The Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF) is the dark money fundraising arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA). Every year, RAGA gets millions of dollars from corporate America and receives funds from dark money donors through RLDF – including Leonard Leo’s network of organizations working to seat extreme conservative activists on the courts.
So what does defending the rule of law look like to the current crop of Republican Attorneys General?
Attempting to Overturn the Results of the 2020 Election
For starters, 17 Republican attorneys general – including 4 of the 6 RLDF board members – filed a brief with the Supreme Court supporting Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s far-fetched lawsuit asking the court to throw out the 2020 election results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. There have been no credible allegations of voter fraud that would have affected the outcome of the election, and despite the fact that one state being able to challenge the election results of another seems completely antithetical to the entire Republican orthodoxy around decentralized government and the notion of free and independent states.
If the court had agreed, neither Biden nor Trump would have had the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the presidency, throwing the election to the House of Representatives, where each state delegation would get a single vote and Republicans controlled a majority of state delegations. If every state voted along party lines, this would have handed Trump the presidency even though he lost the electoral college and the popular vote. However, SCOTUS declined to take up the case, reiterating what seemed obvious to the overwhelming majority of legal experts and plenty of non-experts as well – that Texas did not have the standing to challenge the election results of another state.
Paxton’s ill-fated attempt to help overturn the election has not been without consequence, though the Texas state bar has filed a professional misconduct lawsuit against him, which could lead to possible disbarment.
RLDF’s Involvement in the January 6 Insurrection
If attempting to abuse the law to overturn a presidential election for partisan gain wasn’t enough, RLDF also helped to organize the “March to Save America” on January 6, and made robocalls to supporters urging “patriots” to “call on Congress to stop the steal.” All of this lent credence to the idea that the election was stolen, leading to the attack on the Capitol and threatening the rule of law the group claims to defend.
RAGA and RLDF’s Funding Creates Conflicts of Interest
RAGA and RLDF take in substantial sums from major corporations, other special interest groups, and dark money organizations – companies and groups that may have business before members of the Republican Attorneys General Association, and could even be potential targets of investigations.
This includes more than $17 million to RAGA from trade associations during the 2020 election cycle – providing the bulk of their funding – and at least $13.7 million from the Concord Fund – formerly the Judicial Crisis Network – throughout their relationship. The Concord Fund is one of the groups closely associated with Leonard Leo, and has worked to seat ultraconservative activists on the courts. The dark money group has also given RLDF nearly $1.6 million and has used that relationship to get Republican attorneys general to throw their weight behind controversial Supreme Court nominees.
RLDF and RAGA have also received substantial contributions from fossil fuel industry groups, including Freedom Partners, a Koch brothers’ funded organization that gave RLDF at least $175,000; and ExxonMobil, which has been a sponsor at RAGA events. RLDF has used some of that money to fight against what it calls “regulatory overreach,” particularly regarding environmental regulations, and paying for attorneys general to mingle with donors at lavish events. As another watchdog has put it, the organizations function as “a vehicle for corporate donors to gain the credibility and expertise of state attorneys general in fighting federal regulations.”
Visit MonitoringInfluence.org to learn more about the Rule of Law Defense Fund and other Leonard Leo-connected groups.