Leonard Leo's Unheavenly Rewards
He captured the Supreme Court. His SCOTUS selections torpedoed Roe, just like he wanted—needlessly endangering women's lives. And he walked away with millions.
In the 50 years since Roe v. Wade, many individuals played a role in the fascistic assault on safe, legal abortion—not least the odious Supreme Court Justices who ignored popular opinion, medical science, and stare decisis in issuing the abominable Dobbs decision.
But if we pull back a little, we see that the reversal of Roe is largely the work of a single man. His name is Leonard Leo. He is a staunch—and, in my view, a radical—Catholic. He is the master of puppets behind the Federalist Society, the Judicial Crisis Network, Becket, the 85 Fund, and other dark money groups. As Trump’s “judge whisperer,” he is responsible for the installation of Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, where they joined his radical Catholic chums Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito, and John Roberts. And since he began advising FPOTUS in 2016, he has become inordinately wealthy.
According to POLITICO, from January 2020 through December 2021, Leo—always a big wheel in political non-profits, but traditionally more concerned with pushing policy than stockpiling cash—seeded his latest for-profit political consulting firm, CRC Advisors, with some $43 million. This is on top of the $15 million his other for-profit firm, BH Group, raked in during the Trump years. As POLITICO’s Heidi Przybyla puts it, “Leo’s lifestyle took a lavish turn beginning in 2016, the year he was tapped as an unpaid adviser to incoming President Donald Trump on Supreme Court justices. It’s the same period during which he erected a for-profit ecosystem around his longtime nonprofit empire that is shielded from taxes.”
The key word in that quote is “lavish.” If Leonard Leo attends Mass every day, as has been reported, he must be familiar with Matthew 19, in which Jesus sends away the rich young man who refuses to sell his possessions and give to the poor:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
But here is the devoutly pious Leonard Leo, a Knight of Malta don’t you know, greasing up the camels! To be fair, he does give generously to Catholic causes. He is a Steward of St. Peter, and you don’t get to be a Steward of St. Peter without coughing up at least a million bucks in contributions. But there’s plenty of bread left over, as Przybyla explains, for him to enjoy la dolce vita:
The spending by Leo-aligned non-profits on his for-profit businesses coincided with changes in his personal lifestyle and finances. IRS and other public records between 2016 and 2020 show a major expansion of Leo’s personal wealth that coincided with the start of his work for Trump and the creation of his own for-profit entity called BH Group. Both happened in 2016.
Over the two decades before he became Trump’s “judge whisperer,” Leo had maintained a largely middle-class lifestyle directing one of Washington D.C.’s many nonprofit organizations.
Since 2016, however, his recent wealth accumulation has included two new mansions in Maine, four new cars, private school tuition for his children, hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to Catholic causes and a wine buyer and locker at Morton’s Steakhouse, according to POLITICO’s review of public records.
How many mansions in Maine would Jesus buy?
I don’t begrudge a fellow middle-class Jersey guy—Leo hails from Monroe Township, which is not to be confused with Alpine or Short Hills—from striking it rich. The problem is, he made his fortune by causing real harm to real people. Not zygotes. Not fetuses. Actual, living, breathing human beings.
Amanda Zurawski is from Texas, where, after Dobbs, Greg Abbott’s fascist state government imposed one of the nation’s most restrictive anti-abortion laws. Although her fetus was not viable, and her miscarriage inevitable, doctors refused to give her the abortion she urgently needed, for fear of running afoul of the new law. As she recounted at The Meteor:
My doctor outlined the roadmap in no uncertain terms: I could wait however long it took to go into labor naturally, if I did at all, knowing that my baby would be stillborn or pass away soon after; I could wait for my baby’s heartbeat to stop, and then we could end the pregnancy; or—most alarmingly—I could develop an infection and become so sick that my life would become endangered. Not until one of those things happened would a single medical professional in the state of Texas legally be allowed to act. It was a waiting game, the most horrific version of a staring contest: Whose life would end first? Mine, or my daughter’s?
Zurawski developed sepsis. Only then, with her life in critical danger, could doctors legally terminate the pregnancy. She spent over three days in the ICU. She almost died. And because of scar tissue in her uterus, she may never be able to have children.
From a medical standpoint, banning abortion is no different from banning chemotherapy. The vast majority of Americans oppose forced birth. And as I’ve written before, there is nothing more authoritarian than the state forcing a woman to carry to term a pregnancy she does not want. But this is the outcome Leonard Leo had to have; he placed his ideological comrades on the Court to get his way; and now, innocent women like Amanda Zurawski are paying the price.
Hers is one of many cruel, barbaric, and unnecessary horror stories that are the ultimate result of Leo’s anti-choice activism. And there will continue to be more, in every state where abortion is now banned, until Roe is reinstated.
Did Leo not realize that this would be the result? Was the objective to save the glorified blastocysts the forced birth crew ridiculously call “the unborn”—or to irreparably harm already-alive women (and poorer women, women of color, and minors in particular)? Because, in practice, Dobbs is accomplishing way more of the latter than the former. “Pro-life,” my ass.
Pushing this hardline, anti-abortion horrorshow has made Leonard Leo a rich man. That $58 million he raked in—$15 million from BH, $43 million from CRC—is blood money.
According to POLITICO, a whopping $33.8 million of the $43 million Leo’s new for-profit company made over the last two years came from [checks notes] payments from one of Leo’s non-profits. That non-profit, the 85 Fund, is legally a separate entity from Marble Freedom Trust—the concern that last year received the $1.6 billion donation from the reclusive nonagenarian gajillionaire Barre Seid—but both companies are tiny, and the books at both are kept by the same Leo crony.
To be clear: There’s nothing illegal about any of that. But the optics are terrible. To me, this looks like Leo being rewarded for successfully overturning Roe—payment for services rendered. He may have been an “unpaid advisor” to Trump, as the POLITICO article makes clear, but at the end of the day, the guy banked eight figures for taking women’s rights away.
And Leo the Cancer is just getting started. The war on women’s rights is far from over. Leo’s outfits have invested heavily in a campaign to ban the sale of abortion pills nationwide; the case for this is now before an arch-conservative judge named Matthew Kacsmaryk, who has deep ties to Leo’s Federalist Society. According to Jezebel, “Kacsmaryk actually co-founded the Fort Worth, Texas, chapter of the Federalist Society and has spoken at at least 10 of its events, most recently in New Orleans on Friday, February 24—the same day final briefs were due in the abortion pill case.” Also: “Leo himself has financial ties to the firm where Kacsmaryk worked immediately before becoming a judge.”
It seems a foregone conclusion that Kacsmaryk will nix the sale of abortion pills. The case will then make its way to the Supreme Court, where six Leo allies await. If Alito & Friends do a repeat of Dobbs, they will hurt even more women—in blue states, too, this time. At this point, one has to ask: is harming women the point?
Finally, Leo has his patient eye on the future. He’s already thick as thieves with Florida governor Ron DeSantis, a longtime Federalist Society darling. According to the Tampa Bay Tribune and Facing South, Leo has vetted all of the governor’s state Supreme Court selections, and wrapped up the FEDSOC capture of the Florida state court this past year. Not only that, but DeSantis is reportedly tight with Ginni and Clarence Thomas, Leo’s most important SCOTUS allies. A DeSantis presidency would further move the judiciary to the right.
As I point out in “Leo the Cancer,” the only way Leonard Leo and his buddies can subvert the will of a vast majority of Americans and push their retrograde belief system on the rest of us is to establish a dictatorship—a radical Catholic caliphate. “By eradicating the barrier between Church and State,” I wrote, “Leo seeks the same outcome. Ultimately, what these men want is, to put it mildly, inconsistent with democracy. That makes them particularly dangerous.”
I wrote that in late February 2021—before the jaw-dropping ten-figure Barre Seid donation. Two years later, Leonard Leo is personally richer, politically more powerful, and underwritten by a virtually limitless pool of money. The bigger he gets, the more women are harmed, and the greater the threat to democracy.
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JCN is now known as the Concord Fund.
Damn fine reporting. Thank you. I hope like hell this goes viral.
Did you see this in the NYT this morning? Women are fighting back in Texas after being denied abortions because their fetuses were severely malformed - 2 didn’t even have a skull. The 5 women were denied abortions (one is the woman you highlighted above).