One of the Left’s biggest boogeymen when it comes to GOP judicial nominees is the supposed “dark money” operation helping them get to the federal bench; however, they don’t seem to have much of a problem with all the liberal money that goes to oppose judges and justices they don’t don’t like.
“Justice on Trial,” a new book from Judicial Crisis Network chief counsel Carrie Severino and the Federalist senior editor Mollie Hemingway, details the inside story behind the contentious Senate confirmation of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. It also has some new, eye-popping information about the massive left-wing “dark money” operation that tried to kill Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Leading up to the final confirmation vote, before the process was swept up in the rash of still-unsubstantiated allegations of sexual misconduct from decades ago, one of the biggest talking points against then-nominee Kavanaugh was the funding behind his confirmation.
The book recalls that Senate Judiciary Committee member Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., “had an ax to grind against ‘shadowy dark money front groups’ participating in the judicial appointment process” and even brought them up as a major part of his opening statement during the confirmation hearing.
“Here’s how the game works,” Whitehouse said in his opening statement. “Big business and partisan groups fund the Federalist Society, which picked Gorsuch and now you.”
But Hemingway and Severino write that “Senator Whitehouse told only half the story.” An excerpt from the book explains that one liberal organization poured a lot of dark dollars into opposing Kavanaugh’s confirmation:
In the battle over Kavanaugh’s confirmation, the most visible liberal organization was Demand Justice, formed only a few months before Kennedy’s retirement by veteran Democratic operatives with experience in the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Obama administration. If money given to the Judicial Crisis Network is “dark” because JCN’s annual 990 tax filings don’t disclose its donors, Demand Justice’s bank account is a black hole. “Fiscally sponsored” by the Sixteen Thirty Fund, an under-the-radar liberal intermediary group that passes money from donors to dozens of liberal organizations, Demand Justice doesn’t even file the disclosure forms that “dark money” groups do. Senator Whitehouse couldn’t put it on one of his pie charts if he tried. Both the donors to Demand Justice and the amount of money they contribute are completely invisible.
The Sixteen Thirty Fund does file an annual Form 990, but it does not reveal the identities of its donors. Although its budget dwarfs that of the Judicial Crisis Network and the Federalist Society combined, it has failed to pique Senator Whitehouse’s interest. In 2017 it brought in $79 million and ended the year with $43 million in assets, growing by an astonishing 1,547 percent in only eight years. In pursuit of its cryptically worded mission—“promoting social welfare, including, but not limited to, providing public education on and conducting advocacy regarding key policies”—the fund bankrolls liberal groups focused on everything from judicial appointments, organized labor, and abortion to Senator Whitehouse’s own favorite dark-money heavyweight, the League of Conservation Voters. They also fund Majority Forward, a 501(c)(4) group closely tied to Senator Chuck Schumer’s Senate Majority PAC. Majority Forward alone accounted for one-third of all the dark-money spending in the 2018 election, giving liberals a comfortable dark-money lead over conservatives.
The book goes on to explain that the Sixteen Thirty Fund is managed by Arabella Advisors, which the authors describe as a “a philanthropy consulting firm in Washington, D.C., that works with high-dollar liberal donors and nonprofits.” The firm, which was founded by former Clinton administration appointee Eric Kessler, manages four nonprofits and reports $1.6 billion in revenue and $1.1 billion in expenditures since 2013.
“If Senator Whitehouse had been interested in teasing out the many interconnected threads of that dark-money web,” the authors continue, “he would have learned that Kessler is also the president of the Sixteen Thirty Fund and the chairman of the board of the New Venture Fund, its sister group in the Arabella orbit, which has sponsored more than two hundred projects and reports an annual revenue of $358 million.”
In turn, the book concludes, “these entities are linked to a dizzying array of anti-Kavanaugh organizations, including the Sierra Club, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Center for American Progress, Color of Change, Health Care for America Now, Health Care Voter, and the NAACP.” It adds, “The Center for Popular Democracy, one of the groups promoting the protests in in the Dirksen [Senate Office Building] halls during the hearings, received substantial funding from the New Venture Fund.”
Here’s a general rule of thumb: Whenever a politician complains that they have a problem with “dark money,” they usually don’t mean “dark money” that supports the causes they agree with.