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March 16, 2010; Wall Street Journal blog | During the famous oral argument questioning sessions at the U.S. Supreme Court, the member who is almost completely silent is among the most conservative, Justice Clarence Thomas. He doesn’t like to make speeches or speak much to the press, either, feeling that he doesn’t quite get a fair shake from reporters and editors.

But the wife of the taciturn justice, Virginia Thomas, is bursting out all over, getting quoted in the press for her comments at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference last month (“We’ve got to get the Constitution back to a place where it means something . . . or we’re headed for tyranny” and “I have come to know and love the Tea Party Patriots. It has been a privilege to become a bit of an ambassador of sorts for the National Board.”), and now forming her own political organizing and lobbying group called Liberty Central, described on its Web site as a nonprofit eligible for tax deductible contributions.

The Wall Street Journal notes that “Ginni” Thomas has a history of working in politics and for political action groups before this, having worked for former House Republican leader Dick Armey (Texas) and at jobs at the Heritage Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Hillsdale College.

What does Liberty Central do?  First, look at its published endorsements, a who’s who of the conservative political activist movement—Robby George of Princeton University’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, former Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, Heritage Foundation leader Ed Feulner, and Morton Blackwell of the Leadership Institute, among others.

But placed on top of these endorsements is a statement of support from Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin, identified as co-founders and  National Coordinators of “Tea Party Patriots.”  Apparently, Liberty Central, in its own words, “is activating informed American patriots who are seeking knowledge of the core founding principles and passionate about preserving freedom and liberty. By providing tailored information, encouraging civil discourse, and inspiring activism, Liberty Central brings people together to protect the core founding principles. In as little as 3-5 minutes a day, everyday citizens can connect through to meet like-minded others, get their voices heard and direct America’s future course.”

All it takes is 3 to five minutes a day to be an informed Tea Party activist.  Liberty Central promises to provide visitors to its Web site with “self-assessment tools directing them to profile-specific threats, opportunities, local activities, and groups they may wish to join.”

According to an NPR report by Nina Totenberg, Ginni Thomas identifies herself as a “fan” of Rush Limbaugh and admits to being “intrigued” by Glenn Beck. Obviously, whatever political line she holds, from the old-fashioned conservativism of Feulner and Blackwell to the conspiracy theory approaches of Beck and some wings of the Tea Party movement, is within her rights of free speech and political expression. But does her leadership of an expressly political nonprofit potentially jeopardize herself and Justice Thomas concerning conflicts of interest?

Isn’t it likely that among the potential contributors to Liberty Central will be corporations and interest groups with cases (or active positions on cases) in front of the Supreme Court?  Will the quietest of the Supreme Court justices be required to recuse himself from an increasing number of cases involving contributors to his wife’s campaign against, as she puts it, “the hard-left agenda.”

Not uncharacteristically, Justice Thomas had no comment about his wife’s new role, when asked by NPR.—Rick Cohen