Washington struggles with working spouse syndrome

By Laurie Bennett

November 16, 2010 at 8:27am

The two-income household continues to pose problems for Washington office holders.

The most recent example is that of Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who is resigning as CEO of the conservative organization she founded last year. A spokesperson for the group, Liberty Central, said she decided to step back to allow the organization to operate “without any of the distractions.”

Many had raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest that could arise for Justice Thomas because of his wife’s activism.

Two departing senators - Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Evan Bayh of Indiana - have encountered similar complaints. Jackie Clegg Dodd and Susan Bayh hold positions on multiple corporate boards. Both men chose not to seek re-election this year.

The issue is likely to escalate with other sitting judges and members of Congress, as more professional couples come to Washington.

A prime example is Diana Cantor, wife of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor.

Diana Cantor is a power unto herself. She is a lawyer and a CPA who was a vice president at Goldman Sachs and headed of the Virginia College Savings Plan for more than a decade.

She sits on the boards of two large companies - Domino’s Pizza and Media General. She also chairs the Virginia Retirement System, in the news lately because of concerns about underfunding of employee pensions.

Last year, Cantor’s position with New York Private Bank and Trust generated headlines because it was among the banks receiving federal bailout money.

Eric Cantor was one of the most strident voices calling for accountability in bailout spending. An aide told Pro Publica that the congressman was unaware that the bank received government money and never interceded on its behalf.

Diana Cantor left the bank in January, and became a partner of Alternative Investment Management.

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