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Watchdog Group Calls Out GOP Senators Over Harlan Crow, Leonard Leo Defenses

Leonard Leo has chosen to ignore a Senate Judiciary Committee subpoena given to him earlier this month.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) during a Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, September 10, 2020.

Leonard Leo, co-chair of the right-wing legal group The Federalist Society and noted coordinator of dark money donations to conservative causes, and Harlan Crow, a billionaire Republican donor known for his lavish gifts to Supreme Court justices, have received robust support from Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee for refusing to abide by subpoenas issued by Democrats.

According to an analysis from Accountable.US, the two may be receiving preferential treatment due to how much they have contributed to Republicans and right-wing causes.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines in November to subpoena both Leo and Crow, with Democrats, who control a majority of seats on the committee, winning the vote to do so. Democrats said the subpoenas were needed to learn more about undisclosed gifts that Leo and Crow gave to Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

Prior to that vote, the Supreme Court, responding to media reports about the undisclosed gifts, enacted new ethical guidelines. The new standards were slammed by numerous Democratic Judiciary Committee members, who noted that they could never be effective if they were self-enforced.

“The Committee’s investigation into the Court’s ethical crisis — and these subpoenas in particular — are key pieces of our legislative efforts to establish an effective code of conduct,” Judiciary Chair Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said in response to the guidelines.

Judiciary Republicans blasted the subpoenas, promising that they wouldn’t pass a Senate filibuster, which would be needed to enforce them if Crow and Leo ignored the committee’s demand to testify and provide evidence.

“These subpoenas are never going to see the light of day. You know you’re not going to get 60 votes for these subpoenas,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said.

“You just destroyed one of the most important committees in the United States Senate. Congratulations on destroying the United States Senate Judiciary Committee,” claimed Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), directing his comments to Durbin during the hearing regarding the subpoenas.

Despite being voted on last year, the subpoenas weren’t officially delivered to Leo and Crow until earlier this month. Last week, Leo announced he wouldn’t comply with the subpoena, falsely saying in a statement that it was a “lawless” order “to silence and cancel political opposition.”

Durbin has said he will pursue the “compulsory process” to get Leo to abide by the subpoena, despite Republicans promising to block such an effort.

Graham and other Republicans continued to voice their support of Leo, with the South Carolina Republican reacting to Leo’s action last week by calling the order “political clickbait” and wrongly describing it as “illegal.”

Leo is a huge coordinator of dark money in right-wing politics. He’s also profoundly influential when it comes to the Supreme Court, with one analysis finding that he’s been connected to nearly 70 percent of amicus briefs submitted to the Court over the past two years.

That same analysis, conducted by Politico, found that language within those briefs were regularly borrowed by conservative justices in their written opinions, demonstrating the extent to which Leo and his allies have influenced the outcomes of Supreme Court decisions.

Notably, Leo and Crow are huge benefactors to Judiciary Republicans, creating an apparent conflict of interest, Accountable.US demonstrates in documents shared with Truthout.

According to the group’s findings, Crow has donated more than $453,000 to current Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee since 2000. Graham, for example, received $20,000 in donations from Crow in the year 2020.

The Federalist Society and Leo have also benefited Graham and other Republicans on the committee.

“Sen. Graham was Judiciary Committee Chairman from 2019 to 2021, when he presided over the ‘speedy’ confirmation of Supreme Court Justice and ‘longtime’ Federalist Society Member Amy Coney Barrett after she was included in Trump’s shortlist that Leonard Leo helped draft,” Accountable.US said in a supporting document explaining the closeness of Leo to these Republicans. “Graham took a ‘maxed-out donation from Federalist Society co-founder and board chairman Steven Calabresi’ during Coney Barrett’s nomination hearings — just days before Graham’s committee voted to advance her nomination.”

Accountable.US president Caroline Ciccone provided a comment to Truthout about the matter.

“There should be bipartisan outrage in response to the corruption and influence-peddling at the Supreme Court. Perhaps Senate Judiciary Republicans’ deep Leo network ties and hefty campaign contributions from billionaire benefactor Harlan Crow can help explain why these conservatives have mounted an unusually aggressive defense campaign instead of backing necessary accountability measures,” Ciccone said. “Regardless, Leonard Leo, Harlan Crow, and all others responsible for corrupting our high court must be held accountable.”

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