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How Your Neoconfederate Judicial Sausage Gets Made

Meet the new boss, even worse than the old boss

This documentary and report into Leonard Leo and the money behind him and their (highly successful) efforts to remake the federal courts is essential viewing:

At a time when Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are rapidly reshaping federal courts by installing conservative judges and Supreme Court justices, few people outside government have more influence over judicial appointments now than Leo.

He is widely known as a confidant to Trump and as executive vice president of the Federalist Society, an influential nonprofit organization for conservative and libertarian lawyers that has close ties to Supreme Court justices. But behind the scenes, Leo 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.

The story of Leo’s rise offers an inside look into the modern machinery of political persuasion. It shows how undisclosed interests outside of government are harnessing the nation’s nonprofit system to influence judicial appointments that will shape the nation for decades.

Even as Leo counseled Trump on judicial picks, he and his allies were raising money for nonprofits that under IRS rules do not have to disclose their donors. Between 2014 and 2017 alone, they collected more than $250 million in such donations, sometimes known as “dark money,” according to a Post analysis of the most recent tax filings available. The money was used in part to support conservative policies and judges, through advertising and through funding for groups whose executives appeared as television pundits.

For a longer history, Amanda Hollis-Brusky’s history of the Federalist Society is essential.

Thinking that moderate Republicans are coming to save Roe again is deeply misguided, not least because for all intents and purposes on the federal bench they no longer exist, and if they did no Republican president would choose one.

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