The hidden architect of the Supreme Court docket

All six conservative Supreme Court docket justices had been seated with main assist from Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society. Here is all the pieces it’s essential to know:

Who’s Leonard Leo?

He’s the right-wing energy dealer who, greater than another single individual, paved the best way for latest main Supreme Court docket selections overturning abortion rights, environmental protections and affirmative motion. Over a interval of three many years, the senior Federalist Society govt performed a pivotal position in constructing the courtroom’s present six-justice conservative supermajority. He marshaled allies to spend $15 million on public relations campaigns supporting the affirmation of John Roberts and Samuel Alito. In 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump vowed to contemplate solely Federalist Society members for courtroom appointments; Trump’s appointees, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, all appeared on shortlists of candidates Leo handed him. A consummate networker, Leo launched longtime buddy Clarence Thomas to right-wing billionaire Harlan Crow and organized for Alito to affix one other conservative billionaire, Paul Singer, on Singer’s non-public jet for a 2008 luxurious fishing journey to Alaska. A grasp fundraiser of “darkish” cash, Leo has a number of political organizations in his orbit which have spent greater than $504 million on political and judicial causes since 2015; a $1.6 billion present to a gaggle run by Leo from 91-year-old electronics magnate Barre Seid in 2020 will allow Leo to increase his affect even additional. At a 2018 Federalist Society occasion, Thomas described Leo as “the No. 3 strongest individual on the earth.”

What motivates Leo?

He has robust spiritual and political opinions formed by his arch-conservative Catholicism. Leo, now 57, attends Mass day by day and belongs to the Knights of Malta, a world Catholic group based within the eleventh century whose 13,500 choose members take secret vows. Adamantly against same-sex marriage, LGBTQ+ rights, abortion, and contraception, Leo claims America has grown “extra hateful and illiberal of Catholicism,” and that his foes are “not simply uninformed or unchurched” but additionally “typically deeply wounded individuals whom the satan can simply benefit from.” Leo has responded to critics who accuse him of looking for a theocracy by insisting he merely desires “to defend the Structure because it’s written.” Pals say his anti-abortion views had been solidified by his expertise along with his daughter, Margaret, who died at 14 from issues of spina bifida. A father of seven, Leo has described abortion as “an act of power” and “a risk to human life.” Tom Carter, who was the communications director at one in all Leo’s organizations for 3 years, has mentioned, “He believes he is on a mission from God.” 

How has he pursued his mission?

Most overtly via the Federalist Society, for which he’s now co-chairman of the board. Based in 1982 by conservative legislation college students, on Leo’s watch it has develop into, as Senate Minority Chief Mitch McConnell put it, “a farm group of potential judges.” With some 70,000 members and $20 million in yearly income, the tax-exempt group rigorously selects bold younger legislation college students with conservative views, steeps them in “originalist” and “textualist” judicial philosophy, and shepherds them from legislation faculty to the bench. All the Supreme Court docket nominees Leo supported had been accredited by the Federalist Society, and so had been the 200-plus federal judges he guided to affirmation underneath Trump. Traditionally, the Federalist Society has been funded by companies and personal donors, nevertheless it additionally receives thousands and thousands annually from Leo’s different organizations.

What are they?

Leo’s byzantine, financially interconnected community of 150 teams consists of for-profit corporations and nonprofits. As a result of the Supreme Court docket’s 2010 Residents United resolution exempts “social welfare organizations” from disclosing their donors, these teams typically appeal to massive checks from rich activists — “darkish cash.” Considered one of them, the Judicial Disaster Community, spent $17 million on campaigns to dam President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia after which to push via Gorsuch’s affirmation. Leo’s nonprofits have additionally funneled greater than $43 million to his for-profit political consulting agency CRC Advisors, which serves conservative political figures and teams. Since 2016, these organizations seem to have ballooned Leo’s private wealth. In March, Politico revealed that Leo shortly went from residing in a suburban Washington, D.C., dwelling with a 30-year mortgage to purchasing two mansions on a Maine resort island price $5 million, shopping for 4 new automobiles, and hiring a private wine purchaser. 

What’s Leo doing now?

He is plowing into the tradition wars. With Seid’s bequest almost quadrupling his obtainable funds, organizations in his community are figuring out and publicly attacking companies that prioritize preventing local weather change. In a latest video, Leo vowed to struggle “wokism,” “one-sided journalism,” and “leisure that is actually corrupting our youth” by making a pipeline to funnel conservative expertise into the nation’s financial and cultural establishments. “If this could work for legislation,” he mentioned, “why cannot it work for plenty of different areas of American tradition and American life the place issues are actually tousled proper now?” 

Pals of the household

No justice has remained nearer to Leo than Clarence Thomas. Two years after graduating from Cornell Regulation Faculty, Leo gathered proof supporting Thomas when Anita Hill’s accusations of sexual harassment threatened to derail his 1991 affirmation. Thomas is the godfather of one in all Leo’s youngsters; the justice and his spouse, Ginni, have stayed at Leo’s trip dwelling. Ginni, a political activist, has referred to as Leo a “hero” and has benefited from his largesse. In 2012, Leo directed then-pollster Kellyanne Conway to invoice the Judicial Training Challenge, a nonprofit he suggested, for tens of hundreds of {dollars} to pay Ginni. After the group filed a quick in a landmark case overturning a part of the Voting Rights Act, he requested Conway to “give” one other $25,000 to the spouse of Justice Thomas, who had voted with the bulk. “No point out of Ginni, in fact,” Leo wrote. In response to latest revelations that he has helped the Thomases and Alito benefit from the largesse of billionaire conservative donors and activists, Leo has been defiant. Journalists and politicians who’re questioning the justices’ ethics, he mentioned, need to weaken the courtroom and promote “their disordered and extremely unpopular cultural preferences.”

This text was first revealed within the newest concern of The Week journal. If you wish to learn extra prefer it, you may strive six risk-free problems with the journal right here.