Ginni Thomas: I’m not leaving my Tea Party organization
Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist married to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, says she is not abandoning the Tea Party-affiliated organization she founded.
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller, Thomas publicly disclosed for the first time that she resigned on Thursday as the leader of her Liberty Central, but stressed that she still plans to spend the bulk of her time working as a consultant for the organization’s newly-formed alliance with the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty.
The founder of that group, Gary Aldrich — a former FBI agent who gained fame in the nineties for a book he wrote on former President Bill Clinton — will assume the leadership of both organizations.
Thomas said a “Eureka moment” occurred earlier this year when she and Aldrich — who have known each other since the 1990s, but reconnected at recent Tea Party events — first envisioned a possible alliance.
“The more we realized where we both were, our shared missions, our share principles, our shared knowledge of the conservative movement,” she explained, “it became clear that there could be an alliance here.”
During a wide range discussion Thursday, both Thomas and Aldrich discussed the joining together of the two groups, outlined their goals and defended themselves from criticism in the media, including concerns that Thomas’ political activities could pose problems for her husband on the high court and Aldrich’s high-profile past could be a distraction for the Tea Party movement.
Though she repeatedly argued that her notoriety was not the reason for leaving the leadership, Thomas did say: “It’s better for the organization not to be centered around a personality.” She argued that “if you look at any of the established conservative groups, it’s hard for them to pull away from some of their leaders.”
Thomas also called it “laughable” that people would suggest her resignation is linked to the press she received recently for leaving a message soliciting an apology from Anita Hill, who in 1991 made sexual harassment accusations against Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings. Asked to elaborate on that voicemail, she called it “a private matter,” but said: “It was probably a mistake on my part.”
Instead, Thomas said, the idea for the joining together of both groups came about earlier this year when Aldrich felt his group’s 501(c)(3) status was restrictive because it stopped the Patrick Henry Center from engaging in political activities. Likewise, Thomas wanted Liberty Central, who as a 501(c)(4) can be involved in political campaigns, to have similar educational activities that Aldrich’s group does.
“Gary and I kept running into each other,” Thomas explained, “and so as we did that, we realized we have similar principles, we’re in the same space. I’m looking to do a (c)(3), he’s looking to do a (c)(4). Our missions were the same. And as he started seeing the value of Liberty Central and how he was anxious to do more lobbying, it all just made perfect sense.”
As for what her consulting role entails, Thomas said she will “help them in any way I can think of, whether it’s lobbying on the Hill or connecting with the grassroots, or helping speak or write or fundraise — whatever Gary wants to do with me.” While Thomas says she’s open to having other clients, her work on behalf of the groups is “the primary thing I’d be working on.”
The Washington Post last month first reported the news about an alliance between the two groups, but a Liberty Central spokesman strongly pushed back on the story. Thomas now says the story was “premature” and “inaccurate,” because no deal had been inked yet, and the story seemed to suggest she was cutting ties with the group all together.
Thomas elaborated: “They had me gone from Liberty Central. So to paraphrase Mark Twain, news of my demise has been greatly exaggerated.”
Thomas also said conflict of interest concerns involving her husband also did not drive her out of the leadership spot. “There are no problems with me doing what I constitutionally can do as a U.S. citizen,” she said. “I didn’t lose my constitutional rights when I married a judge.”
But she did say: “If this also has the extra benefit of helping reduce distractions, that’s fine with me.”
What does Justice Thomas, who Ginni Thomas has been married to for 23 years, think of her political activities? “We’re both proud of each other of what we do in our separate professional lives,” she said.
Both she and Aldrich, whose book is often met with skepticism in the media, have faced similar obstacles, Thomas says. “We both have histories, there’s no doubt about it,” she said. “We’re a perfect tag team for the histories we’ve been through with the media and the Washington establishment.”
Aldrich, in the interview, dismissed the notions made in a recent Politico.com profile of him suggesting he’s reinventing himself to fit in with the Tea Party movement. He argues he’s a true grassroots activist. “I’m latching on to anything that’s protecting my liberty,” he half-jokingly responded.
So what exactly do the two groups do, and what do they hope to accomplish?
“It was my vision in starting Liberty Central as basically a website, a virtual website, a virtual public square where we could listen, inform and activate citizens to lobby for liberty in as little as 3 or 5 minutes a day from the comfort of their home,” Thomas said.
The small staff of her virtual organization, Thomas said, work from home, coming together on Mondays every week for meetings at her kitchen table.
When Liberty Central launched its website about six months ago, it had a database of only 6,000 people, mostly from Thomas’ rolodex. Since the election, Thomas said, she’s built it up to about 125,000.
“What Gary Aldrich wants to do, which is so exciting to me,” Thomas said about the alliance, “is to bring it to a 2.0 level, so that it’s not just virtual, but it’s also got an actual physical grassroots presence and have some boots on the ground on the Hill.”
Aldrich says his organization, the Patrick Henry Center, aims to teach other Tea Partiers that not everyone in Washington D.C is bad, and there actually are some conservatives in the Capital “who have been working for liberty” that can be helpful.
“When I first met the leadership of the Tea Parties, they were happy to think the entirety of Washington D.C. would break up and float out into the ocean,” he lamented. “They had no use for anybody here.”
Now, with combined resources, both groups hope to organize the conservative grassroots and help them get in touch with the powerful on Capitol Hill.
“My power and influence comes to bear by connecting lots of different people,” Thomas said. “I think of it as connecting a rope.”