Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has risen rapidly to the top ranks of the Tea Party movement with the help of two large undisclosed donations and her reputation as a well-connected conservative activist.
Thomas's group, Liberty Central, secured two key donations last year, amounting $500,000 and $50,000, which vaulted it into both Tea Party prominence, as well as a debate about a potential Supreme Court conflict of interest.
According to a Los Angeles Times report from March:
As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, Liberty Central can raise unlimited amounts of corporate money and largely avoid disclosing its donors.
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.
The large donations to Liberty Central have since raised inquiries into whether Justice Thomas might end up ruling on a case that involves one of the unidentified donors.
According to Politico:
Neither a Liberty Central official, nor a Supreme Court spokeswoman would say whether the group would disclose the names of its donors to the Supreme Court legal office or to Thomas's husband so he can avoid ruling on cases in which a major Liberty Central donor is a party.
"Liberty Central has been run past the Supreme Court ethics office and they found that the organization meets all ethics standards," Sarah Field, policy director and general counsel to the group told Politico. "As she has throughout her 30-year history in the policy community, Ginni will address any potential conflicts on a case-by-case basis."
At any rate, Virginia Thomas would prefer people focus on the goals of her group, rather than her marriage to a Supreme Court Justice. She told the Washington Examiner last month, "My favorite times are when people who have worked for me for over 10 years come to understand only later that I am the wife of Justice Thomas."
Thomas introduced Liberty Central at CPAC in February as a group designed to educate Tea Party activists about the "core founding principles" of conservatism; primarily "limited government, personal responsibility, individual liberty, national security and free enterprise."
Politico sees the group potentially evolving into "a hybrid think tank/advocacy group/campaign arm for the tea party movement," but for now, it is currently working more heavily on issue-related initiatives meant to combat the Obama agenda.
Like it or not, however, many would have a hard time saying that Thomas's rise in the conservative movement hasn't been helped by her judicial matrimony.
"Her association with Justice Thomas clearly provides a level of credibility that others wouldn't be able to have, just because of the beliefs that he has and the stands that he has on the different positions that align with our own," Carl Graham, president of the conservative Montana Policy Institute, told Politico.
Virginia Thomas also went on Sean Hannity's Fox News program last month, after discussing an appearance during an earlier encounter at Rush Limbaugh's wedding.
During the interview, Thomas spoke about Obama's "tyranny" and played down the potential conflicts of her newfound strength in the Tea Party movement.
Watch Thomas on Hannity last month: