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Wife of Justice Thomas starts group for 'citizen activists'

Justice Clarence Thomas's wife, Virginia, a longtime activist, started Liberty Central in January.
Justice Clarence Thomas's wife, Virginia, a longtime activist, started Liberty Central in January. (Charles Dharapak/associated Press)

Hamblen said that the group is nonpartisan and does not intend to make endorsements in political campaigns but that it will issue "scorecards" ranking candidates on conservative issues.

"We are very seriously not Republican or Democrat; we are conservative," Hamblen said. "Our intent is to remain nonpolitical except in terms of furthering the core principles of the founding fathers."

Liberty Central, which is organized as a nonprofit, is free to raise unlimited amounts of money and is generally not required to disclose its donors. Hamblen said the group has "received a lot of donations over the last couple days," mostly from small donors.

Hamblen said the group is not formally affiliated with the conservative "tea party" groups that have sprouted across the nation over the past year to protest the Obama administration's fiscal policies. The group conducted a joint online poll in January with one of the largest such groups, Tea Party Patriots, whose leaders also issued a statement of support for Thomas's new venture.

The Web site also lists an endorsement from former defense secretary Donald M. Rumsfeld, who says that "Ginni can help channel the frustration felt by millions across America at the current course of our country."

Virginia Thomas's biography on the site says she "is a fan of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham and other talk radio hosts," and that she is "is intrigued by Glenn Beck and listening carefully."

A longtime political activist, she has worked for former House Republican leader Richard A. Armey (Tex.), the conservative Heritage Foundation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She most recently worked in Washington for Hillsdale College, a small liberal arts school in Michigan.

Hamblen said other judges have had politically active spouses. For instance, Judge Marjorie O. Rendell of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia is married to Pennsylvania's Democratic governor, Ed Rendell. Following the judicial Committee on Codes of Conduct, Marjorie Rendell does not accompany her husband to political events. But she presides over other events as first lady.

She seeks guidance from the committee over potential conflicts, and has a policy of recusing herself from a case in which a party has made a hefty contribution to her husband's campaign, unless both sides agree to waive the disqualification.

In California, Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit recuses himself in cases brought by the Southern California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is headed by his wife, Ramona Ripston.

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