LA Times suddenly wary of judicial activism and spouses

posted at 3:00 pm on March 14, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

I really wish the media would get its story straight on spouses and activism. When Bill Clinton ran for President, the media scolded people who began questioning whether Hillary Clinton would use her influence to shape policy in the White House. Counter-critics called it a form of gender discrimination, and Hillary famously responded to it by defiantly noting that “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas,” but decided to have her own career in law and politics.

Suddenly, though, the LA Times and Kathleen Hennessey have a problem with activist wives. Hennessey profiles Virginia “Ginny” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and speculates throughout the article that Thomas’ work as an activist with Liberty Central may cross lines of judicial objectivity:

In January, Virginia Thomas created Liberty Central Inc., a nonprofit lobbying group whose website will organize activism around a set of conservative “core principles,” she said.

The group plans to issue score cards for Congress members and be involved in the November election, although Thomas would not specify how. She said it would accept donations from various sources — including corporations — as allowed under campaign finance rules recently loosened by the Supreme Court. …

Experts say Virginia Thomas’ work doesn’t violate ethical rules for judges. But Liberty Central could give rise to conflicts of interest for her husband, they said, as it tests the norms for judicial spouses. The couple have been married since 1987.

“I think the American public expects the justices to be out of politics,” said University of Texas law school professor Lucas A. “Scot” Powe, a court historian.

He said the expectations for spouses are far less clear. “I really don’t know because we’ve never seen it,” Powe said.

In case Hennessey’s too subtle for some LA Times readers to get the point in the beginning of the article, she closes with this:

Because of a recent Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, the group may also spend corporate money freely to advocate for or against candidates for office.

Justice Thomas was part of the 5-4 majority in that case.

The clear insinuation is that Thomas has already begun throwing cases to benefit his wife. Never mind that Thomas has always opposed the BCRA’s efforts to limit political speech, or that obviously four other justices agreed with Thomas. Hennessey’s busily connecting dots to write an editorial under the guise of objective journalism.

Andy McCarthy blows his stack at the double standard applied to Ginny Thomas and a certain “wise Latina” last year:

I’ve looked through other articles by Ms. Hennessey, searching for one about whether she thought the high court would be compromised by the appointment of Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Prior to her appointment, Justice Sotomayor herself — not her spouse, herself — was a Leftist activist (board member and top policy maker at the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education fund) who infamously opined that a “wise Latina” is more apt to make good decisions that a mere “white male who hasn’t lived that life.” Doesn’t seem to have troubled Ms. Hennessey, though.

Nor did the journalist fret about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg also had an extensive pre-Supreme Court career in Leftist causes (e.g., co-director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project in the 1970s) — and on while on the Court she has been a reliable Leftist vote who, for example, champions resort to international law to interpret the U.S. Constitution and, in a bizarre extrajudicial comment, favorably linked abortion with eugenics (“Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion” (emphasis added)).

No, none of that bothers the media. The Court’s ballyhooed “impartiality” is only threatened because a conservative male justice is married to a conservative woman who has a life and career of her own, which was once thought to be the feminist ideal.

Andy’s right; this article is a disgrace, not the least reason of which is that Ginny Thomas is hardly a newcomer to activism. She spent some time at Heritage Foundation before moving to Hillsdale College, which isn’t exactly the refuge from conservative activism that Hennessey assumes. Liberty Central aims to give grassroots activists a broader understanding of the philosophy of conservatism rather than doing a lot of organizing themselves. I’m not sure why that gives Hennessey such heartburn, but it hardly sets up any conflict of interest for Thomas … unless Hennessey and the LAT want to argue that wives should do nothing but bake cookies and hold teas.

If the Los Angeles Times wants to blow the lid off of political connections on the Supreme Court, they should start with the actual justices. Andy gives them a couple of good leads. Will they pursue them as energetically as they do the spouse in this case, a spouse who has been well known as an activist for several years? Don’t hold your breath.

On a personal note, I’ve met Ginny a few times and found her to be warm, open, honest, soft-spoken, and straightforward. I interviewed her at CPAC about Liberty Central, and I’ve embedded the interview here so that readers can learn more about this ambitious and important project.


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I gave up being surprised by leftist hypocrisy long ago, they change the rules as necessary to fit their own needs.

I “deem” them as fools, morons, dimwits and domestic terrorists, therefore they are.

I love this deeming stuff.

Bishop on March 14, 2010 at 3:03 PM

If she was a liberal and Breyer’s wife, no one would care.

Wethal on March 14, 2010 at 3:05 PM

Kathleen Hennessey has written for Mother Jones… why is she allowed to write for purportedly non-partisan news sources?

ninjapirate on March 14, 2010 at 3:05 PM

“Prior to her appointment, Justice Sotomayor herself — not her spouse, herself — was a Leftist activist…”

… and she used salt.

Seven Percent Solution on March 14, 2010 at 3:06 PM

Thank you, Ed and Andy McCarthy.

The Left has hated the principled Clarence Thomas for too long. He and his wife Virginia are Constitution-loving patriots.

onlineanalyst on March 14, 2010 at 3:07 PM

Kathleen Hennessey has written for Mother Jones… why is she allowed to write for purportedly non-partisan news sources?

BTW, I am being ironic… I don’t care if she has written for them before…

ninjapirate on March 14, 2010 at 3:07 PM

Thank you, Ed and Andy McCarthy.

The Left has hated the principled Clarence Thomas for too long. He and his wife Virginia are Constitution-loving patriots.

onlineanalyst on March 14, 2010 at 3:07 PM

+10

deidre on March 14, 2010 at 3:12 PM

So… are you claiming that Oceania has NOT always been at war with Eastasia? Jeez, Ed where do you get this stuff?

sharrukin on March 14, 2010 at 3:14 PM

I love this deeming stuff.

Bishop on March 14, 2010 at 3:03 PM

Me too. I “deemed” myself to be the Master of my Domain last night; my wife deemed that I sleep on the couch. She won.

Electrongod on March 14, 2010 at 3:17 PM

I like the logo on Liberty Central’s shirt. It looks like a stylized crown on the Statue of Liberty.

Virginia Thomas makes a good point about how much the American people are ready to scale back on its demands on an ever-growing government: the bailouts, the subsidies, the handouts, and the dependencies. Good points.

onlineanalyst on March 14, 2010 at 3:19 PM

Leftist lies and the lying leftists that tell them.
By the way, I always get in the last word with my wife. It’s usually, “Yes, dear”.

kingsjester on March 14, 2010 at 3:20 PM

Do they worry about President’s berating the SCOTUS during a State of the Union speech? Seems that is far more worrisome.

CWforFreedom on March 14, 2010 at 3:23 PM

OT: Abolition of Man Watch

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100314/hl_afp/britainushealthfertilitychild_20100314131957

British fertility clinic raffling human egg

ninjapirate on March 14, 2010 at 3:26 PM

Me too. I “deemed” myself to be the Master of my Domain last night; my wife deemed that I sleep on the couch. She won.

Electrongod on March 14, 2010 at 3:17 PM

Loser.

The Race Card on March 14, 2010 at 3:27 PM

They’re another working couple, that’s all.

The Race Card on March 14, 2010 at 3:29 PM

that Thomas’ work as an activist with Liberty Central may cross lines of judicial objectivity

…were she a liberal, working for one of their causes…she’d be a heroin “for the good of the people”.

Schadenfreude on March 14, 2010 at 3:35 PM

Me too. I “deemed” myself to be the Master of my Domain last night; my wife deemed that I sleep on the couch. She won.

Electrongod on March 14, 2010 at 3:17 PM

“I’m out”……………..

……….Cosmo Kramer

Knucklehead on March 14, 2010 at 3:42 PM

God Bless Ginny & Justice Thomas.

OmahaConservative on March 14, 2010 at 3:52 PM

“I really don’t know because we’ve never seen it,” Powe said.

Guess it’s settled since Hennessey quoted an real, live expert.

KS Rex on March 14, 2010 at 3:56 PM

Hennessey and the LAT want to argue that [conservative] wives should do nothing but bake cookies and hold teas.

Redaction.

davidk on March 14, 2010 at 4:08 PM

I suppose they have no problem plucking someone like Ginsberg from the ACLU (a group finding itself in SCOTUS rulings on many occasions) and putting her on the court right?

clement on March 14, 2010 at 4:09 PM

Ummmm excuse me? Ms.Hennessey? Where is your moral outrage at SEIU, making threats to primary Dem candidates? Using their members money, to shape, and mold politics to fit their agenda? How about all the tax payer money, and perks they’re recieving at the expense of the tax payer?

I don’t support SEIU, or ACORN. Yet they recieve mine, and many others money, without representation for it? They use this money to ensure elections, all the while using corruption to see it thru to fruition for themselves…yet you seem to not see the partisanship in that?

This is why you’re tanking. It’s all one big double standard, and we know you don’t give a hoot about anyone, but the agenda comes first, and foremost.

So…..be a good girl, and go bake some cookies. You might be a far sight better at that, than you are at unbiased journalism.

capejasmine on March 14, 2010 at 4:09 PM

Bishop: “I gave up being surprised by leftist hypocrisy…”

I am beginning to rethink my charge of hypocrisy against the leftist/progressives/communists/marxist who rule the Democrat party. Since “hpyocrisy” is a morality-based charge (at least for me), and since those folks are clearly amoral at best, anti-moral more likely, moral charges don’t stick to them.

However, calling them “evil” is still valid.

JeffH on March 14, 2010 at 4:45 PM

Liberty Central might be an important player. Hope so, anyway. I joined. Thanks, Ed.

petefrt on March 14, 2010 at 4:49 PM

Hillary famously responded to it by defiantly noting that “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas,” but decided to have her own career in law and politics.

I remember another quote Hillary made about the same time, which the LA Times pretty much ignored:

“We are the President”.

Del Dolemonte on March 14, 2010 at 4:57 PM

The LA Times is on life support… Can’t wait to bury it…

Khun Joe on March 14, 2010 at 5:11 PM

Sotomayer herself was an ativist. The double-standard of the Left never surprises me.

TN Mom on March 14, 2010 at 5:15 PM

The NYSlimes also had no conflict problem with Judge Garfulis in the Southern District of New York, whose wife is a director of a halfway house non profit. Funny thing that the Judge handed down a controversial decision on de institutionalizing thousands of warehoused mentally ill patients, and who would stand to benefit but the judge’s wife’s non profit and others similarly situated. But since the NYSlimes is against proper health care for mental patients, insisting they be free to die on the streets or free to commit crimes against the populace, the Judge got no tongue lashing for his potential bias.

eaglewingz08 on March 14, 2010 at 5:48 PM

On a personal note, I’ve met Ginny a few times and found her to be warm, open, honest, soft-spoken, and straightforward.

Pol Pot was widely reported to be a very mild mannered person. What matters is the woman’s journalistic philosophy and actions.

It really doesn’t matter if a person is kind, pleasant, and nice to be around — if they’re an obviously biased journalist working for a major media outlet.

JDPerren on March 14, 2010 at 5:59 PM

Oh, there’s no surprise. The constant referral, even by some conservative blogs, to completely inane stories about Palin has signalled that “anything goes” against conservatives.

There’s no atttempt to even hide the smearing. And few people are complaining.

AnninCA on March 14, 2010 at 6:01 PM

Ooops… Note to self; read more carefully. Ed referred to Ginny, Thomas’s wife, not to Kathleen Hennessey, the author of the LA Times article. Mea culpa!

JDPerren on March 14, 2010 at 6:02 PM

This article is racist. Those filthy degenerates at the LAT need to go out of business and then leave the country.

platypus on March 14, 2010 at 6:13 PM

eaglewingz08 on March 14, 2010 at 5:48 PM

Carlos Slim, Mexican telecom billionaire and Fortune magazine’s World’s Richest Man, owns a large stake in the NY Times. Slim also has a history of pushing the (illegal) immigration of Mexico’s underclass into the U.S. (Can anyone figure out what Slim’s financial interest in that might be? Hint: Mexico spends a pittance on things that its underclass desperately needs, like education.). Last year, Slim met with other Mexican businessmen and politicos to try and devise new strategy for pushing amnesty for the illegals currently living in the U.S. Has anyone ever seen anything about Slim’s financial interests disclosed in any of the NY Times pro-amnesty pieces?

AZCoyote on March 14, 2010 at 6:22 PM

The real problem in the article as it is portrayed her is that Miss Hennessey has not read the Citizens United judgment and is leaping to White House conclusions in an effort to smear a member of the SCOTUS.

The issue in the Citizens United Case was concerned with a documentary about Hillary Clinton. It was not a flattering documentary. Citizens United wanted to show the documentary on cable television but it would be shown within 60 days of a primary. The FEC said “no” and they used the grounds that Citizens United had been funded in a minuscule way by a corporation. SCOTUS was concerned about freedom of speech. The judgment actually went against Citizens United on a number of issues. However, it was the freedom of speech aspect, and the penalty that was provided by the FEC if Citizens United went against their ruling.

Please keep in mind that it was the penalty mandate that perturbed the SCOTUS. This was the reason that s144(b) was struck down.

The decision does not give permission for Corporations to spend lots of money. What it does is give equality to types of corporations – the Media are corporations but they were exempted from McCain-Feingold. It gave the media an unfettered ability to misrepresent the facts, as well as the ability to damage candidates in any election, as well as damaging corporations such as Merck (example only folks). By striking down the section the corporations have the right to place an advertisement putting their side of the story without threat of fines by the FEC.

The ignorance of Miss Hennessey when it comes to Citizens United is astounding. She seems to forget that the same McCain-Feingold act set up the PACs that have been used to raise funds by political figures. Dr. Utopia got access to over $800million in funds through the use of PACs with much of it coming from illegal sources. The PACs were used in a way as a money laundering operation for these illegal donations from people living in the Middle East. Millions of dollars were funneled into these PACs by the likes of Soros and other big business leaders.

Whilst corporations are not citizens and they cannot cast a vote, the office bearers of these corporations are citizens who do vote.

The angst of Miss Hennessey is just so ridiculous in light of what really is the truth about the decision in the Citizens United case.

I think that people should take the time to read what Kennedy said in that judgment, because it is not what is claimed by the White House Administration. The behaviour of Dr. Utopia is disgraceful.

maggieo on March 14, 2010 at 6:25 PM

Hennessey is a leftwing nutjob with the credibility of a piss ant so she fits the the biased agenda of the LA Times like a glove. Anyone who thinks the paper has the best intersts of the American people at heart are a waste of air. The bigots who own the Times are a laughingstock. I used to line my cat’s litterbox with the Times, but even she wouldn’t urinate on the rag.

volsense on March 14, 2010 at 6:34 PM

I grew up across the marsh from “The Point”.
If you look behind the Justice, when he is standing on the floating dock, that is where I grew up.
The owner of “The Factory” is a childhood friend.
I knew the Justice and met his wife, when they were interviewed at the factory, by Steve Kroft.
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/09/27/60minutes/main3305443.shtml?tag=mncol;lst;6
They are both real, honest, plain people, that is the highest praise I know of.
Justice Thomas may not see broad support in the black community, you better not speak poorly of him in Pin Point or Montgomery.
Oh, nope, won’t tell you what his motor home looks like.

Open The Door on March 14, 2010 at 6:44 PM

I wonder if Hennessey is troubled that the President’s wife used to be a hospital administrator or some such – surely Hennessey is concerned about the conflict of interest inherent in the President’s push for healthcare reform…

Midas on March 14, 2010 at 6:44 PM

Liberals getting panties in a wad, what’s new about that? In the old days when liberals controlled the news and what Americans were spoon fed to think, the salad years.

Now days in the participation era, people have no use for liberals and they know it.

And I wonder, what he thinks of the president of all the people, running multiple propaganda mouthpiece organizations, just like his commie bud Hugo Chavez does. Does he think that is illegal, violate campaign finance laws, I do.

And what’s next, NObama propaganda in our schools? Maybe the federal government should get out of the school system and go back to their enumerated powers and stay there.

tarpon on March 14, 2010 at 7:07 PM

Justice Thomas is amazing and his wife seems as well. The libs HATE him so much, shwoing thier latent racism, the real kind, they don’t want minoritites to trully think for themselves. This story is trully a non-story. It is implying that she has undue influence on his decisions. At that rate, this attenuated argument can be made about any judge and his/her spouse or almost any other profession for that matter.

immigrantchick on March 14, 2010 at 7:26 PM

And of course, the libs are big on thinking spouses are interchangeable when it comes to work; after all, they implied that Hillary Clinton had all this experience to be president just by being married to one. This is also perfectly in line with the nepothism that exists in socialist and communist countries, and in the democrat party as well (ex., the Kennedies).

immigrantchick on March 14, 2010 at 7:31 PM

I am not surprised at all. The hypocrisy of the left has become so blatant and common that it has desensitized me, and that is what truly disturbs me.

Have we become a country that is so unplugged from the critical political issues that we don’t care anymore as long at the prime time television is entertaining?

Has our media become so warped that behavior that should be considered disgustingly biased is now the norm and hardly noticed?

Are we giving up on redemption of the values that built our country and made it great?

I am sorry, but I am a bit depressed over this. The mere fact that this is not surprising to me shows how far we have fallen. The fact that there isn’t a violent outrage pounding the editorial offices of the L.A. Times over this kind of reporting is beyond the pale.

Hawthorne on March 14, 2010 at 7:38 PM

God Bless Ginny & Justice Thomas.

OmahaConservative on March 14, 2010 at 3:52 PM

+100

baldilocks on March 14, 2010 at 7:46 PM

Unfortunately, if you show your ability to organize cohesive thought, the left feels compelled to label you. I am ALWAYS impressed by Ginny and Clarence Thomas. I guess it’s the level of competence in expressing their ideas that scares them…..it will be one of my worst memories of American politics as to how Clarence Thomas was treated, it’s not unexpected that his wife would be maligned as well.

anniekc on March 14, 2010 at 7:54 PM

Ik think that the real premise of the article is that conservatives espouse stay-at-home wives or “eye-candy” types.

This article is just really a pretty shoddy argument, based on a false premise.

I see a lot of that on both sides, frankly.

AnninCA on March 14, 2010 at 8:00 PM

Hillary famously responded to it by defiantly noting that “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas,” but decided to have her own career in law and politics.

So what’s the problem? Virginia wants to hold a tea….

unclesmrgol on March 14, 2010 at 8:38 PM

Everyone knows that you lose all your ights when you marry a Supremo.

Akzed on March 14, 2010 at 8:43 PM

AnninCA,

I always love how you are just so even-handed and can always see both sides doing something. Not.

Sporty1946 on March 14, 2010 at 8:45 PM

They are just going to hound this man (and anyone he loves) to his grave and beyond.

God bless them both, and keep up the good work!

DrAllecon on March 14, 2010 at 8:47 PM

Did she have a problem with Senator Obama was handing out earmarks to Mrs. Obama’s employer?

munseym on March 14, 2010 at 10:19 PM

Loser.

The Race Card on March 14, 2010 at 3:27 PM

Single guy / no date?

*facepalm*

Laura in Maryland on March 14, 2010 at 11:21 PM

treason

urbancenturion on March 15, 2010 at 2:31 AM

Hypocrisy is to the left, as water is to fish.

Slowburn on March 15, 2010 at 4:08 AM

Hummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

….. no problem with Eddie Rendell’s wife being a federal judge… huh

Guess Gov of Penn ain’t political

……………. MSM…. just point and laugh

roflmao

donabernathy on March 15, 2010 at 4:22 AM

They are afraid? They have a pattern of attacking only those they think might make a difference.

jeanie on March 15, 2010 at 8:12 AM