WASHINGTON, DC – This week, new reporting from Politico uncovered details of the close personal and financial relationships between conservative kingpin Leonard Leo, billionaire Supreme Court benefactor Harlan Crow, and right-wing activist Ginni Thomas.
The investigation found that meetings between Leo, Thomas, and Crow during the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case were the starting point for a “billion-dollar force that has helped remake the judiciary and overturn longstanding legal precedents on abortion, affirmative action and many other issues.”
Following a string of Supreme Court corruption scandals, the new reporting made waves among policymakers, ethics experts, and judicial scholars.
Here’s what Congressional leaders and experts are saying about the damning new revelations:
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee said: “Dark money continues to be a dire threat to American democracy and the integrity of the Supreme Court. Ginni Thomas worked hand-in-hand with Leonard Leo and a gaggle of fawning billionaires to form a calculated financial scheme, capitalize on the forthcoming Citizens United decision, and influence the Supreme Court at the expense of its reputation.”
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Federal Courts said: “Here’s a good overview of the creepy intermingling of dark billionaire money, phony front groups, far-right extremists, and the United States Supreme Court.”
Congresswoman Summer Lee, a member of the House Oversight Committee, highlighted the POLITICO report and recent ethics scandals: “…back in 2009, as the Supreme Court prepared to decide Citizens United, one Nazi-obsessed vacation-funding billionaire named Harlan Crow began funding Federalist Society leader Leonard Leo’s scheme with Justice Thomas’ wife to exploit the anticipated outcome of her husband’s ruling. Their goal was to build a right wing money machine allowing billionaires to fund changes to the judiciary and overturn years of judicial rulings they disagreed with – from abortion and environmental protections to LGBTQ+ rights.”
Lisa Graves, executive director of True North Research and former deputy assistant attorney general to Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, said: “[Leo’s] gone through elaborate means in order to hide from the American people who’s funding this operation…He keeps saying it’s about the ideas, not the money — but Leonard Leo’s the money man. He’s parlayed his influence machine into relationships with these billionaires in order to change legal precedents and change our rights.”
Alex Aronson, former chief counsel for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, said: “[Chief Justice] John Roberts has shown that he’s either unable or unwilling to get his house in order, so it’s time for the Congress to take action on this unaccountable court.”
Patrick Gaspard, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress, said: “Yesterday’s Politico investigation into Justice Thomas alleged a shocking level of corruption. It stretches credulity to think that Justice Thomas was not conspiring with his wife and billionaire and activist friends to orchestrate a large-scale, multiyear conservative power grab. Thomas should resign immediately.”
Noah Bookbinder, the President of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW), said: “The need for judicial ethics reform, especially on the Supreme Court, is nothing new, but with every new revelation it becomes even more apparent. We won’t stop fighting until the Court is subject to a binding code of ethics.”
Following the Politico story, Accountable.US hosted watchdogs including Lisa Graves, executive director of True North Research, and Alex Aronson, former chief counsel for Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse to discuss the new revelations and the ongoing probes into Leo’s activities. A full recording of the press call can be found HERE.