Clarence Thomas's bizarre claim that he failed to disclose the lavish gifts he received from Republican megadonor Harlan Crow because he didn't believe he had to brought me back to a day 30 years ago when Bill Gates asked me to lunch.
I was secretary of labor then. Gates was the CEO of Microsoft, and the richest person in America.
Curious and flattered, I accepted his invitation.
I don't recall much about the lunch except that it was at an expensive restaurant, and everything Gates said struck me as rather predictable.
When I returned to my office, the Labor Department's chief lawyer stopped by to ask if I had enjoyed the lunch, and if I had paid for my portion. I was embarrassed to tell him that paying had never occurred to me. I was having lunch with Bill Gates, for crying out loud.
The chief lawyer patiently explained that federal law barred employees of the executive branch from accepting gifts whose value exceeded $50 — which would include my extravagant lunch with Bill Gates. "There are exceptions," he said, "but my advice is that you send Gates a check for the value of your lunch."
"Really?" I asked, incredulously. "I don't even know how much it cost!"
He whipped out a piece of paper. "We phoned his office, and you owe him $120."
"But…" I stammered.
"Oh, and be sure to make it a personal check," he said. "I can have it delivered to his hotel this afternoon. For safety sake, add $15 to cover the cost of delivery."
So I did what the Labor Department's chief lawyer advised I do. I made out a check to Bill Gates for $135.00.
I believe, but cannot be sure (this was 30 years ago), that he cashed it.
"Today the Justice Department arrested Jack Douglas Teixeira in connection with an investigation into alleged unauthorized removal, retention, and transmission of classified national defense information."
Q. What is the difference between a law-abiding gun owner and a criminal?
A. The .2 of a second that it takes to pull a trigger.