Nonprofit connected to Leonard Leo sent millions to his firm

Nonprofit connected to Leonard Leo sent millions to his firm

A key advocacy group in conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo’s network paid millions to his consulting firm, a new filing shows, the latest example of Leo’s web of nonprofits sending money to his business amid government scrutiny of his dealings.

The Concord Fund, a Virginia-based nonprofit, paid $6 million to Leo’s firm CRC Advisors between July 2022 and the end of June 2023 for “Consulting,” according to the filing, provided to POLITICO by the left-leaning watchdog group Accountable.US. The revelations of the large sum transferred to Leo’s firm come amid mounting questions around Leo’s advocacy activities and whether he has stood to gain financially from nonprofit groups pushing a conservative agenda around the country.

D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb has been probing Leo’s network, which includes the Concord Fund, as part of an inquiry into whether the groups skirted nonprofit rules. Leo has vowed not to cooperate.

In recent years, Leo, co-chairman of the Federalist Society’s board, has amassed outsized influence in conservative legal circles, advising former President Donald Trump on judicial picks. That role has also brought added scrutiny to his financial activities.

He also obtained a massive $1.6 billion gift from the businessman Barre Seid to fund Leo’s agenda through a group called the Marble Freedom Trust. The Marble Freedom Trust, which counts Leo as a trustee and chairman, has transferred tens of millions of dollars to the Concord Fund. The Concord Fund has also paid millions to Leo’s for-profit business.

Between July 2022 and the end of June 2023, the Concord Fund, also known as the Judicial Crisis Network, received about $52.8 million. Between May 2022 and the end of April 2023, Marble Freedom Trust reported giving $55.5 million to the Concord Fund.

Schwalb, a Democrat, has questioned whether the Leo groups’ activities violate nonprofit tax laws. Republican members of Congress have launched their own inquiry into the attorney general’s probe. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and James Comer (R-Ky.), chairs of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees respectively, have asked for documents related to his investigation.

The Concord Fund has reported spending $140,000 to lobby Congress on “Issues related to government oversight, law enforcement, public advocacy and Rule of Law” since it registered to lobby in late 2023, not long after news of the probe broke.

Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network (an alias of the Concord Fund), did not immediately return a request for comment.

Through counsel, CRC Advisors denied that anything in the 990 provided evidence of “self-enrichment.” In a statement, the company called Politico’s coverage “irredeemably biased” and “unreliable.”

The filing from the Concord Fund also illustrates how the grant-making organization funded efforts across the country to stymie abortion access through other groups, including one fighting a constitutional amendment in Ohio that protected access to the procedure.

The Concord Fund gave $8.8 million to Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a leading anti-abortion group, along with $3 million to Protect Women Ohio Action, a group that was fighting the constitutional amendment in Ohio that enshrined abortion access. The amendment ultimately passed.

The Concord Fund also gave $6 million to the Republican Governors Association and $4 million to the Republican Attorney Generals Association. It gave an additional $3 million to a group that was backing the Republican candidate for Kentucky governor, David Cameron, who ultimately lost.

The large gift to the Republican Attorneys General Association is notable, in part, because a number of Republican attorneys general have also questioned Schwalb’s inquiry into Leo.

The Concord Fund also gave $500,000 each to a Florida political committee then called Friends of Ron DeSantis and a nonprofit founded by former Vice President Mike Pence called Advancing American Freedom. It also gave $300,000 to a nonprofit founded by former presidential candidate and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley.

Accountable.US President Caroline Ciccone blasted the Concord Fund, calling it an important part of Leo’s machinery to transfer money to his own business.

“Leonard Leo’s Concord Fund is at the center of his far-right dark money web and a key cog in Leo’s apparent self-enrichment scheme,” Ciccone said.

In its financial filing, the Concord Fund reported that it produced “radio and television advertisements regarding significant legal and civic issues, court packing, executive branch appointments, federalism, and civic accountability.” It also reported paying about $3.8 million to the media buying firm Mentzer Media for “Advocacy,” but CRC Advisors was the Concord Fund’s largest independent contractor by millions of dollars.

The 85 Fund, also part of the investigation by Schwalb, paid $21 million to Leo’s consulting firm in 2022.

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