Right Wing Activist Leonard Leo Has Poured Millions Into Groups Seeking to Influence the Supreme Court

by | Dec 16, 2022 | Politics & Corruption

Leonard Leo outside the Supreme Court during the confirmation hearing for Justice Neil Gorsuch Credit: Mark Peterson/Redux

Right Wing Activist Leonard Leo Has Poured Millions Into Groups Seeking to Influence the Supreme Court

by | Dec 16, 2022 | Politics & Corruption

Leonard Leo outside the Supreme Court during the confirmation hearing for Justice Neil Gorsuch Credit: Mark Peterson/Redux
Newly obtained records show how Leonard Leo, an architect of the right-wing takeover of the courts, has been funding groups pushing to change elections and anti-discrimination laws.

Flush with money after receiving the largest-known political advocacy donation in U.S. history, conservative activist Leonard Leo and his associates are spending millions of dollars to influence some of the Supreme Court’s most consequential recent cases, newly released tax documentsobtained by ProPublica and The Lever show.

The documents detail how Leo, who helped build the Supreme Court’s conservative majority as an adviser to President Donald Trump, has used a sprawling network of opaque nonprofits to fund groups advocating for ending affirmative action, rolling back anti-discrimination protections and allowing state legislatures unreviewable oversight of federal elections.

The records also show that the Leo-aligned nonprofits paid millions of dollars to for-profit entities connected to Leo.

Leo and one of his top associates did not respond to requests for comment.

The money flowed mostly through so-called dark money groups, which don’t have to disclose their donors. They are required to reveal the recipients of their spending in their annual tax returns, which are released to the public, but often those are also dark money groups or other entities that have minimal disclosure rules.

As ProPublica and The Lever detailed in August, Leo was gifted a $1.6 billion fortune last year by a reclusive manufacturing magnate, Barre Seid. The newly revealed tax documents cover last year, just as Leo was in the process of receiving that enormous donation.

The Supreme Court case involving a Colorado-based website designer who refuses to work for same-sex couples provides a window into Leo’s strategy.

At least six groups funded by Leo’s network have filed briefs supporting the suit, which seeks to overturn Colorado’s anti-discrimination law. The Ethics and Public Policy Center, which records show received $1.9 million from Leo’s network, submitted a brief supporting the web designer. So did Concerned Women for America, which has received at least $565,000 over the past two years from the Leo network, as well as an organization called the Becket Fund, which got $550,000 from a Leo group.

Leo’s network has also been the top funder of the Republican Attorneys General Association, or RAGA, which spends money to elect GOP attorneys general and serves as a policy hub for the state officials. Twenty Republican attorneys general have also filed a brief in support of the case. One Leo group donated $6.5 million to RAGA during the 2022 election cycle, according to the association’s federal filings.

The largest donation by Leo’s network was $71 million given to DonorsTrust, a so-called donor-advised fund that pools money from numerous funders and gives it out to largely conservative and libertarian groups. Past reports havedescribed DonorsTrust as a “dark-money ATM” of the conservative movement.

Another case that Leo groups have sought to influence is Moore v. Harper, which could have sweeping implications for American democracy. The question posed in the case is whether the Constitution affords state legislatures the power to create rules for federal elections without state court oversight or intervention.

The Honest Elections Project, an initiative within another key Leo organization, the 85 Fund, has backed the plaintiff’s case with an amicus brief. The tax documents show that the 85 Fund also donated $400,000 in 2020 to the Public Interest Legal Foundation, an Indianapolis-based conservative legal group that filed a supportive brief in the case.

Thirteen Republican attorneys general filed a brief backing the suit as well.

The Supreme Court is also hearing two cases this term brought by the conservative group Students for Fair Admissions that are challenging universities’ affirmative action policies. The group received $250,000 from the 85 Fund in 2020, the tax records show, more than a third of the total it raised that year.

Speech First, which the records show received $700,000 in 2020-21 from the 85 Fund, filedbriefs backing Students for Fair Admissions in both cases. Republican attorneys general, backed by Leo’s network, submittedbriefs, too.

The other theme to emerge from the new tax records is the large amount of expenditures going to for-profit entities run by or connected to Leo. The 85 Fund’s largest outside vendor for 2021 was CRC Advisors, a for-profit consulting firm chaired by Leo. The 85 Fund paid CRC Advisors $22 million last year, tax records show.

The largest outside vendor to the Concord Fund, another hub in Leo’s network, was also CRC Advisors, which received nearly $8 million over the course of a year. Concord also paid $500,000 to BH Group, another for-profit firm led by Leo.

There is no prohibition on nonprofits sending business to companies they have connections to, but any deals must be made at a fair market value.

The companies did not immediately respond to questions about the payments.

Republished with permission from ProPublica, by



ProPublica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force. They dig deep into important issues, shining a light on abuses of power and betrayals of public trust — and they stick with those issues as long as it takes to hold power to account.

With a team of more than 100 dedicated journalists, ProPublica covers a range of topics including government and politics, business, criminal justice, the environment, education, health care, immigration, and technology. They focus on stories with the potential to spur real-world impact. Among other positive changes, their reporting has contributed to the passage of new laws; reversals of harmful policies and practices; and accountability for leaders at local, state and national levels.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow Us

Related Articles

Feb 03 2023

Private Medicare Advantage Plans That Stole Money From Medicare Are Being Allowed to Keep It

In a dizzying display of twisted “logic,” the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are not requiring repayments of funds stolen through rampant...
Feb 01 2023

Ethics Concerns at the Supreme Court: Roberts’ Wife Is the Latest Flap

The wife of Chief Justice John Roberts, like insurrectionist Ginni Thomas, apparently has been utilizing her position of being “married to the Court” for...
Scott Jenkins, sheriff of Culpeper County, Va., is one of a large number of so-called ‘constitutional sheriffs’ in the U.S. Eva Hambach/AFP via Getty Images
Jan 31 2023

Barrier to Gun Control: The Delusional Authority of Constitutional Sheriffs

The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association has spent more than a decade actively recruiting and training sheriffs to believe that their office is more...
Jan 30 2023

More George Santos: His Top Donors Don’t Seem to Exist

The burners under the pot of questions and investigations surrounding the lies and possible crimes of George Santos appear to have been turned up full blast.
Jan 29 2023

GOP House Goes Big on Hiring Big Oil Lobbyists for Staff Positions

It’s no surprise that Big Oil is infiltrating the halls of Congress after spending millions to elect some of the most extreme legislators in American...
Jan 25 2023

Election Denial Has Been a Lucrative Business for Kari Lake

Kari Lake raised over $2.5 million after her election loss, but less than 10% of her post-election spending went to lawyers.
Jan 24 2023

New Brett Kavanaugh Documentary Hopes to Spark a Full Investigation

A surprise documentary about Brett Kavanaugh reveals disturbing new evidence of misconduct by Kavanaugh and his associates surrounding the right-wing justice’s...
Catherine Engelbrecht, center, founder of True the Vote, and Gregg Phillips, right, at a news conference in Las Vegas Credit: Bridget Bennett/Reuters
Jan 24 2023

Election Deniers True the Vote Sought Funds for an Abandoned Hospital Project in Ukraine

True the Vote, a group that spread discredited election conspiracy theories, “abandoned” The Freedom Hospital in April 2022, according to its lawyers. Yet board member...
Jan 17 2023

Republicans Focus on Gutting Medicare and Social Security

Republicans plan to destroy Medicare and Social Security because their fondest wish is to protect the wealth of the rich. Thus they are prepared to ignore the...
Jan 17 2023

Medicare Advantage Is Nothing but a Money-Making Scam. I Should Know. I Helped to Sell It.

I am a former health-care executive who helped develop PR and marketing schemes to sell private Medicare Advantage insurance plans.
Subscribe for Updates!

Subscribe for Updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This