“How dare they use our own tactics against us!” ~ Democrats and the lapdog media
On Monday, the New York Times broke the news that last year conservative mastermind Leonard Leo had obtained control over $1.6 billion through something called the “Marble Freedom Trust” to further his deeply conservative political and legal agenda. While much of the follow up reporting so far has focused on the unusual but apparently legal means by which the donor of the money—an elderly electronics magnate named Barre Seid—structured the transaction to avoid paying at least $400 million in taxes, the longer-term implications for a democracy as we understand it in America are far more dire.
Over the last three decades, Leo brilliantly created an interconnected series of institutions and firms designed to fundamentally reshape the American judiciary and in turn American society. This new infusion of over one billion dollars is going to solidify this effort in a way that will be hard for anyone to counter, in part thanks to new election law rules created by the Leo-shaped judiciary.
The success of Leo’s empire has long depended upon compartmentalizing and bootstrapping. It begins with the Federalist Society, an idea factory and conservative farm team which Leo led for a long time and where he continues to exert influence. He remains co-Chairman of its board of directors. The Federalist Society—which styled itself a “debate society” long after it ceased to be anything of the sort—has been the incubator for conservative ideas championed by the late Justice Antonin Scalia and others to create jurisprudential theories such as originalism and textualism that, at least in the hands of ideologically conservative people, often leads to deeply conservative results. Even though the organization’s leadership has been deeply conservative if not reactionary, it maintains that it is simply a neutral forum for airing competing ideas. This ostensible neutrality provides cover so that sitting judges and Supreme Court Justices can speak at Federalist Society events and use the network to recruit judicial clerks who can come into the pipeline to help further conservative ideas ever without running afoul of rules barring judges from engaging in partisan political activities. It’s also a showcase to vet and prep future judges.