Virginia Thomas’ paperless, pixel-less trail


We'd love to look closer at Liberty Consulting, the new firm started by Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas that Politico reported on today. But as of now (as Politico notes), the consultancy has not registered as a lobbying firm or disclosed any clients, though the firm says it "gives voice to principled citizens and the tea party movement in the halls of Congress through governmental affairs efforts," and whose founder claims, according to Politico, that she "has met with nearly half of the 99 GOP freshmen in the House and Senate." Whether those meetings were on behalf of clients, or occurred before or after those freshmen were elected, is not clear. 

The Politico story notes that Thomas created Liberty Consulting following the merger of her previous group, a nonprofit called Liberty Central, with Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty; Thomas left Liberty Central around the time of the merger. Guidestar, a website that offers tax returns and other information on nonprofits, has one return available for Liberty Central, showing that the 501(c)4 organization raised $550,000 between Nov. 6, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2009. The filing shows that, at least during its first two months, Liberty Central did not pay salaries to any of its officials, including Thomas, who is listed as the organization's president. 

Liberty Central did not disclose any activity to the Federal Election Commission, which tracks the independent expenditures and electioneering communications of outside organizations, nor did it register as an independent expenditure committee–groups that, in the wake of the Citizens United ruling, can raise and spend unlimited funds attempting to influence federal elections as long as they do not coordinate with candidates.

Because federal election and lobbying disclosure laws explicitly state the kinds of activity that require disclosure, groups that have a political purpose can influence elections and lobby while avoiding disclosure. Sunlight's Policy team offers more details on the lobbying aspect of this here.  

If and when Thomas' new group, Liberty Consulting, registers to lobby, it will appear in Sunlight's Lobbyist Registration Tracker