ICYMI: Washington Post: Hypocrisy watch: ‘Dark money’ groups complain about dark money￼
March 4, 2022
|Key Point: “We can only marvel at the hypocrisy of these attacks. Perhaps the point is that only liberal dark money is a bad thing. But if these groups are going to air such complaints, they need to disclose they engage in the same practice of collecting huge sums of money without revealing donors. They earn an upside-down Pinocchio — which is ordinarily for flip-flops — for their hypocrisy.”|
Washington Post: Hypocrisy watch: ‘Dark money’ groups complain about dark money
By Glenn Kessler
March 4, 2022
The Supreme Court’s “justices were to uphold the Constitution, to be above politics. Now, that legacy is being tarnished by secret money from liberals … a record amount of dark money, over a billion, put them [Democrats] in office, so they will put up an Arabella judge, a liberal activist, a Biden rubber stamp.”
— Voice-over of a Judicial Crisis Network ad, released Feb. 4
“Dark money groups, including Demand Justice, have been pushing Ketanji Brown Jackson for a SCOTUS spot for over a year. Once again, Joe Biden delivered for dark money groups and their wealthy donors.”
— Tweet by American Rising Squared, Feb. 25
What do the Judicial Crisis Network and American Rising have in common? They are both “dark money” groups complaining about the influence of dark money — when it comes from the other side of the political spectrum.
For instance, the conservative Judicial Crisis Network works to fill judicial vacancies across the country, including in state supreme courts and appellate courts. It received $17.9 million in 2016 and $17.1 million in 2017 from an undisclosed donor (or maybe two). It then turned around and used that money (and other contributions) to fight against the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016 ($7 million) and for the nominations of Neil M. Gorsuch ($10 million), Brett M. Kavanaugh ($10 million) and Amy Coney Barrett ($10 million).
The group is linked to Leonard Leo, a top official at the Federalist Society, a conservative group that served as a pipeline for judges appointed by President Donald Trump.
In the 10-year period spanning from its 2010 filing with the Internal Revenue Service to its 2019 filing, the Concord Fund/Judicial Crisis Network reported more than $133 million in revenue, according to Anna Massoglia, editorial and investigations manager at OpenSecrets. “Just from mid-2015 through mid-2020, the group brought in more than $116 million in revenue,” she noted, with its most recent filing showing $20.4 million in revenue. (The group’s fiscal year runs July through June.)
But the Judicial Crisis Network — which did not respond to queries — apparently thought it was more advantageous to lump together all the groups serviced by Arabella to make the financial stakes higher, even though the organization does not get involved in Supreme Court fights. Judicial Crisis Network tweeted that it is spending $2.5 million “calling out the liberal dark money network led by Arabella Advisors.” (Interestingly, Leo, in a 2020 interview with Axios, said he was stepping away from day-to-day running of the Federalist Society to create a conservative version.)
“The claims in this advertisement are false, and they deliberately mischaracterize the work of Arabella Advisors and several of our clients,” Steve Sampson, a spokesman for Arabella, told the Fact Checker. “Arabella Advisors is a consulting business that supports philanthropy. Our clients include a variety of nonprofit organizations that hire Arabella for shared administrative services. Arabella Advisors is not the source of funding for any of these organizations, and we do not exert control over the spending decisions of our clients. We do not work with Demand Justice, and we have nothing to do with the Supreme Court nomination process.”
American Rising Squared’s tweet at least just focuses on Demand Justice. But still, it’s another example of a conservative dark money group complaining about dark money. Its most recent filing reports nearly $2.6 million in revenue. (This group also did not respond to request for comment.)
Massoglia said she was not aware of any liberal dark money group explicitly complaining about dark money in this manner. The closest example she could cite was a 2021 Demand Justice YouTube video that claimed recent Supreme Court nominees were “installed through hyperpartisan political schemes.”
The Pinocchio Test
We can only marvel at the hypocrisy of these attacks. Perhaps the point is that only liberal dark money is a bad thing. But if these groups are going to air such complaints, they need to disclose they engage in the same practice of collecting huge sums of money without revealing donors. They earn an upside-down Pinocchio — which is ordinarily for flip-flops — for their hypocrisy.