Don’t boo; but, the problem is women. Stay with me here. It isn’t women as opposed to men. It’s women in their role as spouses (and on a rare occasion it’s men in their role as spouses).
Let’s look at two spouses. Ginny Thomas and Supriya Jindal.
Ginny is married to Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court. Supriya is married to Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
Mrs. Thomas is quoted as saying "I did not give up my First Amendment rights when my husband became a justice of the Supreme Court." She is absolutely right; and, she’s been exercising them for years.
Until December she ran Liberty Central, “a conservative Web site that she founded in 2009 and that has strong links to the Tea Party movement. An anonymous $500,000 donation to start up Liberty Central came from Harlan Crow, a Dallas real estate investor and Republican financier….” NYTimes.com
Before that, she worked for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. USAToday.com
This year, she formed a consulting and lobbying firm, Liberty Consulting, Inc., which will“advocate for ‘liberty-loving citizens’ who favored limited government, free enterprise and other core conservative issues. She promised to use her ‘experience and connections’ to help clients raise money and increase their political impact.” NYTimes.com
A couple of months after Governor Jindal took office, Supriya Jindal formed Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the foundation has received large amounts of money from corporations with pressing legal and regulatory concerns in Louisiana.
“AT&T, which needed Mr. Jindal, a Republican, to sign off on legislation allowing the company to sell cable television services without having to negotiate with individual parishes, has pledged at least $250,000 to the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children. Marathon Oil, which last year won approval from the Jindal administration to increase the amount of oil it can refine at its Louisiana plant, also committed to a $250,000 donation. And the military contractor Northrop Grumman, which got state officials to help set up an airplane maintenance facility at a former Air Force base, promised $10,000 to the charity.
The foundation has collected nearly $1 million in previously unreported pledges from major oil companies, insurers and other corporations in Louisiana with high-stakes regulatory issues….” NYTimes.com
Ginny Thomas has every right to promote whatever political views she wishes. Supriya Jindal is using the corporate donations to help Louisiana kids who desperately need the help.
To pick on someone from the other side of the political spectrum, Michelle Obama is promoting reducing child obesity and encouraging all Americans to eat healthy foods. She’s able to do this because of her status as the First Lady. And while I don’t know it, I would not be at all surprised if some corporations have gotten on board with money and effort to help her.
So here’s my problem. Clarence Thomas has said that he isn’t influenced by his wife’s political work. Bobby Jindal has said the same things about the money his wife has collected. I’m sure Barack Obama would say similar things about corporate largesse helping Michelle Obama. I’m not at all sure I believe them.
If Clarence, Bobby and Barack can’t do the things their wives are doing and operate legally and ethically (though Clarence might disagree with me given recent speeches), shouldn’t the prohibition extend to their wives? The answer is no.
Marrying someone doesn’t extinguish the non-public spouse’s “personhood.” We are long past the days of Lady Bird Johnson and Jackie Kennedy confining their efforts to flowers and the arts. The influence wielded by the corporations, through the spouses, on the public officials can’t and shouldn’t be stopped by statutes, regulations or ethics rules. I just have to trust to the officials’ integrity and honor to resist the temptation to look favorably on the corporations making the indirect bribes. But, I’m nervous.