Ginni Thomas’ Republican Connections Raise Ethics Concerns for SCOTUS

The activism of prominent conservative Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has for years raised questions about partisan influence on the judicial system and ethics in the Supreme Court. American Oversight is actively investigating Ginni Thomas’ connections and influence in right-wing networks and their potential impact on Justice Thomas’ ethics decisions. Records we have obtained through public records requests reveal Ginni Thomas’ ties to the Trump administration as well as evidence of Justice Thomas’ contact with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

As detailed in a recent update, emails between Ginni Thomas and DeSantis, obtained by American Oversight and reported on by Politico, suggest that Justice Thomas may have been in regular contact with the Republican governor. On June 10, 2021, Ginni Thomas reached out to DeSantis’ scheduling office to invite him to speak to a “coalition” of “conservative patriots.” Thomas explained that the governor would know her because her “husband has been in contact with him … on various things of late.”

Ginni Thomas said the “cone of silence coalition” of “about 83 national leaders” was formerly known as Groundswell and included former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows among its attendees. The group, now called the Third Century Group (TC Group), was focused on “the greatest threats and opportunities to constitutional governance,” Thomas wrote in her email, “and admittedly we are weary about the GOP divisions, lack of courage and lack of leadership.” Thomas also wrote that the group met “through the help of [conservative organization] Judicial Watch.”

DeSantis was eventually scheduled to present during the group’s July 21 virtual meeting. According to an email from a vice president at the Heritage Foundation who was planning to introduce the governor at the meeting, DeSantis was invited to speak “about whatever is on his mind in terms of national politics” and the attendees were “very concerned about [critical race theory], election integrity and immigration.”

The Coalition Formerly Known as Groundswell
Formerly known as Groundswell, TC Group is a secretive right-wing strategy group led by Ginni Thomas and others, which has been bringing together conservative activists for nearly a decade. Members have included former Trump chief strategist Stephen Bannon and former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton, among others. The network was well-connected to the Trump administration — in 2019, Thomas and others compiled lists of anti-Trump officials in executive agencies for the administration to dismiss and replace with Trump allies.

Public records obtained by American Oversight show the degree of access Thomas and her coalition had in the Trump administration. A calendar entry from March 5, 2020, shows Russ Vought, then the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, was scheduled to have “Breakfast with Ginni Thomas.”

On Dec. 10, 2018, Thomas, on behalf of her lobbying firm Liberty Consulting, invited a Department of Health and Human Services official — likely Steven Wagner, the director of the Administration for Children and Families — to a “Conversation and Strategic Discussion” with conservative commentator Jordan Peterson. The invitation noted that the event would be “closed to press and off the record” and that “a primary goal of this meeting is to determine specific action steps/solutions for winning back the next generation.” The reception was hosted by Thomas along with conservative Christian activist Bill Dallas and the Heritage Foundation’s Bridgett Wagner. The list of participants included prominent conservatives.

On Aug. 22, 2018, Neomi Rao, then the administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, was scheduled to have a “Groundswell Mtg.” It is not confirmed whether this is Ginni Thomas’ Groundswell. Early in her career, Rao served as a law clerk for Justice Thomas on the Supreme Court, and in 2019, she was appointed by Trump to serve as federal judge in Washington, D.C. 

Thomas’ Activism Raises Judicial Ethics Questions
Ginni Thomas’ career as a prominent conservative activist, more heavily involved in politics than any other spouse of a Supreme Court justice in history, has for years raised concerns among legal experts who note that justices typically avoid even being seen as partisan. Through her activism, Ginni Thomas has taken stances on issues that have come before the Supreme Court, such as on abortion, gun rights, and the Affordable Care Act, and recently took on major role in challenging Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. Justice Thomas’ repeated failure to recuse himself on multiple matters relevant to his wife’s advocacy, especially as the court hears increasingly politically polarized cases, has been the subject of scrutiny. 

Recently, Ginni Thomas was among the conservatives who signed a letter criticizing the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. A month later, Justice Thomas was the only Supreme Court justice to support Trump’s request to block that committee from accessing White House records. 

Ginni Thomas also played a role in challenging the 2020 election results as a leader of the conservative Council for National Policy (CNP), according to the New York Times. Following the November 2020 election, CNP directed its members to spread misinformation about the election and pressured Republican lawmakers in Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania to challenge the election results by awarding their states’ electoral votes to Trump. In a newsletter, CNP’s political advocacy arm advised, “There is historical, legal precedent for Congress to count a slate of electors different from that certified by the Governor of the state.” Fake electoral certificates submitted by Trump allies in swing states to Congress to dispute Biden’s victory were obtained by American Oversight last year.

American Oversight continues to investigate Ginni Thomas’ connections and influence. We have filed records requests seeking communications between Thomas and federal agencies during the Trump administration, and in January 2022, we submitted public records requests to attorneys generals and governors across the country for communications with both Ginni Thomas and Justice Thomas.

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Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Interior, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - Office of Intelligence and Analysis, DHS - Transportation Security Administration, DHS - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DHS - United States Secret Service, District of Columbia Mayor's Office, District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, DOD - Defense Intelligence Agency, DOD - Department of the Air Force, DOD - National Guard Bureau, DOI - National Park Service, DOJ - Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, DOJ - Civil Division, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Investigation, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Prisons, DOJ - Justice Management Division, DOJ - Office of Information Policy, DOJ - U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Florida - Miami-Dade County, Florida Department of State, Maryland - Baltimore Mayor's Office, Nevada Secretary of State, New Jersey Department of Human Services, New York City Department for the Aging, New York City Office of the Mayor, New York Police Department, New York State Department of Health, New York State Office for the Aging, North Carolina, North Carolina House of Representatives, North Carolina Senate, Ohio House of Representatives, Ohio Secretary of State, Ohio Senate, State Office of the Inspector General, Texas Secretary of State, United States Postal Service, White House - Office of Management and Budget, Wisconsin Elections Commission
June 11, 2020

In the Documents: Florida Health Department Efforts to Suppress Release of Coronavirus Records

Florida - Miami-Dade County
June 1, 2020

Tips for Filing Public Records Requests in Your State or City

May 15, 2020

News Roundup: The Subversion of Justice at the Justice Department

Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOJ - Office of Legal Counsel, DOT - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Department of Corrections, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, Louisiana - New Orleans Mayor's Office, Louisiana Department of Health, Louisiana Office of the Governor, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York City Office of the Mayor, New York Office of the Governor, New York State Department of Health, Small Business Administration, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, United States Postal Service, White House - Office of Management and Budget, Wisconsin Elections Commission
April 21, 2020

The Administration’s Attempts to Stonewall Investigations of Trump FBI Headquarters Interference Stumble in Court

Department of Justice, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Investigation, General Services Administration, White House - Office of Management and Budget
March 28, 2020

A Pandemic Is No Time for Secrecy

March 27, 2020

News Roundup: Transparency and Oversight Are More Important Than Ever

Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOJ - Executive Office for Immigration Review, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, DOJ - National Security Division, DOJ - U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Election Commission, Florida Attorney General, Florida Department of State, Florida Office of the Governor, General Services Administration, Georgia - Bartow County, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - DeKalb County, Georgia - Fulton County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Office of the Governor, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Office of Personnel Management, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Tennessee Valley Authority, Texas Attorney General, Texas Office of the Governor, Texas Secretary of State, White House - Office of Management and Budget, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
March 24, 2020

We Cannot Let Trump Use a National Emergency to Get Rich and Ignore the Constitution

Congress, White House
March 20, 2020

News Roundup: Testing, Messaging and Missed Chances

Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, Department of the Treasury, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, Federal Communications Commission, Florida Attorney General, Georgia Attorney General, Nevada Department of Administration, Texas - Harris County, Texas Attorney General, White House - Office of Management and Budget, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
March 19, 2020

Three Years of American Oversight

March 17, 2020

The Increase in FOIA Lawsuits Isn’t the Problem — It’s Agencies Underfunding Their Transparency Obligations

Department of Justice
March 13, 2020

News Roundup: Continuing Our Investigation of Coronavirus Response

Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Federal Reserve, Georgia Secretary of State, Texas Secretary of State, Washington State Department of Health, Wisconsin
March 12, 2020

American Oversight Sues Trump, Kushner for Transparency in Clemency Process

Executive Office of the President, White House
February 21, 2020

When the Government Uses Redactions to Hide Evidence of Wrongdoing

Department of Defense, Department of Justice, White House - Office of Management and Budget
February 20, 2020

Records from Trump’s Presidential Pardons Advisory Committee Must Be Available to the Public

February 7, 2020

News Roundup: Acquittal Isn’t the End

Department of Energy, Department of Justice, Department of State, Florida Department of State, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - DeKalb County, Georgia - Fulton County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Secretary of State, White House - Office of Management and Budget
January 24, 2020

News Roundup: Evidence of Obstruction

Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of Transportation, DOT - Federal Aviation Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Communications Commission, Georgia - Clayton County, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Tennessee Valley Authority, Texas Attorney General, Texas Office of the Governor, Texas Secretary of State, Texas Senate, White House - Office of Management and Budget
January 7, 2020

Did the Trump Administration Abuse the Redactions Process?

Department of Defense, White House - Office of Management and Budget
December 11, 2019

Lawsuit over Administration’s Unlawful Seizure of Trump-Putin Meeting Notes Moves Forward

Department of State, National Archives and Records Administration
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