Special Report

Leftist “Dark Money” Activists Target America’s Courts


Here we go again: A Republican-nominated judge for the U.S. Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, is under fire from the Left as a right-wing extremist unfit for the nation’s judiciary.

Despite liberal claims about a “vast, right-wing conspiracy” to confirm constitutional originalists to federal courts—fueled by rivers of “dark money” from conservative donors—it’s the Left, not the Right that has access to nearly unlimited, untraceable dollars in its war to fundamentally transform America from the bench.

Arabella Advisors’ Judicial Attack Dogs

Arabella Advisors is a for-profit philanthropy consulting LLC headquartered in Washington, DC, that caters to liberal donors, but it’s so much more than that. Arabella controls four nonprofits—all based at the same downtown address in the District—which together poured out $600 million in 2018 alone, nearly all of it into politics. Between 2017 and 2018, the Arabella network raised more than twice as much as the Republican and Democratic National Committees put together ($1.2 billion versus $501 million). That $1.2 billion came overwhelmingly from leftist mega-donors such as George Soros, the Gates Foundation, and the Ford Foundation.

Arabella’s 501(c)(4) Sixteen Thirty Fund (2018 expenditures: $141 million) was started with seed funding from Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and Americans United for Change—both infamous for their election irregularities. Politico calls Arabella a “massive ‘dark money’ group,” a “liberal secret-money network” that was “one of the biggest players in the 2018 political landscape.” Other known donors include the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Federation of Teachers, and Tides Foundation’s advocacy arm. Its biggest donation in 2018 ($51.7 million) may be untraceable, but its second-largest donation ($26.7 million) came from its “sister,” the New Venture Fund. Sixteen Thirty, in turn, has gifted $26.5 million to Democrats in the 2020 cycle (as of writing).

This is the darkest kind of “dark money.” Arabella CEO Sampriti Ganguli has admitted that the company’s nonprofits are an “end run” or “work-around” for liberal donors to bypass “the tax regime” and its “constraints” on charitable giving—presumably including the limits on partisan activity and requirements to reveal a group’s finances.

Much of that money funds some 340 “pop-up” groups, flashy websites that run attacks against Republicans and conservative causes under the guise of being standalone organizations instead of fronts for Arabella’s nonprofits. They never file IRS Form 990 reports, reveal salaries, vendors, or budgets—much less disclose their donors.

See our new report on Arabella’s “dark money,”
The Shadow over America.

Demand Justice (expenditures: secret) is a Sixteen Thirty Fund “pop-up” created in 2018 to derail confirmation of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees. It’s led by Brian Fallon, former press secretary for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and an out-and-out partisan. Fallon launched the group after speaking before the shadowy Democracy Alliance, a donor group co-founded by George Soros to help Democrats win elections.

Demand Justice led the Left’s failed campaign to smear Justice Brett Kavanaugh as a gang rapist during his 2018 Supreme Court confirmation process. It protested against the nominee’s “extremism” outside the Supreme Court before Kavanaugh’s name was announced, wielding pre-printed signs to oppose all possible picks from Trump’s shortlist (“Stop Kethledge,” “Stop Hardiman,” “Stop Barrett,” “Stop Kavanaugh”). Demand Justice even purchased the website StopBarrett.com in 2018—which now redirects to its website—and spent $317,000 in electioneering communications to block Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Signs prepared shortly before Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement. Credit: Hayden Ludwig. License: Capital Research Center.

Demand Justice is now slandering Amy Coney Barrett as a racist, ideologically opposed to Roe v. Wade and Obamacare (according to its “factsheet”). The group plans to spend $10 million “dark” dollars to block her confirmation. It’s also one of the loudest groups for packing the Supreme Court with “Progressive” standbys to ensure permanent control over the Court.

Fix the Court (expenditures: secret) is Demand Justice’s (ironically named) research “sister,” hosted by the 501(c)(3) New Venture Fund, which is the source of “all” its funding, according to director Gabe Roth. Fix the Court provides talking points to liberal groups to lobby for Supreme Court “reforms” (term limits for justices, barring justices from owning stocks, and so forth), but its main role is supporting Demand Justice’s attack campaigns—which has even cited Fix the Court as “a nonpartisan watchdog group” in its own propaganda.

Like StopBarrett.com, Fix the Court bought the website BrettKavanaugh.com in October 2018. That page formerly accused the justice of supporting rape and now redirects to Fix the Court’s website. Fix the Court filed a FOIA lawsuit in July 2018 to obtain files from Kavanaugh’s tenure in the Bush administration. It will likely probe Barrett’s past for potentially useful fodder.

Major Judicial Attack Groups

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR; 2018 expenditures: $3.6 million) is a civil rights litigation group led by Vanita Gupta, a former ACLU deputy legal director and principal deputy assistant attorney general in Department of Justice during the Obama administration. LCCHR may be run by suits, but it’s no less vitriolic than Demand Justice. In fact, the two have led numerous rallies opposing Trump’s judicial nominees, waving signs that read “Save SCOTUS.”

In 2019, LCCHR released an open letter calling District of Columbia Court of Appeals nominee Neomi Rao a racist opponent of women’s rights and anti-LGBTQ. It’s already done a similar number on Barrett’s character, criticizing her “extreme record” as “fundamentally cruel” and her confirmation as “outrageous.” LCCHR’s top donors include the Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, NEO Philanthropy, United Auto Workers, Sixteen Thirty Fund, and George Soros’s Open Society Foundations.

Alliance for Justice (AFJ: 2018 expenditures: $6 million) is an ACLU spin-off created in 1979. It gained notoriety in 1987 after leading the Democrats “borking” of President Ronald Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork during his confirmation hearing. AFJ runs Building the Bench, a left-wing alternative the center-right Federalist Society’s list of qualified judges. But unlike the Federalist Society it doesn’t publicly reveal its list.

The group doesn’t hesitate to denigrate conservative judges as Trump’s “effort to pack the bench with dangerously unfit and unqualified nominees”—the Left’s irresponsible and misleading redefinition of court packing.

Alliance for Justice has been after Barrett for years. In 2017, the group savaged Barrett’s confirmation to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals as advancing a “GOP court-packing plan” and called Barrett an “ideologue programmed to toe the conservative line at every step.” Now the group hosts a 32-page “report” stating, “The fact is, anyone President Trump would nominate has no place on the [Supreme] Court.” AFJ’s top donors include George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, the Ford Foundation, and the Tides Foundation.

Other Attack Groups

That’s only the tip of the Left iceberg. Numerous non-judicial groups have piled on to attack the confirmations of Republican judicial nominees:

So What About “Dark Money”?

Let’s not forget that the term “dark money” was coined in 2010 by a liberal group to denigrate the work of 501(c)(4) nonprofits to influence public policy. That year the Supreme Court upheld Americans’ First Amendment free speech rights in Citizens United v. FEC, and “dark money” came into vogue as a way to attack conservative groups such as the National Rifle Association and Judicial Crisis Network.

“Dark money” hawks such as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) may spread the falsehood that untraceable dollars are a conservative phenomenon, but CRC’s reporting sets the record straight. Maybe now we can discuss the merits of ideas—instead of merely who pays for them.

Hayden Ludwig

Hayden Ludwig is an Investigative Researcher at Capital Research Center. He is a native of Orange County, California, and holds a Master’s of Public Policy from George Mason University.
+ More by Hayden Ludwig

Support Capital Research Center's award-winning journalism

Donate today to assist in promoting the principles of individual liberty in America.