Will the left's astroturf activism corrupt the Supreme Court?
Almost immediately after President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Republican senators announced they had the votes to confirm her. With issues as critical as Obamacare set for hearings as early as November 10, the stakes couldn't be higher.
But "dark money" activists are already scrambling to ensure that only hardened leftists — not constitutional originalists — make the bench.
They've tried this strategy before. In May, Chief Justice John Roberts was forced to put to bed a shameful and unfounded conspiracy theory advanced by left-wing activists that federal judge Tom Griffiths was bribed into retiring from his seat. Activists demanded that a left-leaning judge, Sri Srinivasan, investigate Griffiths as part of a Republican plot to fill the courts with more Trump appointees before the 2020 election.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board — and Justice Roberts — wisely saw the theory for what it was: a "political stunt" unworthy of arbiters of the law.
But those stunts are par for the course for Demand Justice, the "dark money" group behind the activists who concocted the scheme and are aiming to thwart any future judge nominated by President Trump.
As InfluenceWatch explains, the group was formed by hardened Democratic operatives in 2018 to defeat Trump's judicial nominees and launch pressure campaigns against the Supreme Court. Demand Justice is led by Brian Fallon, an Obama administration alumnus, press secretary for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, and adviser to the Democratic PAC Priorities USA.
Far from defending the rule of law, Demand Justice demands loyalty tests of all court appointees — especially when it comes to Obamacare and abortion on demand. When Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) insisted in July 2018 that a nominee for retiring justice Anthony Kennedy's seat support legal precedent — the bedrock of American constitutional law — Fallon mocked her: "The idea that she would ask generic questions about precedent and try to have that suffice as a reassurance on Roe [v. Wade] is unacceptable," he said.
After Trump appointed judge Brett Kavanaugh to the nation's highest court, Demand Justice launched a $5-million ad campaign to #StopKavanaugh, launching a website (StopKavanaugh.com) advertising help for survivors of sexual assault (a thinly veiled reference to ugly, unfounded allegations against Kavanaugh).
But you won't find Demand Justice listed with a reputable nonprofit watchdog like ProPublica, Guidestar, or even the IRS. Instead, it's a front for the Sixteen Thirty Fund — a leading "dark money" group and the lobbying wing of a $635-million nonprofit network led by the consultancy Arabella Advisors.
CRC's latest report, "The Shadow Over America," reveals how Arabella's four in-house nonprofits poured out an incredible $606 million in 2018 alone — all of which originated with dozens of anonymous leftist donors. Between 2006 and 2018, Arabella's nonprofits raked in a staggering $2.4 billion, much of it from the Gates, Buffett, and Ford Foundations.
Arabella offers a unique service to the professional left: sponsoring hundreds of "pop-up" groups made to look like standalone activist groups that are little more than websites. And because pop-ups like Demand Justice aren't registered nonprofits, they aren't required to file Form 990s with the IRS — leaving their finances and board membership hidden from watchdogs.
Take, for example, Fix the Court, Demand Justice's (ironically named) "sister" group and a project of Arabella's flagship 501(c)(3), the New Venture Fund. The groups' parallel campaigns against Kavanaugh are the epitome of fake "grassroots activism," with Demand Justice citing Fix the Court as "a nonpartisan watchdog group" in a 2018 Freedom of Information Act request for over 1 million pages of documents from Kavanaugh's prior government service. Neither pop-up acknowledges their close relationship vis-à-vis Arabella Advisors, yet they share Arabella's cushy office space in D.C. It doesn't get more "inside the Beltway" than that.
As in 2016, the future of the Supreme Court will decide the outcome of the 2020 election. No one knows this better than the left, which has relied on the court to ram through a radical agenda that leftists don't dare bring before voters.
This won't be an easy fight for conservatives. Expect even fiercer resistance from Demand Justice and Arabella Advisors than we've seen before, but be prepared to recognize it for what it is: phony Astroturf activism.
Hayden Ludwig is an investigative researcher at the Capital Research Center in Washington, D.C.