A 'dark money group' tied to a former Federalist Society VP was 'dissolved' 3 days after report on Conway sale
On December 20, 2022, Politico’s Heidi Przybyla reported that right-wing judicial activist and Federalist Society Vice President Leonard Leo appeared to “have helped facilitate” the sale of GOP strategist Kellyanne Conway’s business, The Polling Company, to the firm Creative Response Concepts (CRC) in 2017. Now, a month later, Przybyla is reporting that a “dark money group tied to” Leo was “dissolved” only “three days after Politico inquired about whether it helped to facilitate” that sale.
When Americans complain about the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the radical-right direction of the U.S. Supreme Court, Leo is one of the people they have to thank. Leo, the Federalist Society’s former vice president, played an important role in the appointment of far-right socially conservative justices like Amy Coney Barrett. Leo was a strong Barrett supporter when former President Donald Trump nominated her in 2020, and four years earlier, in 2016, he encouraged Sen. Mitch McConnell to do everything he could to derail then-President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland (who is now U.S. attorney general under President Joe Biden).
One-third of the U.S. Supreme Court is now comprised of Donald Trump appointees, all of whom voted to overturn Roe v. Wade in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. And Leo did everything he could to help Trump move the High Court to far right. That is in addition to all of the far-right judges Leo helped bring to the lower federal courts.
Przybyla, in an article published by Politico on January 20, explains, “The BH Fund, which was formed in 2016 with an anonymous $24 million donation, has been a nerve center for distributing millions of dollars around Leo’s network of dark-money groups bolstering former President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court picks. On the day of the 2017 sale of Conway’s polling business to the firm Creative Response Concepts Inc., a lawyer filed similar liens with Virginia regulators for both CRC and BH Fund, which financial experts say suggested the dark money group played a role in financing the transaction, Politico reported in late December.”
The 2017 sale, according to Przybyla, was “valued at between $1 million and $5 million” in Conway’s “federal filings” — and it “raised potential ethical concerns because Conway” was “simultaneously advocating with Trump for some of Leo’s favored judicial candidates.”
“But just three days after Politico’s inquiries,” Przybyla reports, “the BH Fund closed down, according to documents filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission. Adam Kennedy, a spokesperson for the firm now known as CRC Advisors — which had performed extensive consulting work for Leo in 2017 and is now led by him— said the BH Fund has been dormant since the end of 2021. He confirmed it was dissolved in October ‘as other organizations made it obsolete.’”
Przybyla adds, “Indeed, Leo now controls more than $1.6 billion in conservative donor funds, and he is erecting a new architecture of dark-money groups to administer it. Critics have long maintained that understanding how Leo has distributed his trove of anonymous funds is critical to understanding how the conservative legal movement claimed a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court…. Under the current tax code, nonprofits like BH Fund can spend unlimited amounts of money on political activities without disclosing their donors — as long as they are deemed ‘social welfare’ activities that do not primarily promote a political candidate.”
One outspoken critic of dark money in politics is Saurav Ghosh, who serves as director of federal campaign finance reform for the Campaign Legal Center.
Ghost, discussing Leo’s role in the sale of Conway’s company, told Politico, “Nothing screams ‘efforts to conceal’ quite like folding up an organization just as you start getting questions about it…. (The) influence of dark money is doubly problematic once someone is in office because they’re (potentially) able to influence outcomes.”
After Politico published Przybyla’s December 20, 2022 article, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin described her reporting on Conway and Leo as “further evidence of the troubling role that Leonard Leo and the Federalist Society played in driving Donald Trump’s judicial selection process.”
“Leo’s network of outside groups built successful advocacy campaigns around the nominations of Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett and blocked President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland,” Przybyla notes. “BH Fund operated alongside two other Leo-linked entities to promote Trump’s nominees.”READ MORE: The Federalist Society has 'captured the courts' and stymied action on gun control and abortion: columnist
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