Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pressed 29 Republican state lawmakers in Arizona — 27 more than previously known — to set aside Joe Biden’s popular vote victory and “choose” presidential electors, according to emails obtained by The Washington Post.
New documents show that Thomas indeed used the platform to reach many lawmakers simultaneously. On Nov. 9, she sent identical emails to 20 members of the Arizona House and seven Arizona state senators. That represents more than half of the Republican members of the state legislature at the time.
The message, just days after media organizations called the race for Biden in Arizona and nationwide, urged lawmakers to “stand strong in the face of political and media pressure” and claimed that the responsibility to choose electors was “yours and yours alone.” They had “power to fight back against fraud” and “ensure that a clean slate of Electors is chosen,” the email said.
Among the lawmakers who received the email was then-Rep. Anthony Kern, a Stop the Steal supporter who lost his reelection bid in November 2020 and then joined U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) and others as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Vice President Mike Pence, a last-ditch effort to overturn Biden’s victory. Kern was photographed outside the Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6 but has said he did not enter the building, according to local media reports.
Kern did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. He is seeking his party’s nomination for a seat in the Arizona state Senate and has been endorsed by former president Donald Trump.
On Dec. 13, the day before members of the electoral college were slated to cast their votes and seal Biden’s victory, Thomas emailed 22 House members and one senator. “Before you choose your state’s Electors … consider what will happen to the nation we all love if you don’t stand up and lead,” the email said. It linked to a video of a man urging swing-state lawmakers to “put things right” and “not give in to cowardice.”
Speaker of the House Russell “Rusty” Bowers and Rep. Shawnna Bolick, the two recipients previously identified, told The Post in May that the outreach from Thomas had no bearing on their decisions about how to handle claims of election fraud.
But the revelation that Ginni Thomas was directly involved in pressing them to override the popular vote — an act that would have been without precedent in the modern era — intensified questions about whether her husband should recuse himself from cases related to the 2020 presidential election and attempts to subvert it. Ginni Thomas’s status as a leading conservative political activist has set her apart from other spouses of Supreme Court justices.
Ginni Thomas did not respond to requests seeking comment for this report. She has long insisted that she and her husband operate in separate professional lanes.
A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court did not respond to questions for Clarence Thomas.
The Post obtained the emails under Arizona’s public records law, which — unlike the laws in some other key 2020 swing states — allows the public to access emails, text messages and other written communications to and from state lawmakers.
In March, The Post and CBS News obtained text messages that Ginni Thomas sent in the weeks after the 2020 election to Mark Meadows, then Trump’s chief of staff. The messages showed Thomas spreading false claims and urging Meadows to keep fighting for Trump to remain in the White House.
“That conflict of interest just screams at you,” said Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), who serves on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, on MSNBC in response to The Post’s May report revealing the emails to Bolick and Bowers.
Schiff pointed to Clarence Thomas’s decision not to recuse when Trump went to the Supreme Court to try to block the House committee from getting access to his White House records. The high court declined to block the release of those documents. Thomas, siding with Trump, was the only justice to dissent.
“Here you have the wife of a Supreme Court justice,” Schiff said, trying to “get Arizona to improperly cast aside the votes of millions. And also, to add to it, her husband on the Supreme Court, writing a dissent in a case arguing against providing records to Congress that might have revealed some of these same e-mails.”
After the May article, Mark Paoletta — a longtime ally of the Thomases who, as a member of the George H.W. Bush administration, played a role in the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court — confirmed that Ginni Thomas signed the emails, but he sought to minimize her role.
“Ginni signed her name to a pre-written form letter that was signed by thousands of citizens and sent to state legislators across the country,” Paoletta wrote on Twitter on May 20. He described Thomas’s activities as “a private citizen joining a letter writing campaign” and added, sarcastically, “How disturbing, what a threat!”
The letter-writing campaigns were organized on FreeRoots.com, which advertised itself as a platform to amplify grass-roots advocacy across the political spectrum. A Post review of its archived webpages shows that it was heavily used in late 2020 by groups seeking to overturn the presidential election results.
One of those groups was Every Legal Vote, which organized the campaign to send the message that Ginni Thomas sent on Nov. 9. In those first days after the Nov. 3 election, Every Legal Vote described itself online as a “labor of love by American citizens, in partnership” with the nonprofit United in Purpose, according to webpages preserved by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. United in Purpose, which harnesses data to galvanize conservative Christian voters, in recent years hosted luncheons where Thomas presented her Impact Awards to right-wing leaders.
On Dec. 14, 2020, Biden electors in Arizona cast their votes, after the election results were certified by Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) and Gov. Doug Ducey (R).
Trump electors met in Arizona that day and signed a document declaring themselves the state’s “duly elected and qualified Electors.” One of them was Kern, the outgoing state representative.
Kern was among more than a dozen lawmakers who signed on to a letter to Congress that same day calling for the state’s electoral votes to go to Trump or “be nullified completely until a full forensic audit can be conducted.”
The lawmakers’ letter was an exhibit in Kern and Gohmert’s lawsuit asking a federal court to rule that Pence had the “exclusive authority and sole discretion” in deciding which electoral votes to count for a given state. The plaintiffs asked the Supreme Court to intervene after the case was dismissed in lower courts. The day after the Jan. 6 insurrection, the court declined in an unsigned order.