WASHINGTON, DC – New reporting from Politico’s Heidi Przybyla today uncovered damning new details of conservative kingpin Leonard Leo, far-right activist Ginni Thomas, and billionaire Supreme Court benefactor Harlan Crow’s work together around the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.
The Politico investigation outlines how a Leo-linked charity dumped huge sums into his pet projects and enriched his friends — all while Leo worked to capture the Court, roll back Americans’ rights, and empower extremists and special interests.
Leonard Leo has written the playbook on court corruption and dark money influence. This is yet another example of his decades-long scheme to erode democracy and force his own dangerous agenda on Americans,” said Accountable.US senior advisor Kyle Herrig.
“Thanks to influence-peddlers like Leonard Leo, billionaire benefactors pull the strings of our Supreme Court. The case for urgent reform has never been stronger — we need action now to restore the credibility and integrity of our nation’s highest Court,” continued Herrig.
Key Politico highlights:
“‘Ginni really wanted to build an organization and be a movement leader,” said a person familiar with her thinking at that time. “Leonard [Leo] was going to be the conduit of that.’”
“From those early discussions among Leo, Thomas and Crow would spring a billion-dollar force that has helped remake the judiciary and overturn longstanding legal precedents on abortion, affirmative action and many other issues. It funded legal scholars to devise theories to challenge liberal precedents, helped to elect state attorneys general willing to apply those theories and launched lavish campaigns for conservative judicial nominees who would cite those theories in their rulings from the bench.”
The movement’s triumphs are now visible but its engine remains hidden: A billion-dollar network of groups, most of which are registered as tax-exempt charities or social welfare organizations. Taking advantage of gaps in disclosure laws, they shield the identities of most of their donors and some of the recipients of the funds. Among those who’ve been paid by the groups are leading thinkers and individuals with close personal ties to Leo — including a whopping $7 million to a group run by a close friend and his wife. They also include a for-profit business for which Leo himself is chairman and which received tens of millions of dollars from his nonprofit network.
Leo’s role as the central figure in this movement has long been known, culminating in his acquisition last year of what many believe to be the largest political donation in history. Few are aware of the extent to which the movement’s baby steps were taken in concert with Ginni Thomas.”
“…Potential IRS filing inconsistencies, [the Judicial Education Project’s] reactivation at the time when [Ginni] Thomas’ own nonprofit experiment fell apart and the large sums JEP has taken in and paid out make a compelling case for a closer look at how much money Thomas may have received from Leo-affiliated sources, said Eric Havian, a San Francisco attorney who has represented whistleblowers for more than 25 years and reviewed tax records at POLITICO’s request.”
“In introducing him, [Ginni] Thomas said Leo has “single-handedly changed the face of the judiciary,” and described him as a “disciplined strategist,” “wonderful father” and “mentor to me.” Thomas also gave a nod to Leo’s role as a behind-the-scenes player. “He has many hats,” she said. “That isn’t even all he does. He doesn’t really tell all that he does.’”
The new revelations follow recent reporting from Politico exposing an ongoing investigation by DC Attorney General Brian Schwalb into Leonard Leo’s shady network, as well as reporting from The Washington Post revealing that Leo puppeteered an extensive PR campaign designed to defend and celebrate Justice Clarence Thomas over decades.
Learn more about Leonard Leo, his dangerous agenda, and his wide-reaching dark money web at LeonardLeo.org.