September 25, 2022

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A billion and a half dollars to do something voters don't want

A billion and a half dollars to do something voters don’t want

It has not been a good week for Donald Trump.

So not for Republicans, they have to bend over backwards He stole government secret documents To speak well. But it’s been a great week for conservative America.

Their former and potential next presidential nominee’s legal troubles could cost Republicans votes and destroy majorities in the House and Senate in November’s elections. But big decisions about how things are done in America today are made more often in the courts than in Congress. This is where conservatives have been winning lately, with a clever strategy of getting the right judges in the right place. The mastermind behind it has been gifted no less than one and a half billion dollars to expand the program.

The money comes from the estate of 90-year-old Chicago businessman Barre Seed. Seid has been giving money to conservative and pro-Israel organizations for some time, but has now said goodbye to almost all of his assets in one fell swoop. He bequeathed all of his shares in Trip Light, a manufacturer of safe power supplies for computers, to the Freedom Marble Foundation. It is an organization that “seeks to maintain and extend human liberty in accordance with the values ​​and ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.”

The director of that organization is Leonard Leo. He immediately sold the shares to an Irish company for $1.65 billion tax-free. He immediately became one of the most powerful figures on the right wing of American politics. Leo was already highly influential and well-known as the driving force behind the Federalist Society, the lawyers’ club that in recent years has been a breeding ground for conservative judges.

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He was the mastermind behind changing the Supreme Court

The extent of that influence was particularly evident during the 2016 presidential campaign.After Donald Trump won the Republican nomination that year, he still had some doubts to clear from many Republican voters as a former Democrat and right-wing supporter of abortion. If he becomes president, he solved that problem by becoming the first candidate to release a list of his nominees for the Supreme Court. In compiling it, he relied heavily on Leo’s advice.

That year he also campaigned against President Barack Obama filling a vacancy on the court after the death of the more conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. That campaign was successful; Senate Republicans blocked Obama’s nomination and pushed for Neil Gorsuch’s nomination after Trump was elected president.

Two more nominations followed Trump’s nomination, Brett Kavanagh and Amy Coney Barrett, and Gorsuch members of the Federalist Society. And in the saddle was a solid conservative majority that, among other things, repealed the national right to abortion in June of this year.

Trump was appointed after Justice Neil Gorsuch, Obama and Justice Scalia.Image by AP

He predicted a cultural struggle

For this the American conservative movement owes a debt to Leonard Leo. In 1991, while studying law at Cornell University, he became a member of the Federalist Society, then essentially a legal debate club. And instead of serving as a judge, lawyer, or advocate, he gradually found himself using bread in that setting as a means of obtaining justice, which did not work through the ballot box.

“Twenty years ago, he realized that conservatives had lost the culture war,” his former spokesman, Tom Carter, told the magazine. New Republic. “Abortion, gay rights, birth control — conservatives didn’t stand a chance if public opinion decided. So they had to fill the courts with sympathetic judges.

It worked well during Donald Trump’s presidency. There are now hundreds of judges, not just on the Supreme Court, but on appellate courts and tribunals, all of whom have the Federalist Society’s stamp of approval, not just huge fans of Donald Trump. and ordained for life.

The do-it-all now has more than a billion and a half dollars at its disposal to build and, if necessary, support conservative talent with advertising. With that much time, he could do it not just for the federal judiciary, but for those in the states as well. In many states, judges are not appointed by parliament but are elected, giving moneyed political organizations many opportunities to influence who holds office. In addition to candidate judges, Leo with his large war chest can also support representatives of people with right views.

The American left turned white last Monday when the New York Times broke the news about the endowment in 2020 and 2021. In an online magazine Slate Slates analyst Talia Lithwick and University of California law professor Richard Hassan point to an upcoming Supreme Court case over drawing district lines in one state. That is often a way for a party in power to twist election results in their favor.

And in another upcoming case, the Supreme Court may rule that only parliaments, not courts, have the right to organize elections in states.

“Leo’s organizations are littering the judiciary with lawyers who espouse doctrines that undermine our democratic principles,” they warn.

A financial arms race

Leo, of course, sees differently. In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, he compared his donations to the large sums given to Democrats by wealthy donors like George Soros, giving Democrats twice as much support from nonpartisan organizations as Republicans by 2020.

It’s an inevitable move in the financial arms race that has plagued US political parties since the Supreme Court struck down several rules on political donations in 2010.

Is America on its way to a billion and a half bids? Who offers more?

Truve reporter Bas den Hont (based in Boston) writes a weekly column on American politics. Read them again here.