Thomas: Wife's pay omitted 'inadvertently'

Jan. 24, 2011 at 9:29 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Monday acknowledged he made a mistake by failing to disclose his wife's income in financial disclosure forms.

Thomas came in for criticism last week for failing to report his wife's earnings on legally required financial disclosure forms. The watchdog group Common Cause said Virginia Thomas earned more than $680,000 from the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation between 2003 and 2007.

In the financial disclosure forms for those years, Justice Thomas checked a box indicating "none" where "spousal non-investment income" was to be disclosed. The forms are required under the Ethics in Government Act, enacted into law in 1978.

Justice Thomas indicated in amended disclosures that his wife's income during those years was "inadvertently omitted due to a misunderstanding of the filing instructions," The New York Times reported Monday.

Common Cause President Bob Edgar said Justice Thomas' explanation was "implausible," since in his capacity as a Supreme Court justice, Thomas routinely hears complex legal cases. Edgar said it was "hard to see how he could have misunderstood the simple directions of a federal disclosure form."

The amended disclosures indicate Virginia Thomas was employed by the Heritage Foundation and Hillsdale College in Michigan. Mrs. Thomas operated a constitutional law center in Washington for the college.

Common Cause last week argued that Justice Thomas should have recused himself from participating in the Citizens United case, a landmark 2010 on campaign finance law, because Mrs. Thomas had founded a conservative political organization whose interests were affected by the case, and because the justice had participated in a political gathering sponsored by a leading right-wing political financier, Charles Koch.

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