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Leonard Leo’s Network Has Spent $18M on Opposing Abortion Rights in Ohio Alone

The $18 million accounts for nearly 60 percent of funding that key abortion rights groups have raised to oppose Issue 1.

Activists are seen holding placards during a protest in Dayton, Ohio in 2019.

The dark money network run by conservative judicial puppetmaster Leonard Leo has poured millions into opposing abortion rights in Ohio ahead of a crucial measure on the state’s ballot this November.

Leo’s Concord Fund, which has been a fixture in Republican dark money circles, has funneled a staggering $18 million into opposing Ohio’s Issue 1, which would enshrine abortion as a constitutional right in the state after state lawmakers passed a near-total ban on the procedure. The ban is currently on hold, pending the results of the ballot measure.

The money was given to a group called Protect Women Ohio Action, The Lever reports, with $6 million of it having been given just in the past two months after voters rejected a GOP-led effort that would have raised the threshold to amend the state constitution via ballot measure.

Protect Women Ohio Action has, in turn, reported donating $17 million to the main group opposing the measure, buying a deluge of ads misleading voters about what Issue 1 would do.

Together, the two groups have raised $31 million to oppose the ballot measure, meaning that the Concord Fund’s donations account for nearly 60 percent of the funding that the groups have raised so far.

Some of this money is being siphoned right back into Leo’s network, The Lever finds. Protect Women Ohio and Protect Women Ohio Action have directed over $2.3 million to Leo’s consulting group, CRC Advisors.

Issue 1 would establish a constitutional right to abortion in Ohio, and would also protect contraception access. It would still allow the state to ban abortion after fetal viability, as long as there is a carveout for pregnant people whose life or health may be endangered by their pregnancy.

Some political experts view the ballot measure as a litmus test for how the issue of abortion will affect the 2024 election. Issue 1 supporters already notched a significant win when voters soundly defeated the GOP’s measure by a vote of 57 percent to 43 percent in August.

“Leonard Leo has spent his entire career working to end abortion access at all levels of government, stripping millions of women of their critical rights and freedoms,” Accountable.US president Caroline Ciccone said in a statement. “Leo leveraging his billion-dollar network to meddle in this election has dangerous, life-altering repercussions for Ohioans and Americans everywhere.”

As Accountable.US points out, over a dozen coalition members of Protect Women Ohio have ties to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a hate group pushing a radical right-wing Christian agenda onto the U.S. through the courts. The group is responsible for authoring the Mississippi abortion ban that eventually led to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

Abortion opposition has long been a driving force behind Leo’s court manipulation, with reports that he handpicked Justice Samuel Alito for nomination to the Supreme Court in 2005 for his friendliness with the anti-abortion movement.