Imagine how Lois Lane would feel if she found out that a wealthy maker had given Lex Luthor $1.6 billion to start Kryptonite mining. Her comic book howl is the only thing I can think of that might approximate my reaction to the news that electronics mogul Barre Seid has given conservative King Leonard Leo $1.6 billion, tax-free, for his new “non-profit” venture, the Marble Freedom Trust. America’s most effective villain just got a real fortune to play with.
Liu is the longtime Federalist Community Leader. As such, he is as responsible as any individual can be for conservative control of the judiciary. He has nurtured the careers of countless conservative judges and helped develop theories of law that confer rights to gun owners over the half of the population with a uterus. He was instrumental in lobbying Republican politicians to support his judicial candidates. Importantly, Liu was able to elicit support from various Republican electoral groups, such as the Gun Lobby and the Religious Right, to functionally compromise the judicial nominations process for him and his organization. Judge Samuel Alito may have been murdered Raw vs. WadeBut it was Leo who made the murder weapon and put it in his hand.
Assad and the Federal Assembly accomplished all this with a relatively small budget. The association’s 2020 tax filing lists revenue of just $20 million. Additionally, Leo is the center of a network of conservative nonprofits that raised millions in “dark” donations — more than $250 million between 2014 and 2017 alone — to help reshape the justice system, according to the Washington Post.
This may sound like a lot, but the sad truth is that buying the Supreme Court, as Liu and the Federal Assembly so effectively did, is very cheap. To put the money spent on the judiciary in context, the two leading candidates in the 2020 presidential election raised $1.8 billion, and an estimated $14 billion was spent on the election as a whole. The 2022 midterm is expected to bring in an advertising tab of $9 billion. Obviously winning the White House and the Senate are important steps on the path to political dominance, but winning the judiciary offers something more: Once a group like the Federal Society influences the selection of a single Supreme Court justice, that justice serves for life and doesn’t have to run every two years. or four or six years; They are then ideally positioned to form the laws that determine who has rights, who is entitled to vote, and who will win an election. In this way, Liu was able to alter the balance of power in this country at a fraction of the cost of influencing the popular vote.
Given what Leo managed to make with a quarter of a billion dollars, the prospect of what he would do with 1.6 billion dollars is pretty terrifying. Although we do not know exactly how he intends to use the funds, the stated mission of the Marble Freedom Trust – described in tax returns as “to preserve and expand human liberty in keeping with the values and ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States” – It’s ominous when you think about who the framers of the Declaration and the Constitution deemed qualified for “human freedom,” and who did not.
Other hints are no less reassuring. Marble Freedom Trust filings indicate that it has been involved in funneling dark money to a series of conservative interest groups, including some, such as the Rule of Law Trust, which Liu himself leads. Another group, the Donor Fund, is well known for shoveling money into what Mother Jones It has been described as “anti-union legal shops, climate change deniers, pro-life advocates, libertarian think tanks, media watchdog groups, and a host of other right-leaning causes.” The third, the Concord Fund, better known as the Judicial Crisis Network, is notorious for pushing right-wing judicial candidates and defending Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged rape attempt.
Robert Maguire, director of research at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, summed up the threat this way: “I’ve never seen a group this big before,” he told CNN. “This is the kind of money that can help these political activists and their allies start moving the needle on issues like reshaping the federal judiciary, making voting more difficult, and a state-by-state campaign to rewrite election laws and lay the groundwork to undermine future elections.”
My concern is that this donation will allow Leo to spread his own poison in state courts. There are only 870 federal judges, and Leo really only needs half of them in his pocket to get what he wants. But there are more than 30,000 judges in state courts, most of whom have to run for office in local elections.
These judges are the next logical step for the conservative legal movement. Its control of the federal judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, means that there will be fewer broad constitutional rights for women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community, and more power will be granted to states. The next thing the movement has to do is to control the power of the state legislatures by controlling the state courts. We’ve already seen significant statewide battles over protecting voting rights, transgender rights, and abortion rights, as conservatives have taken the federal government out of the equation. If people like Liu want to continue suppressing the rights and dignity of others, domination of state courts is the way to go. Nor should it be costly, given so little interest in the state’s judicial elections. A few bucks to screen Republican judicial candidates here, one or two offensive and rude adverts on the Democratic slate there, and it wouldn’t be hard to elect a group of conservative judges, even in a “liberal” state.
Leonard Leo is smart. Like Lex Luthor, he knows where to find strength in this system. He understands how institutions work. He understands how to set the law. And now he’s adding “rich” to his list of powers. It would take the entire justice team to stop him.