When Did Clarence Thomas Go to the Koch Conspiracy Fest? And Did He Bring Ginni?

As you’ve no doubt heard, the right wing conspiracy does exist. As the NYT reported the other day, the Koch brothers host semi-annual secret get-togethers to strategize with other rich conservatives and media people about how to advance their views.

The participants in Aspen dined under the stars at the top of the gondola run on Aspen Mountain, and listened to Glenn Beck of Fox News in a session titled, “Is America on the Road to Serfdom?” (The title refers to a classic of Austrian economic thought that informs libertarian ideology, popularized by Mr. Beck on his show.)The participants included some of the nation’s wealthiest families and biggest names in finance: private equity and hedge fund executives like John Childs, Cliff Asness, Steve Schwarzman and Ken Griffin; Phil Anschutz, the entertainment and media mogul ranked by Forbes as the 34th-richest person in the country; Rich DeVos, the co-founder of Amway; Steve Bechtel of the giant construction firm; and Kenneth Langone of Home Depot.

Sure, we’ve known that rich people work like this for a while; this report simply provides documentation of it.

But one detail of the NYT report deserves further scrutiny: the report that Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia have attended the gathering.

To encourage new participants, Mr. Koch offers to waive the $1,500 registration fee. And he notes that previous guests have included Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court, Gov. Haley Barbour and Gov. Bobby Jindal, Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, and Representatives Mike Pence, Tom Price and Paul D. Ryan. [my emphasis]

Again, it’s not a surprise that the guy who duck-hunted with Dick Cheney while reviewing a suit involving the Vice President would hang around with the conservative elite.

But the report raises a whole slew of questions.

Think Progress has an important post looking at how Scalia and Thomas have been instrumental in loosening campaign finance regulations, which has made it a lot easier for people like the Kochs to buy elections.

But Scalia and Thomas have been involved in more than just rulings that make it easier for the Kochs to win election.

After all, they once cast two of the only nine votes to matter in the 2000 Presidential election.

They’ve not only issued rulings that make it easier for conservatives to win elections, they’ve decided an election. And one of the most obvious explanations for why Thomas and Scalia have attended at least one of these secret shindigs but not Sam Alito or John Roberts would be if they attended before the latter two were SCOTUS Justices. You know, back before Thomas and Scalia selected a President.

So did Thomas and Scalia attend a meeting strategizing how to win elections before the decided one?

And then there’s the other question: whether Ginni Thomas, the founder of an organization that bridges mainstream conservatives with the TeaBagger movement, attended the gathering.

The invitation from this year’s shindig shows that most attendees bring their spouses. So if Thomas followed the norm, then Ginni would have attended with him. Which would put Ginni Thomas, now a big player in the TeaBagger movement, at an event hosted by the guys who are bankrolling the TeaBagger movement.

The Koch brothers would already be leading candidates to be funding Liberty Central. The Koch brothers would already be leading candidates to be the source of the $500,000 or $50,000 donations from undisclosed individuals to Liberty Central. The Koch brothers–and their funding of TeaBagger activities–have been central in opposing the health care reform that Liberty Central has called unconstitutional.

But it would be very neat if the Koch brothers recruited Ginni Thomas to front this group at their secret cabal meeting, wouldn’t it?

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

  1. perris says:

    this is one terrific post marcy, you make an incredible point here

    I think it’s time we started getting the meme out that these are traitors who need to be impeached from their seat of power on the bench

    I’ll take one small issue with one of your passages;

    Again, it’s not a surprise that the guy who duck-hunted with Dick Cheney while reviewing a suit involving the Vice President would hang around with the conservative elite.

    that wasn’t hunting, they took domestic birds, unafraid of humans, released them where these maggots would be hanging out and they were simple shots

  2. brendanx says:

    And why does Ginni’s phone call coincide with this?

    Her name is Virginia, right? I wonder what Clarence calls her for yuks.

    • scribe says:

      Picking a fight on behalf of someone lionized by the teabaggers to stir up enthusiasm for the teabag agenda, in advance of the elections.

      It seems to me that even subjective coverage (e.g., anything on Fox) would have to have addressed both the flagging enthusiasm of teabaggers for the teabag candidates and the rank blithering-idiotdom of most of their candidates, as well as such increasingly effective Dem counterpunches in the campaign.

      This OTOH gives Faux and derivatively Faux’ idiot viewer base something to be both riled up over and to devote all their time to, stirring up more outrage in the home stretch of the campaign.

      It also facilitates rewriting history – few people remember what actually happened in the Thomas hearings b/c an entire generation has been born and raised to college age since then. In passing, my devil box had some chat/homemaking show on this morning, hosted by two thirtyish yentas who had no frickin’ idea who Ginni Thiomas was and less idea who Anita Hill was or why she mattered. All they and the audience did, to their credit, was to giggle at how sanctimonious the tag of Ginni’s message (“I’ll pray for you” or whatever) and be more than a little nonplussed why she was calling for an apology 20 years after the fact.

      We have to keep in mind that, contrary to the popular image of bloggers, most of us (here, anyway) are 40-ish and older and do have an adult memory of those events. To these kids, 9/11 is approaching ancient history and the Thomas hearings surely are.

      • onitgoes says:

        Picking a fight on behalf of someone lionized by the teabaggers to stir up enthusiasm for the teabag agenda, in advance of the elections.

        That was my immediate thought when this first came to my attention. Part of me was: WTF?? Why is Ginni demanding an “apology” of all things NOW… which leads to the inevitable conclusion: to get the T-tardz knickers in a knot. Let us also not forget the majority of T-tardz ARE over 40, so THEY will have some recollection of the “dastardly way that poor poor poor benighted fantastic jurist Clarence Thomas (who, after all, IS an AA, so it proves they are NOT racists) was treated by that abominable and almost surely a liberal, Anita Hill.”

        And for sure that’s how the corporate-owned rightwing media is playing this game… it’ll work for a certain segment of the population.

  3. Arbusto says:

    Didn’t the Supremes exempt themselves from the code of ethics required of Federal Judges and will only recuse from a case if they want, whether a recusal of lower court judges would be mandated? I think the Justices, at least the cabal on the right, are beyond shame, so publicizing their little “peccadillo’s” will be for naught. Look to Congress for remedies. Hah.

  4. rosalind says:

    (OT: Los Angeles Obama Traffic Update: Obama has added a stop in Glendale to tape an interview with Univision. Current plans are for him to take Marine One into Burbank Airport, then motorcade up the 134 to Central Ave, then back. Estimated arrival time 3:25pm, Departing 4:05pm. You have been warned)

  5. mzchief says:

    Scalia is unfit to serve as a Supreme Court Justice and needs to be removed. He is a “Separate but Equal” kind of guy (“The Conscientious Objectors Speak,” by Mark Graber, June 28, 2007), doesn’t believe in the separation of church from state (“Justice Scalia Puts His Cards on the Table,” by Jack Balkin, June 27, 2005) and thinks torture is perfectly acceptable (“Scalia on Torture,” by Brian Tamanaha, Feb. 14, 2008). Alito needs to go as well (e.g. “The Basic Case Against Alito,” by Robert Gordon, Jan. 09, 2006). So in summary, Thomas, Scalia, Roberts and Alito must go but since the fish rots from the head, let’s start with Scalia and Thomas first. Oh, and as amply documented here and elsewhere, there are grounds for criminal charges.

  6. TarheelDem says:

    But if the House goes to the Republicans there is no possibility at all that such corruption by their darlings would be grounds for impeachment.

    And if the Democrats against all odds hold the House, will impeachment still be off the table?

    I think we are very close to having the impeachment clause mean nothing at all in practical terms of denying public service to those who betray the public trust.

    • strangelyenough says:

      I think we are very close to having the impeachment clause mean nothing at all in practical terms of denying public service to those who betray the public trust.

      Blowjobs notwithstanding.

    • qweryous says:

      I think we are very close to having the impeachment clause mean nothing at all in practical terms of denying public service to those who betray the public trust.

      But what a tool for fundraising and marketing purposes.

    • Palli says:

      which was why they attempted and succeeded making the molehill mountain impeachment of Bill Clinton- so the grounds for all the upcoming impeachment opportunities the Democratic leaders would have ample grounds for would be off the table.

      • onitgoes says:

        Bingo! Clinton’s impeachment was so stupidly moronically ridiculous and an incredible waste of time & money. Even tho I still witness conservatives foam at the mouth – to this day – about the Clenis & Monica, it’s clear to a certain portion of the population that impeachment can be used for stupid and money wasting purposes.

        Hence, the T-tardz will be jubilant to dream about Obama being impeached over his birf cirtifikate, but no one else in the USA with half a brain desires that outcome. Impeachment has been neutered as an effective tool for ensuring good and appropriate governance, sadly.

        • tammanytiger says:

          Clinton’s impeachment was so stupidly moronically ridiculous and an incredible waste of time & money.

          But for the Republicans, the impeachment was worth it: it inoculated Bush and Cheney from being impeached for offenses far worse than Clinton’s.

      • gmoke says:

        Clinton’s “frivolous” impeachment was payback for Nixon’s “railroading.” That it serves to delegitimate impeachment as a punishment is an added bonus (although Alcee Hastings is another example of impeachment’s diminishing returns).

        The Republicans have actively campaigned to control and pack the judiciary for decades. Federal bench has been majority Republican-appointed since at least second Reagan admin. The backlog of judges now awaiting confirmation is happening for very specific reasons and one of them is about maintaining that control.

    • bobschacht says:

      I think we are very close to having the impeachment clause mean nothing at all in practical terms of denying public service to those who betray the public trust.

      Not at all. Only the Democrats are afraid of impeachment. The Republicans are eager to have another go at it. If the Republicans regain control of the House, look for an impeachment movement against Obama that is much more serious than anything the Democrats raised against Bush.

      Why are Democrats so spineless? Why are they so afraid to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, as their oath of office requires?

      Bob in AZ

  7. Margaret says:

    The irony is that the teabag wearing supporters of Thomas contend that they are mad about just this sort of elitist control over every aspect of American life. Meanwhile, people like Clarence and Ginny privately laugh hysterically about how easily manipulated conservative lemmings are. It would be funny if I didn’t have to live here.

  8. TalkingStick says:

    Great reporting Marcy. The money the mother’s milk of any movement.

    Have you done much investigation on the other component? the ideology, in the case of Thomas and Scalia the First Things crowd of Fr. John Neuhaus? I would love to see more exposure.

    • tammanytiger says:

      MAYBE THE PLAN IS CLARENCE THOMAS FOR PRESIDENT 2012, so the goal is to make it look like the Left made things so untenable for him (and poor Ginni) that he was “forced” off the bench, turn him into a martyr and he runs for president as the Chosen One by the Koch Brothers and their libertarian ilk.

      One thing is for certain: he won’t talk to the press or take part in debates. He’s had 19 years of practice, not taking part in oral arguments.

      • thatvisionthing says:

        One thing is for certain: he won’t talk to the press or take part in debates. He’s had 19 years of practice, not taking part in oral arguments.

        Boston Legal, 2008, Alan Shore goes before the Supreme Court to argue a case, has a bet with Denny that he can make Clarence Thomas say something:

        Chief Justice Roberts: Mr. Shore! I don’t like your demeanor, your tone, and I would remind you of where you are.

        Alan Shore: I know exactly where I am, Mr. Chief Justice. I’m in the Supreme Court of the United States, and let me tell you, you folks aren’t as hot as all get out.

        Carl Sack: Dear God.

        Alan Shore: Let’s consider your respective Senate confirmations. You all testified under oath that you never actually considered how you would rule on abortion. You must be kidding me! Never gave it a thought? No perjury there? Justice Scalia? You went duck hunting with Vice President Cheney while he was a named defendant in a case before this court. Congratulations on not getting shot, by the way, but you didn’t exactly avoid the appearance of impropriety there? Justice Alito? You were caught hearing a case involving a company you’d invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in. Ha! No conflict of interest there? You also don’t recuse yourself in terrorism cases even though your best friend is Michael Chertov, head of Homeland Security? Seems to me the Supreme Court of the United States should be made of sterner stuff. Am I right? Justice Thomas? At least put down the magazine!

        Justice Thomas: Hey!

  9. GDC707 says:

    But the report raises a whole slew of questions.

    What slew (slough) of questions? You didn’t know all this stuff already? Scalia has been hanging around this crowd for years. This raises no questions, it simply confirms what many of us have understood for . . .well, forever it seems: the entire political system is corrupt and bought off from top to bottom and through all three branches of govt. How else can one explain the repeated decisions by the Supreme Ct . that money equals free speech? The argument is bullshit on its face (no matter what ART45, THE LAWYER says.) So is corporate personhood. Its fucking stupid, but apparently reasonable people bend over backward and tie themselves into knots trying to build a rational case for these decisions when there is no rational case.

    I guess most people do not yet understand that we have turned the corner, that this is a fascist banana republic and the elites dont even bother to hide their crimes anymore.

    My prediction is that the Congress will soon retroactively and selectively legalize the fraud, perjury and theft of the banks and it will be upheld, indeed strengthened by the Supreme Court.

  10. DonS says:

    I love it. Need to keep on directly elucidating the simple evidence of subversion of democracy. May you [eventually] be ‘paid’ in proportion to the service you do.

  11. radhika says:

    I’ve been wondering…the transcription of Ginni’s phone call to Hill asked for an apology for ‘what Hill did WITH her husband’. I’m thinking that’s slightly different accusation than railing about what Hill did TO her husband – as in a harassment claim.

    I’m sniffing a jealousy drama – real or imagined.

  12. jonerik says:

    The Supreme Court still garners a lot of undeserved public confidence after the stunts pulled by its obviously partisan members like Scalia and Thomas. But the partisan decisions will soon take their toll on the Court as major stabilizing institution for this country. John Roberts, who is no Charles Evans Hughes as a Chief Justice, seems to have no clue about the duty of the Chief Justice to the Court as an institution. He is as partisan as the other right wingers and their greasy thumbs on the scales of justice will doom the Court as an uncorrupted arbiter of big issues.