(Bloomberg) -- A key group linked to GOP fundraiser Leonard Leo poured $103 million into conservative causes last year, providing a significant boost to organizations that oppose diversity programs and medical care for transgender people, among other issues.
Distributions from the group, the 85 Fund, increased roughly 33% since 2021, according to tax filings shared with Bloomberg News by progressive advocacy group Accountable.US. Overall, the 85 Fund reported revenue of more than $134 million in 2022.
Leo is the leader of a network of conservative tax-exempt groups, none of which are required to disclose their donors. Some are political nonprofits that can donate to super PACs and spend unlimited amounts on lobbying. Others, like the 85 Fund, are charitable organizations that are barred from directly influencing elections, but can have a large, if indirect, impact on politics. They also include the Federalist Society, launched in 1982 to push the US court system in more conservative and libertarian directions.
Leo has faced a wave of scrutiny and criticism over his role in orchestrating the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority, including writing the list of potential Supreme Court nominees used by former President Donald Trump. Senate Democrats are planning to subpoena Leo for his role in a series of ethical scandals surrounding the court, particularly his organization of luxury trips for Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito hosted by GOP donors.
“The 85 Fund’s partnerships with our grantees and with CRC Advisors have resulted in unprecedented successes for the conservative movement, and we look forward to sharing many more victories with them in the future,” said Carrie Severino, a Leo ally who serves as secretary and principal officer of the 85 Fund.
A representative for Leo didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.
The 85 Fund, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, gave $92 million to another group with ties to Leo called DonorsTrust Inc. in 2022, according to the tax filings. That’s a nearly 30% increase over the $71 million given to DonorsTrust in 2021. DonorsTrust, meanwhile, has decreased its donations to other Leo-linked groups.
‘Judeo-Christian Moral Tradition’
The 85 Fund also gave $2.3 million to the Federalist Society in 2022, more than more than $1 million to the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank that describes its mission as “applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition” to public policy, and $250,000 to the Center for Equal Opportunity, the group behind the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn racial affirmative action in higher education.
Another group associated with Leo, The Concord Fund, was the top contributor to the Republican Attorney General Association this past year with a $1 million donation, according to separate tax filings.
Washington DC Attorney General Brian Schwalb is investigating Leo’s network, Politico reported earlier this year. Critics have alleged that Leo has improperly enriched himself through his network of nonprofit groups, many of which pay significant sums to his for-profit organization, CRC Advisors. Leo has denied the allegations.
The 85 Fund paid CRC Advisors $21 million in 2022, according to the tax filings, roughly the same amount it paid to the consulting firm in 2021.
(Adds 85 Fund statement in fifth paragraph.)
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