Dark Money Ties To Judicial Nominations
March 18, 2020
Attorney general Bill Barr, Office of Personnel Management director Dale Cabaniss, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone have received letters from five U.S. Senators, suggesting that the role attorney Leonard Leo, co-chair of the conservative legal advocacy group known as the Federalist Society, played in the Trump administration’s nomination of right wing judges while profiting from related fundraising activities, raises concerns about conflicts of interest. They want to see governmental communications with Leo while considering new legislation on this topic. Leo is the central figure in a network of nonprofits and shell entities funded largely by anonymous donors, which the senators consider problematic. That network collected $250 million between 2014 and 2017, much of which funded ads promoting judicial nominations. Leo appears to have a financial interest in these advocacy efforts but won’t disclose his earnings. If he were a federal government employee consulting with the president about judicial nominees, he would have been subject to disclosure rules that can reveal conflicts. The Senators — Democrats Sheldon Whitehouse, Richard Durbin, Sherrod Brown, Richard Blumenthal, and Mazie Hirono — are writing legislation to address the issue.
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