Clarence Thomas, who was then and still is married to Ginni Thomas). In response, Thomas left the organization and created a consulting firm, which provided advice to other right-wing organizations on submitting amicus briefs to the High Court.
Leo continued to help Thomas financially, restarting a charity group called the Judicial Education Project, which provided funding to Thomas’s firm. Politico reported that there are significant discrepancies in IRS filings from that organization to Thomas’s company, leading some to question whether the money given to the firm was improper or even illegal.
Per tax laws, the firm could only receive funds from organizations like Leo’s if Thomas in turn provided a service to them.
“This stinks to high heaven,” Norman Ornstein, emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote on X in response to the Politico article. “We need the Internal Revenue Service and the justice department to investigate. It looks like tax offenses, criminal ones, not to mention the sheer corruption. Leonard Leo and Ginni Thomas are despicable.”
The report also links Crow to the couple, detailing how he provided around $500,000 to help launch Liberty Central.
Crow and the Thomases have been the subject of several ProPublica investigations in recent months that have showcased how the billionaire has financed various aspects of the couple’s lives — including exorbitant trips, real estate deals, tuition payments for a relative the Thomases had been the guardian of, and other big spending items.
Thomas, who admitted in his latest financial disclosure that Crow had financed many of his luxurious travels, said that he was advised that actions by the Court didn’t have to be made public, alleging that the billionaire “did not have business before the Court.” That assertion is untrue, as several Supreme Court cases in the years that Crow has funded portions of the Thomases’ lives would impact Crow’s real estate, commercial, industrial and other business interests.
It takes longer to read this sentence than it does to support our work.
We have 1 day left to raise the $27,000 needed to meet Truthout‘s basic publishing costs this month. Will you take a few seconds to donate and give us a much-needed boost?
We know you are deeply committed to the issues that matter, and you count on us to bring you trustworthy reporting and comprehensive analysis on the real issues facing our country and the world. And as a nonprofit newsroom supported by reader donations, we’re counting on you too. If you believe in the importance of an independent, free media, please make a tax-deductible donation today!