Leonard Leo has spent a long time influencing courts on the federal and state ranges to advance far proper politics.
A brand new investigation finds that teams related to distinguished anti-abortion judicial activist Leonard Leo — who has had a hand within the nomination of each sitting conservative Supreme Courtroom justice — have poured tens of thousands and thousands into vital state court docket races over the previous 20 years, demonstrating the depth of Leo’s marketing campaign to pack U.S. courts with far proper judges.
Grid News has found that Leo’s community of darkish cash and political teams, by way of money influxes from sources just like the Koch household, has injected at the least $31 million into at the least 42 races in 15 states since 2010, in search of to affect races for state Supreme Courts and different high-level state judgeships.
State judges at these ranges typically make essential selections on insurance policies like abortion bans and voting rights. Lately particularly, far proper politicians have more and more seen state courts as roadblocks to implementing the extremist anti-democratic legal guidelines that they’ve handed by way of conservative-dominated state legislatures.
Marketing campaign contributions for state court docket races are significantly efficient, as judicial candidates sometimes spend a lot much less to get elected than in different equally high-profile races.
“The return on funding is absolutely good for state Supreme Courtroom election,” Michael Kang, Northwestern College legislation professor, informed Grid Information. “And there’s much less cash nonetheless spent on judicial races than legislative or govt contests. So that they’re cheaper, and the cash has a big effect, as a result of there’s not that many seats at stake.”
On the identical time, public disclosure necessities for marketing campaign contributions are comparatively lax, and voters might not be capable of see who gave to a marketing campaign till after judges are sworn in. And, even when such donations are disclosed, companies and different deep-pocketed donors can disguise their names behind teams like these in Leo’s in depth darkish cash community, which means that their true identities may very well be hidden perpetually.
Grid Information discovered that a lot of Leo’s affect on this sphere comes from the Judicial Equity Initiative (JFI), a darkish cash group largely funded by the Republican Occasion’s state marketing campaign arm, the Republican State Management Committee (RSLC). Lately, the RSLC’s prime funder was a gaggle led by Leo, the Judicial Disaster Community.
The acknowledged goal of the JFI is “halting [the] transformation” of the authorized system to “an advocate for the liberal political agenda” — although, sarcastically, it seems to be working with the curiosity of turning courts into far proper assist programs.
In simply 4 years, between 2014 and 2018, the JFI spent over $10 million in state judicial elections, and is at the moment working with the objective of injecting extra funds into judicial elections than ever. In a press release earlier this 12 months, the JFI mentioned it was “dedicated to spending extra sources on state Supreme Courtroom races in 2022 than in any 12 months within the committee’s historical past.”
The investigation lends additional proof to the truth that as we speak’s extremist Supreme Courtroom and rising fascist political setting didn’t come out of nowhere; conservative activists have spent a long time on their efforts to pack courts at each the federal and state ranges, with Leo on the forefront of many of those campaigns.
Whereas Leonard Leo will not be a family identify, the 57-year-old anti-abortion activist is among the most influential individuals in trendy politics. By means of his in depth darkish cash community and high-level political connections, Leo has had a significant hand within the nomination of each sitting right-wing Supreme Courtroom justice, who dominated this summer season to overturn Roe v. Wade and erode different essential rights.
For example, all three of former President Donald Trump’s Supreme Courtroom nominations got here from Leo’s handpicked checklist of potential Supreme Courtroom candidates, after Leo fashioned an in depth relationship with prime Trump White Home adviser Kellyanne Conway.