To: Interested Parties
From: Accountable. US
Date: November 9, 2023
RE: Leonard Leo’s Federalist Society: A Hub for Corruption, Money, and Extremism
As Federalist Society members prepare to gather in Washington this weekend, it’s important to recognize this conference is not an exploration of conservative legal perspectives — it’s an opportunity for Leonard Leo to get all his players in one room and further grow his money-making influence machine while pushing an extremist, far-right agenda.
Recent reporting reveals that the Federalist Society has transformed over several decades under the influence of Leonard Leo, who uses his association with the Federalist Society to connect powerful members of the judiciary with a band of billionaires looking to drive the country’s policy agenda.
From the 1990s to today, Leo remains closely affiliated with the Federalist Society, currently serving as the group’s co-chair and previously as the vice president. He played an outsized role in selecting five of the six conservatives on the Supreme Court bench and seeks to reimagine the American political system using his $1.6 billion financial windfall from Barre Seid.
The Federalist Society positions itself as “a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in […] reordering priorities within the legal system to place a premium on individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law.” But a comprehensive analysis paints a much different story.
In recent years, due to Leo’s activities, the organization has transformed into a billionaire’s club: a safe space for extreme Republican donors to gain access at every level of the judiciary including the U.S. Supreme Court, while personally enriching Leo and his cronies.
- When Leo officially began his work with the Federalist Society in 1991, his goal was to transform the organization from a student group into a pipeline for conservatives to meet, develop reputations, and get involved in legal policy.
Leo Uses the Federalist Society to Facilitate Relationships Between Wealthy Benefactors and Members of the Judiciary
- Serving as the longtime vice president of the Federalist Society opened many doors – and pockets – for Leo. Almost immediately after the organization’s inception, “the group was embraced and funded by a number of powerful, wealthy conservative organizations, which eventually included foundations associated with John Olin, Lynde and Harry Bradley, Richard Scaife, and the Koch brothers.”
- While he served as vice president of the Federalist Society, Leo met potential donor Barre Seid. In 2021, Seid gifted Leo $1.6 billion in what is believed to be the largest political donation of all time, solidifying him as a leader of the conservative movement, even beyond the judiciary.
In Some Cases, These Relationships Lead to Lavish Vacations and Fancy Fundraiser Slots for Conservative Judges and Justices…
- In 2008, Leo arranged an exclusive fishing expedition in Alaska for billionaire hedge fund manager and Republican donor Paul Singer and Justice Samuel Alito, a trip that Alito failed to report in his financial disclosure for that year.
- Sometimes the Federalist Society is not just the great connector – it even pays the bills. The group paid for Alito to visit multiple international destinations like Paris and Vienna.
- Leo has fostered longstanding relationships between Justice Clarence Thomas and billionaire Federalist Society donors, including Harlan Crow and the Koch brothers.
- As a result, Thomas travels to Crow’s private resort – where you’ll find his picture on the wall – and on his yacht and private jet. He serves as a special guest at Koch Brothers’ fancy fundraisers in luxurious locations like Palm Springs.
…And, In Others, the Proximity to Money and Power Leads to Blatant Corruption, Landing Leo in Hot Water with the Law
- In August 2023, the DC AG launched an investigation into Leonard Leo and his affiliated dark money nonprofits to determine whether has illegally enriched himself by funneling contributions to his personal bank account and for-profit entities, in particular his public relations firm, CRC Advisors.
- Just this week, the Senate Judiciary committee will vote to subpoena Leonard Leo for refusing to cooperate with information requests as part of the Committee’s Supreme Court ethics investigation.