The New Yorker - USA (2022-01-31)

(Antfer) #1


ideologically tied to the litigant—that
strikes me as slicing the baloney a lit-
tle thin.”


hen Clarence Thomas met Ginni
Lamp, in 1986, he was an ambi-
tious Black conservative in charge of the
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission—and she was even more
conservative and better connected than
he was. Her father ran a firm that de-
veloped housing in and around Omaha,
and her parents were Party activists who
had formed the backbone of Barry Gold-
water’s campaign in Nebraska. The writer
Kurt Andersen, who grew up across the
street from the family, recalls, “Her par-
ents were the roots of the modern, crazy
Republican Party. My parents were Gold-
water Republicans, but even they thought
the Lamp family was nuts.” Ginni grad-
uated from Creighton University, in
Omaha, and then attended law school
there. Her parents helped get her a job
with a local Republican candidate for
Congress, and when he won she fol-
lowed him to Washington. But, after re-
portedly flunking the bar exam, she fell
in with a cultish self-help group, Life-
spring, whose members were encour-
aged to strip naked and mock one an-
other’s body fat. She eventually broke
away, and began working for the Cham-
ber of Commerce, opposing “compara-
ble worth” pay for women. She and
Thomas began dating, and in 1987 they
married. As a woman clashing with the
women’s movement, she had found much
in common with Thomas, who opposed
causes supported by many Black Amer-
icans. At Thomas’s extraordinarily con-
tentious Supreme Court confirmation
hearings, in 1991, Anita Hill credibly ac-
cused him of having sexually harassed
her when she was working at the
E.E.O.C. Ginni Thomas later likened
the experience to being stuck inside a
scalding furnace. Even before then, a
friend told the Washington Post, the cou-
ple was so bonded that “the one person
[Clarence] really listens to is Virginia.”
Ginni Thomas had wanted to run for
Congress, but once her husband was on
the Supreme Court she reportedly felt
professionally stuck. She moved through
various jobs, including one at the Heri-
tage Foundation, the conservative think
tank. In 2010, she launched her lobbying
firm, Liberty Consulting. Her Web site

quotes a client saying that she is able to
“give access to any door in Washington.”
Four years ago, Ginni Thomas in-
augurated the Impact Awards—an an-
nual ceremony to honor “courageous
cultural warriors” battling the “radical
ideologues on the left” who use “ma-
nipulation, mobs and deceit for their
ends.” She presented the awards at lun-
cheons paid for by United in Purpose,
a nonprofit that mobilizes conservative
evangelical voters. Many of the recipi-
ents have served on boards or commit-
tees with Ginni Thomas, and quite a
few have had business in front of the
Supreme Court, either filing amicus
briefs or submitting petitions asking
that the Justices hear cases. At the 2019
event, Ginni Thomas praised one of
that year’s recipients, Abby Johnson, a
former Planned Parenthood employee
who became an anti-abortion activist,
for her “riveting indictment of Planned
Parenthood’s propagation of lies.” That
year, Thomas also gave a prize to Mark
Meadows, then a hard-line Republican
in Congress, describing him as the leader
“in the House right now that we were
waiting for.” Meadows, in accepting the
award, said, “Ginni was talking about
how we ‘team up,’ and we actually have
teamed up. And I’m going to give you
something you won’t hear anywhere
else—we worked through the first five
days of the impeachment hearings.”
Thomas’s decision to bestow prizes
on Johnson and Meadows underscores
the complicated overlaps between her
work and her husband’s. In 2020, John-
son, a year after receiving an Impact
Award, filed with the Court an amicus
brief supporting restrictions on abor-
tion in Louisiana. Last year, Johnson
participated in the January 6th protests,
and the insurrection has since become
the object of much litigation, some of
which will likely end up before the
Court. Last month, she went on Fox
News and said that “a couple of the lib-
eral Justices”—she singled out Justice
Sotomayor by name—had been “idi-
otic” during oral arguments in Dobbs v.
Jackson Women’s Health Organization,
the Mississippi abortion case now under
consideration by the Supreme Court.
( Johnson didn’t respond to requests
for comment.)
Soon after Ginni Thomas gave Mark
Meadows an Impact Award, he became

Trump’s chief of staff. This past Decem-
ber, he refused to comply with a sub-
poena from the House select commit-
tee that is investigating the Capitol
attack. Cleta Mitchell, who advised
Trump on how to contest Biden’s elec-
toral victory, received an Impact Award
in 2018. She has moved to block a com-
mittee subpoena of her phone records.
The House of Representatives recently
voted to send the Justice Department a
referral recommending that it charge
Meadows with criminal contempt of
Congress. The same thing may well hap-
pen to Mitchell. It seems increasingly
likely that some of Ginni Thomas’s Im-
pact Award recipients will end up as
parties before the Supreme Court.
The Justice Department has so far
charged more than seven hundred peo-
ple in connection with the insurrection,
and Attorney General Merrick Garland
has said that the federal government
will prosecute people “at any level” who
may have instigated the riots—perhaps
even Trump. On January 19th, the Su-
preme Court rejected the former Pres-
ident’s request that it intervene to stop
the congressional committee from ac-
cessing his records. Justice Thomas was
the lone Justice to dissent. (Meadows
had filed an amicus brief in support
of Trump.) Ginni Thomas, meanwhile,
has denounced the very legitimacy of
the congressional committee. On De-
cember 15th, she and sixty-two other
prominent conservatives signed an open
letter to Kevin McCarthy, the House
Minority Leader, demanding that the
House Republican Conference excom-
municate Representatives Liz Cheney
and Adam Kinzinger for their “egre-
gious” willingness to serve on the com-
mittee. The statement was issued by an
advocacy group called the Conservative
Action Project, of which Ginni Thomas
has described herself as an “active” mem-
ber. The group’s statement excoriated
the congressional investigation as a “par-
tisan political persecution” of “private
citizens who have done nothing wrong,”
and accused the committee of serving
“improperly issued subpoenas.”
A current member of the Conserva-
tive Action Project told me that Ginni
Thomas is part of the group not be-
cause of her qualifications but “because
she’s married to Clarence.” The mem-
ber asked to have his name withheld
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