Meet the Federalist Society executive and unofficial Trump judicial advisor who's stealthily moving the courts to the right
For the Republican Party, moving the United States to the far right judicially not only means nominating justices to the U.S. Supreme Court — it also means appointing federal judges to the lower federal courts. And in a report for the Washington Post, journalists Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Shawn Boburg describe the ways in which GOP activist Leonard Leo is trying to help Republicans achieve that.
Leonard is President Donald Trump’s unofficial judicial advisor as well as executive vice president of the Federalist Society. Leo, O’Harrow and Boburg explain, “is the maestro of a network of interlocking nonprofits working on media campaigns and other initiatives to sway lawmakers by generating public support for conservative judges” — and “few people outside government have more influence over judicial appointments now,” they write.
According to O’Harrow and Boburg, Leo and his allies “collected more than $250 million” between 2014 and 2017.
“The groups in Leo’s network often work in concert and are linked to Leo and one another by finances, shared board members, phone numbers, addresses, back-office support and other operational details, according to tax filings, incorporation records, other documents and interviews,” the article observes. And nine of those groups, O’Harrow and Boburg report, hired the right-wing media relations firm Creative Response Concepts and paid it “more than $10 million in contracting fees in 2016 and 2017.”
When George W. Bush was president in the 2000s, O’Harrow and Boburg note, Leo led campaigns supporting two of Bush’s Supreme Court picks: Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts. The reporters go on to say that Leo’s prominence as an activist didn’t decrease when Barack Obama was president — in fact, it grew. And in the Trump era, both of the president’s Supreme Court appointees were people Leo recommended: Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.