Hypocrisy Watch: “Black Money” Groups Complain About Black Money

“Black money groups including Demand Justice have been pushing Ketanji Brown Jackson for a place at SCOTUS for over a year. Once again, Joe Biden has delivered for black money groups and their wealthy donors.

Tweeter by American Rising Squared, February 25

What do Judicial Crisis Network and American Rising have in common? They are both “dark money” groups who complain about the influence of dark money – when it comes from across the political spectrum.

Since the 2010 Supreme Court decision United Citizens allowed corporations — including nonprofits that don’t disclose their donors — to spend unlimited amounts on campaigns, tens of millions of dollars have been spent trying to influence the course of judicial appointments.

Associations taking advantage of the United Citizens decision are required to spend the majority of their money on non-election related activities. Since judicial appointments are not directly tied to elections, groups can spend freely — without it counting as election activity.

For example, the conservative Judicial Crisis Network works to fill judicial vacancies across the country, including in state supreme courts and appellate courts. He received $17.9 million in 2016 and $17.1 million in 2017 from an undisclosed donor (or possibly two). He then turned around and used that money (and other contributions) to fight Merrick Garland’s 2016 Supreme Court nomination ($7 million) and Neil M. Gorsuch’s nominations ($10 million). dollars), Brett M. Kavanaugh ($10 million). ) and Amy Coney Barrett ($10 million).

The group is linked to Leonard Leo, a senior official with the Federalist Society, a conservative group that served as a pipeline for judges appointed by President Donald Trump.

In the 10-year period from its 2010 filing with the Internal Revenue Service to its 2019 filing, the Concord Fund/Judicial Crisis Network brought in more than $133 million in revenue, according to Anna Massoglia, head of writing and investigations at OpenSecrets. “From mid-2015 to mid-2020, the group generated over $116 million in revenue,” she noted, with her latest filing showing $20.4 million in revenue. (The group’s fiscal year runs from July to June.)

Democrats fiercely opposed United Citizens in power and initially decried black money. But then they adopted it for fear of being overwhelmed. A liberal group called Demand Justice, led by former aides to Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, has joined the fight for Kavanaugh. Then, in the 2020 election, the 15 most active black money groups associated with Democrats actually raised more money than the 15 most active politically-active groups aligned with Republicans, according to a New York Times analysis.

The Post’s Michelle Ye Hee Lee explains how some donors can contribute large sums of money to influence political campaigns without revealing their identity. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

In many ways, Demand Justice is a black-money liberal equivalent of the Judicial Crisis Network. But until recently, it seems to have spent less than JCN. He had pledged to spend $5 million to fight Kavanaugh and $10 million to fight Barrett.

You will notice that these numbers are well below the billion dollars mentioned in the ad. That’s because JCN, to make the threat to conservatives seem greater, latched onto an organization called Arabella Advisors, tangentially linked to Demand Justice, and conjured up something it called a “Judge Arabela”.

Arabella Advisors primarily provides administrative support, compliance assistance, and grant processing to liberal philanthropic and nonprofit groups, including incorporated groups, so that they can receive donations from undisclosed donors. For-profit Arabella has collected nearly $50 million in management earnings from groups that spent nearly $1.2 billion in 2020.

Some of these organizations have relationships through staff. For example, Eric Kessler (no relation to fact checker) is the founder and senior CEO of Arabella and is also listed in Internal Revenue Service filings as Chairman of the Board (until mid-2021) of the Sixteen Thirty Fund and former Board of Directors. secretary of the New Venture Fund.

Until recently, Sixteen Thirty, which raised $144 million in 2019, included Demand Justice among the dozens of organizations it funded. But Demand Justice was created and became independent in 2021. “A critical part of our mission as a fiscal sponsor is to incubate new campaigns and organizations that will one day become independent and continue their work,” said Amy Kurtz, president of Sixteen Thirty. , in a Medium article in November.

But the Judicial Crisis Network – which did not respond to questions – apparently thought it was more beneficial to group together all the groups served by Arabella to raise the financial stakes, even if the organization does not get involved in the fights in the Supreme Court. Judicial Crisis Network tweeted that he is spending $2.5 million “to expose the liberal black money network run by Arabella Advisors.” (Interestingly, Leo, in a 2020 interview with Axios, said he was stepping away from the day-to-day running of the Federalist Society to create a conservative version.)

“The claims in this ad are false and deliberately misrepresent the work of Arabella Advisors and many of our clients,” Arabella spokesperson Steve Sampson told the Fact Checker. “Arabella Advisors is an advisory firm that supports philanthropy. Our clients include a variety of non-profit organizations that hire Arabella for shared administrative services. Arabella Advisors is not the source of funding for any of these organizations and we have no control over our clients’ spending decisions. We do not work with Demand Justice and have nothing to do with the Supreme Court nomination process.

American Rising Squared’s tweet at least focuses on Demand Justice. But again, this is another example of a conservative black money group complaining about black money. His latest filing brings in nearly $2.6 million in earnings. (This group also did not respond to request for comment.)

Massoglia said she was not aware of any liberal black money groups explicitly complaining about black money in this way. The closest example she could cite was a YouTube Demand Justice video that claimed recent Supreme Court nominees had been “installed through hyperpartisan political schemes.”

One can only marvel at the hypocrisy of these attacks. The fact may be that only liberal black money is a bad thing. But if these groups are going to broadcast such complaints, they must disclose that they are engaging in the same practice of raising huge sums of money without revealing the donors. They earn a backwards Pinocchio – which is usually for flip flops – for their hypocrisy.

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