Organization Trends

Dark Money Groups Are Funding the Left’s Court-Packing Agenda

A left-wing dark money group is pushing the Democratic Party to endorse remaking the judicial branch via court packing.

It’s telling that House Democrats unveiled their latest effort to pack the Supreme Court at an event hosted by “dark money.” Hidden donors pushing an unpopular, radical agenda from the shadows is the left’s modus operandi.

Meet Take Back the Court, the “dark money” group that claims credit for “mov[ing] the window on court expansion” from the fringe to the Democratic Party’s mainstream—proof that the activist tail is wagging the Democratic dog.

We’re told by these far-left activists that the Supreme Court’s “extremist majority” is too politicized because it was “stolen” by right-wing boogeymen, who’ve captured the entire appointment and confirmation process with “dark money.” So Take Back the Court plans to put the fix in by adding four new seats for card-carrying “progressives,” scheme enthusiasts believe couldn’t possibly backfire in the future.

The lead sponsor of their preferred bill, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., believes the current Supreme Court is “at crisis with itself and with our democracy.” Worse, it’s threatening to “usurp the power of the legislative and executive branches.” In a flash, Democrats have rediscovered federalism. Although Johnson’s bill has been gathering dust for a year, Take Back the Court is working to keep it on life support. Yet a closer look at the group itself ought to raise some eyebrows.

Oddities abound. Oddity #1: Take Back the Court is run by Aaron Belkin, a self-described dancer and San Francisco State University professor specializing in “sexuality in the armed forces.”

Belkin also runs the Palm Center, which advocates for transgenderism in the military. Bizarrely, in 2019 the center shuffled nearly $813,000—about half of its total expenses that year—to Take Back the Court Action Fund, Belkin’s 501(c)(4) lobbying wing. The center is a “controlling entity” over the Bay Area advocacy group, but Belkin seemingly has nothing to do with the courts.

Oddity #2: The original donor behind this mysterious cash infusion remains a mystery. But six- and seven-figure grants can be traced back to the center from the foundation of Jennifer (formerly James) Pritzker, a transgender ex-colonel of those billionaire Pritzkers in Chicago, including Illinois’ Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Whether that money was passed through to pack the Supreme Court is unclear.

Then there’s oddity #3. Despite its name, Take Back the Court Action Fund is called the “1/20/21 Action Fund” in the IRS archives. Its last public disclosure is from 2018, which ought to raise serious transparency questions. Nonprofits are legally required to file annual disclosures to maintain tax exemption. Where are the rest?

By the way, that reference to Inauguration Day (January 20, 2021) reveals the organization’s partisan intentions. In 2019, the organization launched Pack the Courts, a campaign to urge “Democrats to expand the courts after they take control of the White House and Congress,” run by the former director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who now runs the California Endowment, a liberal mega-funder.

Take Back the Court’s website boasts that the only way to “save democracy” is for “Democrats [to] return to power in 2020” by “retaking control of the Senate and White House.” Its other co-founders, Laurence Tribe and Mark Tushnet—both left-wing Harvard professors—aim to defeat “Republican obstruction, theft and procedural abuse” of the courts, while Tribe repeatedly demanded Democrats impeach President Donald Trump. This is ugly partisanship masquerading as philanthropy, and it won’t end with packing the court.

Belkin testified before President Joe Biden’s court-packing commission last year that “Court expansion is unlikely to be the last Court reform we need.” He declared that “the Supreme Court threatens the rights and well-being of the American people” and is “an active participant in the Republican Party’s attempts to destroy American democracy and govern via minority rule.”

A tax-exempt nonprofit labeling the nation’s top court an enemy of America is utterly breathtaking. Calling that nonprofit’s work “charity” is beyond absurd.

Then there’s Take Back the Court’s advisory board, which includes Nancy Gertner, a member of Biden’s Court-packing commission; “trained Marxist” and Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza; Heather McGhee, a Democratic operative and ex-president of the far-left think tank Demos; Evan Wolfson, founder of the gay marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry; and Manny Yekutiel, finance director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

It’s disturbing that any tax-deductible 501(c)(3) nonprofit—what the IRS terms “public charities”—would even tag itself “Take Back the Court” while operating in the same part of the tax code as your local church or the Salvation Army. But it shows just how far the hyper-political-activist left has trampled the idea of philanthropy rooted in Christianity: loving your neighbor. Clearly, the left’s god is politics.

Progressives, the mask is slipping.


This article originally appeared in The Federalist on July 25, 2022.

Hayden Ludwig

Hayden Ludwig is the Director of Policy Research at Restoration of America. He was formerly Senior Investigative Researcher at Capital Research Center. Ludwig is a native of Orange County, California,…
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