The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Bob Costa of CBS News have unleashed a fury of renewed interest in the work of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Last Thursday, Woodward and Costa set off a political firestorm when they released the contents of emails that Ginni Thomas, wife of the sitting Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas, had sent to President Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, in 2020, urging him to overturn the Biden election win and attempting to steer his efforts in that regard.
A total of 29 emails were obtained by Woodward and Costa, with the bulk of the emails occurring in just the month of November 2020, raising questions as to how many more emails are still out there from Thomas to the White House from December 1, 2020 through January 20, 2021 when Biden was sworn in.
Much of the current news debate around the emails is focusing on whether Clarence Thomas should recuse himself from cases involving groups with which his wife is involved and whether the Select Committee should subpoena Ginni Thomas to testify. While those are certainly important issues, what has thus far been ignored is the smoking gun trail that leads directly to the doorstep of billionaire and right-wing Republican political mastermind, Charles Koch, the Chairman, CEO (and majority owner with the heirs of his deceased brother David) of the fossil fuels conglomerate Koch Industries.
Wall Street On Parade has previously documented that at least three of the front groups that fomented the Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from Trump and that actively solicited thousands of people to turn out for the January 6 event at the Capitol, were funded by Koch Industries or its front groups.
The smoking gun in the Ginni Thomas email thread occurs in an email dated November 10, 2020 when she tells Meadows to “Listen to Rush. Mark Steyn, Bongino, Cleta.” Thomas is clearly referring to conservative commentators Rush Limbaugh, Mark Steyn and Dan Bongino, and lawyer, Cleta Mitchell.
Cleta Mitchell is best known in the Trump election saga as the lawyer who was on the January 2, 2021 call with Donald Trump when he phoned the Secretary of State of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, and told him this: “I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.” That call took place two months after the presidential election. (Mitchell stepped down from her long-term employment at law firm Foley & Lardner after her presence on that call made the news cycle.)
But Cleta Mitchell’s relationship with Ginni Thomas dates back at least a decade earlier – and not in a good way.
Cleta Mitchell had filed an amicus brief in the Citizens United case before the Supreme Court that was decided on January 21, 2010. That case would be the tipping point to allow unlimited sums from corporations – like Koch Industries — in U.S. elections.
Just eight days after Justice Thomas voted in favor of that decision to open the floodgates to corporate money in campaigns, Cleta Mitchell made a move that looked very much like a quid pro quo to Ginni Thomas. Mitchell, then still a partner at Foley & Lardner, filed an application with the Internal Revenue Service to set up a nonprofit called Liberty Central, Inc. on behalf of Ginni Thomas. According to IRS tax filings, Liberty Central received a combined $1.478 million from dark money donors in 2009 and 2010.
On the IRS tax filings for Liberty Central for 2009 and 2010, Ginni (Virginia) Thomas is listed as President and CEO. The 2010 tax filing shows that Ginni Thomas received $120,511 in compensation from Liberty Central that year. She eventually stepped down from an official post at the nonprofit, stating she would serve as a consultant.
Liberty Central had the fingerprints of Charles Koch all over it. Acting as General Counsel in 2010 for Liberty Central was a former lawyer for the Charles G. Koch Foundation, Sarah Field. A former Koch lobbyist, Matt Schlapp, served on the Board of Liberty Central at inception.
Mitchell’s law firm, Foley & Lardner, employed three attorneys working as lobbyists for a Koch Industries affiliate, Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC in Madison, Wisconsin in 2011. The Koch-related lobbyists were Ray Carey, Jason Childress and Kathleen Walby.
Mitchell, herself, was a former lobbyist at the federal level in years 2005 through 2008 for the Alliance for Charitable Reform, a project of The Philanthropy Roundtable, another tax-exempt organization. Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, two dark money groups which also have Charles Koch’s fingerprints all over them, were spun off from the Philanthropy Roundtable in 1999. (See our report: Koch Footprints Lead to Secret Slush Fund to Keep Fear Alive.)
Mitchell is listed on the 2018 federal tax filing for Steve Bannon’s charity, Citizens of the American Republic, as an officer of the organization, holding the position of Secretary. Bannon and others were charged in August of 2021 by the Department of Justice with bilking donors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars through that charity.
Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, was one of those pushing the narrative on television that the election had been stolen from Donald Trump. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, lawyers and staff of Foley & Lardner were the third largest donor to Johnson’s campaign committees since 2015. Employees and officials of Koch Industries ranked fifth.
There were only eight Republican Senators who refused to certify the votes for the challenged states of Arizona and/or Pennsylvania. Those Republican Senators were: Ted Cruz of Texas; Josh Hawley of Missouri; Rick Scott of Florida; Tommy Tuberville of Alabama; Roger Marshall of Kansas; Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi; John Kennedy of Louisiana; and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming. Every Republican Senator who refused to certify the election results on January 6 received funding from Koch Industries PAC.
Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, whom Ginni Thomas enlisted in the White House to help overturn Biden’s election win, was previously a member of the House of Representatives from North Carolina from 2013 to 2020. He also received campaign funding from the Koch Industries PAC throughout his time in Congress.
Charles Koch is usually very careful in keeping an arm’s length relationship between himself and his political operations. But on at least one occasion Koch conducted a dinner meeting directly with sitting Justice Clarence Thomas at a private club in California.
In January 2008, Justice Thomas attended an all-expenses-paid, four-day trip to the Koch brothers’ semi-annual political gathering in the Palm Springs area of California. (According to his 2008 disclosure form and the Supreme Court’s public information office, Thomas’ expenses for that trip were paid by the Federalist Society, a conservative nonprofit that Koch foundations have generously supported.)
Justice Thomas’ trip to the Koch event occurred in the same year that the Citizens Unitedcase was accepted by the Supreme Court. The Court accepts less than two percent of all cases appealed to it.
Wall Street On Parade was previously able to confirm with Scott Markley, Public Information Specialist at the Supreme Court, that during that January 2008 visit to the Koch political gathering, Justice Thomas was hosted by Charles Koch and his wife, Elizabeth, at the private Vintage Club where Charles Koch is a member.
The Citizens United decision did not pass the smell test when it was approved in a 5-4 vote by the Supreme Court. Four of the nine justices wrote a scathing dissent that raised the issue of unprincipled behavior, writing that the majority had ruled on issues that were not even legally before the court.
The money that the Koch political machine pumped into putting Trump in the Oval Office quickly paid big dividends in his first term (and made it clear as to why Charles Koch would have wanted to see a second Trump term).
Koch Industries’ law firm, Jones Day, sent 12 of its law partners to staff up key positions in the Trump administration on the very day Trump was inaugurated. Jones Day has since sacked the press release it issued at the time but you can read the reporting on it at the American Bar Association Journal.
Once Trump was settled in the Oval Office, a Koch front group, then known as Freedom Partners, mapped out the agenda it expected Trump to march to. In a document titled “Roadmap to Repeal: Removing Regulatory Barriers to Opportunity,” the group listed the laws and regulations it expected to be repealed in the first 100 days of Trump’s administration. The Trump administration dutifully marched to the beat. Repeal the Paris Climate Accord – done. Tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy – done. Gutting federal regulations and the Environmental Protection Agency – done.
By the spring of 2018, 12 people who previously worked at Freedom Partners were working in the Trump administration. Freedom Partners has since disbanded but when we last took a look at the nonprofit in July 2018, we found that all but one of Freedom Partners’ 9-member Board of Directors was a current or former Koch company employee. The Board Chair of Freedom Partners at that time was the same Mark Holden that was the General Counsel of Koch Industries.
It’s time for the House Select Committee to subpoena not just Ginni Thomas and Cleta Mitchell. It’s time to hear from Charles Koch directly on how so much money bearing his fingerprints ended up fomenting the attack on the Capitol on January 6.
There will never be a better time than now for the American people to finally get at the truth.