Who is Leonard Leo? 7 Things To Know About Billionaire Who Grafted The Conservative Supreme Court

Who is Leonard Leo? 7 Things To Know About Billionaire Who Grafted The Conservative Supreme Court


In this Nov. 16, 2016 file photo, Federalist Society's Leonard Leo. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Conservative legal activist Leonard Leo may be working behind the scenes, but his conservative influence is seen in the Supreme Court and now on the campaign scene. He has been instrumental in building a network of influential conservative groups funded mainly through anonymous donors, including The 85 Fund and Concord Fund. These groups serve as funding hubs for nonprofits in the network.

Here are seven things to know about the billionaire who grafted the conservative Supreme Court.

1. Leo and the Highest Court

He assisted Clarence Thomas in his Supreme Court confirmation hearings and led campaigns to support the nominations of other conservative justices such as John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.

Leo’s personal relationship with Thomas dates back to 1991 when he worked to collect evidence to support the judge during his confirmation hearing for the supreme court, The New York Times reported.

2. How Leo build his ‘Secret’ Network

Leo’s network comprises various loosely affiliated nonprofit and for-profit entities. And this network has doled out nearly $504 million between mid-2015 and 2021. Leo has at least partial control over two for-profit firms, BH Group and CRC Advisors and these firms are compensated by funding hubs in his network, The 85 Fund and the Concord Fund.

According to a New York Times investigation, Leo’s network is now one of the best-funded and most “sophisticated operations in American politics, giving him extraordinary influence as he pushes a broad array of hot-button conservative causes and seeks to counter what he sees as an increasing leftward tilt in society.”

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Leo’s network, which he has been building since 2016, is made up of nine core groups, which are loosely affiliated nonprofit and for-profit entities, through which he raises large sums of money from donors. He then steers the cash to groups promoting issues he supports.

The network has spent nearly $504 million on policy and political fights, including grants to about 150 allied groups, between mid-2015 and last year, revealed The Times.

“The idea behind the network and the enterprise we built is to roll back liberal dominance in many important sectors of American life,” Leo said in an interview with The Times. “I had a couple of decades or more of experience rolling back liberal dominance in the legal culture, and I thought it was time to take the lessons learned from that and see whether there was a way to roll back liberal dominance in other areas of American cultural, policy and political life.”

3. Leo makes his money talk

Leo has led efforts to put conservatives on the Supreme Court bench as a way to challenge liberal values.

And he has help. Marble Freedom Trust is an advocacy group headed by Leo and it has received a whopping $1.6 billion in donations to push conservative causes

“It’s high time for the conservative movement to be among the ranks of George Soros, Hansjörg Wyss, Arabella Advisors and other left-wing philanthropists, going toe-to-toe in the fight to defend our constitution and its ideals,” Leo said in a statement, mention high-profile liberal donors.

4. Meet Leo

Leo is an Ivy League-educated lawyer who has worked for the Federalist Society, founded in 1982 to fight against what he, and other conservatives, saw as liberal dominance of U.S. courts and law schools. He later became the society’s co-chair.

One of the things on Leo’s agenda is his push of a legal theory that the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the power to decide how to run elections without intervention from the courts, The Guardian reported.

He believes that the federal government should play a smaller role in public life and religious values a larger one.

5. Trump

Leo saw an opportunity to further push his agenda via Donald Trump’s presidential election in 2016. The billionaire drew up a list of 11 potential supreme court nominees to help Trump. Leo worked as an advisor to the president.

6. Leo and dark money

Leo told the Washington Post recently that there is nothing wrong in using dark money.

“Let’s remember that in this country, the abolitionist movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the American Revolution, the early labor movement, the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s were all very much fueled by very wealthy people and oftentimes wealthy people who chose to be anonymous. I think that’s not a bad thing. I think that’s a good thing,” he said.

7. Leo’s fight against liberals

Leo is pumping millions of dollars in television advertisements against schools for teaching critical race theory, for example.

In this Nov. 16, 2016 file photo, Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo speaks to media at Trump Tower in New York. Leo, co-chair of the Federalist Society, has been an informal adviser to Trump on the selection of judicial nominees. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)