Senate Dems Finally Subpoena Supreme Court Puppet Master

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Conservative activist Leonard Leo was hit with a subpoena from Senate Democrats on Thursday as part of a probe into Supreme Court ethics and whether individuals or groups used luxury gifts to access justices.

The subpoena from the Senate Judiciary Committee arrives months after it was authorized, CNN reported. “Mr. Leo has played a central role in the ethics crisis plaguing the Supreme Court and, unlike the other recipients of information requests in this matter, he has done nothing but stonewall the committee,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the committee’s chairman, said in a statement to the outlet. “This subpoena is a direct result of Mr. Leo’s own actions and choices.”

Leo is the co-chair of the Federalist Society, the influential conservative lawyers network, and leads a sprawling dark-money operation working to influence the courts, politics, and policy. In 2021, Leo was the beneficiary of a historic $1.6 billion dark money donation. He told CNN that he would not comply with the subpoena, calling it “unlawful” and the “left’s dark-money effort to silence and cancel political opposition.”

As Rolling Stone reported in February, Leo has been quietly expanding his dark-money network. “As Leonard Leo faces increasing scrutiny for his shady nonprofit network, it’s no surprise he’s desperately trying to rebrand,” said Caroline Ciccone, president at the watchdog group Accountable.US. “But no matter how many sketchy new groups he comes up with, he can’t rebrand the extreme agenda he’s still attempting to force on everyday Americans.”

During his time as then-President Donald Trump’s judicial adviser, Leo helped build the Supreme Court’s conservative 6-3 supermajority and select three justices. He did so while leading an outside network that spreads money around to help bring cases before the Supreme Court, determine which cases the justices consider, and influence the court’s decisions. The crowning achievement in this strategy was the court’s 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade, eliminating federal protections for abortion.

Over the past year, the Supreme Court has faced unprecedented scrutiny, following reports from ProPublica detailing Justice Clarence Thomas‘ close relationship with Nazi-obsessed billionaire and GOP donor Harlan Crow, who provided gifts and trips to Thomas that the justice failed to disclose.

Leo has played a role in some of these scandals. According to The Washington Post, Leo steered secret consulting payments to Thomas’ wife, Ginni.

Leo also helped arrange Justice Samuel Alito’s seat on a private jet, paid for by a billionaire hedge fund chief, as part of a vacation at an Alaskan luxury fishing lodge paid for by another conservative donor. Alito did not disclose the private jet flight.

The Senate Judiciary subpoena comes after Leo refused to provide the committee with a full accounting of gifts and payments he has directed to Supreme Court justices and their spouses.

In November, the high court adopted its first code of ethics. However, Democrats called out the lack of a mechanism to enforce the code, allowing justices to police themselves.

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