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Dark Money: How the Supreme Court’s 6-3 Anti-Choice, Conservative Majority Was Shaped

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What role did dark money play in the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade? We speak with reporter Andrew Perez about how conservative anti-abortion groups and right-wing extremists have funneled millions of dollars into promoting politicians and Supreme Court justices to ultimately curtail reproductive rights. A dark money network led by the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo has spent at least $10 million promoting each of President Trump’s picks for the Supreme Court and another $10 million blocking Merrick Garland’s nomination in 2016, says Perez, senior editor and investigative reporter at The Lever.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

The leaked draft of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was anticipated by many who say the court’s current 6-to-3 conservative majority was designed for this moment by a conservative dark money network. These include groups like the Judicial Crisis Network, which doesn’t disclose its donors, and key players like Leonard Leo, the vice president of the Federalist Society, who advised former President Donald Trump on all of his judicial nominations.

The Supreme Court’s anticipated reversal of federal constitutional protections of abortion rights is out of step with the views of a majority of Americans, as well as the Democratic majority in Congress and President Biden. Some put the number, the percentage of Americans for abortion at 70%.

For more, we’re joined by Andrew Perez, senior editor and reporter at The Lever. He co-wrote the new piece “The Roe Disaster — And What To Do About It: Reproductive rights are on the chopping block because of dark GOP schemes and Democrats’ duplicity — but this fight is not over,” writes Andrew Perez.

Andrew, why don’t you take it from there? Follow the dark money trail for us.

ANDREW PEREZ: Sure. Yeah, so, Leonard Leo is a longtime senior executive at the Federalist Society, and he played a huge role in building this court the way it is and making it so that it’s poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. And so, since 2005, he’s been leading a dark money network, and its owners are pretty much unknown. We really have no idea who’s been funding it. But they’ve been highly influential. They’ve run a lot of TV ads, boosting candidates or boosting judges. And they also helped play a role in fighting Merrick Garland’s nomination in 2016, which obviously didn’t advance. And he also got to help make the court picks for Trump as his chief judicial adviser.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And could you talk a little bit more specifically about the amounts of money involved here — you’ve traced enormous sums that were plowed into building support for Justice Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh — and how the network actually operated?

ANDREW PEREZ: Sure. I’d say it’s probably like, you know, nearly $10 million per pick. That’s sort of what they said they were spending, what Judicial Crisis Network said it was going to be spending. You know, that group and its kind of affiliates also then definitely donated some millions of dollars to other groups that were supporting, you know, both Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett. And they also said that they spent around $10 million to block Garland’s nomination in 2016.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And this wasn’t just money spent on the Supreme Court, right, in terms of the impact of Leonard Leo on many other lower federal court appointments by both President Trump and President Bush?

ANDREW PEREZ: Definitely, yeah. They have been active, especially recently, on some lower court nominations. And they’ve also been really involved in state supreme court fights, like in Wisconsin. And I believe that they also helped finance an effort in Nebraska to basically reinstate the death penalty.

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