GOP Lashes Out At D.C. Attorney General Probing Extremist Profiteer Leo

Leonard Leo
Leonard Leo

GOP activist Leonard Leo is co-chair of the influential Federalist Society, which has produced all six of the Supreme Court of the United States' (SCOTUS) conservative jurists — including Chief Justice John Roberts. And ever since the office of Washington, DC Attorney General Brian Schwalb started investigating the Federalist Society for alleged violations of its nonprofit status, Leo's allies have been attacking him every step of the way.

Politico reporter Heidi Przybyla wrote Saturday that Schwalb has been steadily battling an onslaught of GOP attacks that include conservative media, 12 Republican state attorneys general and even Congressional committee chairs. This assault began last August, after Schwalb announced he was investigating the Federalist Society for alleged self-dealing. Leo is accused of using millions of dollars in tax-exempt organization funds to prop up his private consulting firm, CRC Advisors.

According to the outlet, both Reps. James Comer (R-KY) and Jim Jordan (R-OH), who chair the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees, respectively, announced their own investigations into Schwalb on October 30 — shortly after Schwalb announced his own investigation into Leo's group. One of Leo's organizations is the Concord Fund (previously known as the Judicial Crisis Network), which has donated $20 million to the Republican Attorneys General Association since 2014. And Przybyla noted that 10 days before Comer and Jordan announced their investigation, Concord hired a Virginia-based lobbying firm to handle issues relating to "law enforcement" and "oversight."

"The decision to launch a probe was not influenced by the lobbying firm," a spokesperson for the House Judiciary Committee told Politico. "Any suggestion that it was is lazy, in bad faith, and completely ridiculous. It’s well-known that this probe is part of a broader portfolio the congressmen are pursuing related to the weaponization of the federal government."

While the suggestion that Leo's money and connections are influencing the attacks on the man investigating him makes Republicans bristle, it's difficult to ignore the timing of large sums of money changing hands. Just one day after both Comer and Jordan threatened to subpoena Schwalb, a House Republican leadership-aligned political action committee received a $250,000 contribution from the Concord Fund. Politico reported that it was Concord's first donation to a federal PAC in nine years.

Republicans' ferocity in attacking Schwalb could be attributed to Leo's outsized influence over today's GOP — particularly as it concerns the GOP's efforts to cement a conservative SCOTUS majority for decades.

"[Leo] has been called former President Donald Trump’s 'court whisperer' for helping to choose and advocate for his Supreme Court nominees," Przybyla wrote. "His aligned network of tax-exempt nonprofits is also a major contributor to Project 2025, an initiative seeking to create a 'government in waiting' for another Trump term."

Caroline Ciccone, who is president of anti-corruption watchdog group Accountability.US, directly attributed the various attacks on Schwalb to Leo's far-right organizational muscle.

"Leonard Leo is working to implement policies with a vision that’s far too extreme for most Americans," Ciccone said. "Now, members of Congress have weaponized their government power against his critics."

In addition to being investigated for self-dealing by Schwalb's office, Leo's group is also being investigated by the Senate Judiciary Committee for its alleged facilitation of lavish gifts to far-right justices like Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. In late November, the committee sent subpoenas to both Leo and billionaire business magnate Harlan Crow, who took Justice Thomas and his family on several exceedingly expensive getaways.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

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