Although Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the United States’ last eight presidential elections, six of the U.S. Supreme Court’s nine justices are Republican appointees — including Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whose confirmation was rammed through the U.S. Senate only a month before then-President Donald Trump was voted out of office. The far right wanted Barrett confirmed ASAP, and according to Daily Poster reporters Andrew Perez and Julia Rock, “conservative dark money” played a major role in Barrett’s “confirmation campaign.”
Perez and Rock, in an article published on December 19, report, “A conservative dark money group led by former President Donald Trump’s judicial adviser Leonard Leo bankrolled Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation campaign with nearly $22 million in anonymous cash, while another nonprofit that Leo helps steer saw a fundraising bonanza and showered cash on other organizations boosting Barrett, according to tax returns obtained by The Daily Poster. The new tax returns shed light on how Barrett’s successful last-minute confirmation campaign was aided by a flood of dark money.”
Those tax returns, the reporters add, “also reveal the rapid growth of Leo’s already highly successful dark money network and its tentacles in the broader conservative movement.”
“Leo is a longtime executive at the Federalist Society, a group for conservative lawyers,” Perez and Rock explain. “He formed the Rule of Law Trust (RLT) in 2018, and the group quickly raised nearly $80 million. RLT started spending that money in 2020, donating $21.5 million to the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), another group steered by Leo that played a key role in Republicans flipping the Supreme Court and building a conservative supermajority.”
Perez and Rock add that JCN “spent millions pressing Republican senators to block (President Barack) Obama’s 2016 Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland, and subsequently spent millions boosting each of Trump’s High Court nominees — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Barrett — all while Leo was advising Trump’s judicial strategy.”
The fact that JCN opposed Garland’s nomination so vehemently speaks volumes. After Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016, Obama went very centrist with his Garland nomination; he didn’t nominate someone as liberal as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Chief Justice Earl Warren. And Obama was more than willing to meet Republicans half way.
In fact, Garland, as U.S. attorney general under President Joe Biden, has cited Edward Levi — Republican President Gerald R. Ford’s attorney general during the mid-1970s — as his role model for how the U.S. Department of Justice should operate. Ford, of course, was vice president under President Richard Nixon before Nixon resigned, in August 1974, because of the Watergate scandal. And the JCN is so far to the right that they consider even the legal and judicial standards of the Ford Administration too liberal.
“Leo also helps direct the 85 Fund, a charitable organization being used to fiscally sponsor a host of conservative nonprofits, including the Judicial Education Project, which has long been JCN’s sister arm,” Perez and Rock note. “The 85 Fund reported bringing in nearly $66 million in 2020, according to its latest tax return. That’s a huge increase over the roughly $13 million the organization raised in 2019, per OpenSecrets, which found the majority of the 85 Fund’s 2020 money came from DonorsTrust, a group known as a ‘dark money ATM,’ for its use as a pass-through vehicle.”