As the Supreme Court stands on the brink of loosening gun restrictions and rolling back decades of abortion protections, tax documents obtained by CREW show that the dark money group that poured millions of dollars into helping former President Trump swing the Court sharply to the right raised a record $48.1 million between July 2020 and June 2021, all from deep-pocketed donors who will remain secret.
Filing as the Concord Fund, but better known by its alias, the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), the group has deep ties to Federalist Society co-chairman Leonard Leo, who played a key role during the Trump years helping select Trump’s judicial nominees. Throughout that time, JCN acted as the firepower in the effort to reshape the judiciary, spending millions of dollars from anonymous donors on ads to stymie President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland and to boost Trump nominees Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
The period covered by the filing includes the confirmation battle over now-Supreme Court Justice Barrett. During that time, JCN spent millions of dollars around the country promoting Trump’s chosen nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As part of the advocacy effort, JCN also set up a website with glowing information about Barrett’s background and record.
Once the confirmation and election passed, the Concord Fund spent another $1 million, under the JCN moniker, on ads sounding alarms about the thus far nonexistent threat of court packing, even using it as an opportunity to attack “left-wing dark money groups,” without apparent irony. Later, under yet another name — Free to Learn Action — the Concord Fund created an ad campaign that targeted the teaching of racial justice topics in schools.
Throughout the time the Concord Fund was spending millions on confirmation battles and culture war fights, it was also sending tens of millions of dollars to Republican-allied groups, according to the tax document. The single largest expenditure the Concord Fund reported in the filing is a $9 million grant to One Nation, the Mitch McConnell-aligned dark money group that poured more than $85 million into the 2020 elections. This windfall from One Nation made it the largest donor to Senate Republicans’ main super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, which is run by the same people as One Nation.
Another grant, totaling more than $4.8 million, went to the political group Republican Attorneys General Association, whose sister 501(c)(4) organization was involved in promoting the January 6th rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol. Other grantees include evangelical and anti-abortion groups like Susan B. Anthony List ($2.2 million) and the Faith and Freedom Coalition ($1.1 million), and conservative groups like Mike Pence’s new organization Advancing American Freedom ($1 million), the Heritage Foundation’s sister organization, Heritage Action for America ($1.9 million), and Club for Growth ($1.1 million). Another group, N2 America — co-founded by two veteran Republican strategists — received $1 million. N2 America, according to an article shared on their website, was formed “to work on both policy proposals and communications strategy for rehabilitating the GOP brand in the suburbs.”
While Leonard Leo’s name is not on the new tax document, his fingerprints are all over it. The largest contractor payment listed on the document, totaling nearly $7.7 million, was directed at a conservative consulting firm called CRC Advisors, which Leo helped form in early 2020 — around the same time that JCN was rechristened as the Concord Fund. According to Axios, the aim of the rebranded group, along with another sister organization, the 85 Fund, was to use them as vehicles “to funnel tens of millions of dollars into conservative fights around the country.”
CRC Advisors’ role was apparent even in trying to obtain the tax returns in the first place. After reaching out to the Concord Fund multiple times — both by email and by calling the number listed on their tax documents, which appears to have been disconnected — the only response CREW received weeks later was from a CRC representative saying that CREW’s request had been “referred to counsel for processing.” Unfortunately, these kinds of generally meaningless responses are common when requesting public documents from dark money groups, and usually signify that a group is waiting as long as it’s allowed, under IRS rules, to provide paper copies of a document that it could just send in an email.
Another payment listed in the return further indicates Leo’s involvement. The Concord Fund paid half a million dollars to a company called the BH Group. Leonard Leo is a part owner of the firm, which has almost no public presence, aside from large payments from dark money groups tied to Leo and a $1 million contribution to former President Trump’s inauguration — the ultimate source of which remains unknown more than five years later.
For nearly two decades now, Leonard Leo and the Concord Fund, by any name, have been one of the driving forces behind the push to reshape the court and overturn Roe v. Wade, and a recent leaked draft opinion suggests that this dream is about to be realized. Judicial Crisis Network’s president Carrie Severino has already celebrated the opinion, but their work will not end there. The Concord Fund and the small network of well-funded groups tied to Severino and Leo are already engaged in efforts to restrict voting and fight “left-wing dark money” — all without disclosing any of the donors behind its $48.1 million haul.