In 2000, when U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas was deciding if George W. Bush or Al Gore would be the 43rd U.S. president, his wife Ginni was working with the Heritage Foundation to recruit candidates for a potential Bush administration.
Neither of them had any issues with the arrangement. Justice Thomas didn’t recuse himself and instead joined the majority to overrule the Florida Supreme Court and stop the statewide recount. Thomas had been nominated by H.W. Bush in 1991.
Ginni later became the liaison between Heritage and the Bush White House.
A decade later, she launched Liberty Central, a dark money, advocacy group that wanted “limited government, personal responsibility, individual liberty, free enterprise and national security.” Unknown donors gave it almost $1.5 million in its first two years.
Liberty was used to fight former President Barack Obama’s “hard-left agenda” and the Affordable Care Act. Leonard Leo, the executive vice president of the Federalist Society, was Liberty’s director. He’s longtime friends with Clarence and Ginni.
He’s worked for decades with federal judicial nominees and Republican White Houses to overhaul the court system with pro-abortion judges that show a “demonstrable judicial record of embracing originalism, textualism and the structural Constitution.”
He first met with Trump in March 2016. Don McGahn, Trump’s future White House counsel, called to say Trump wanted to meet. (McGahn is a contributor to the Federalist Society.) At McGahn’s Jones Day office they discussed with Leo a need to compile a list of potential Supreme Court nominees in case Trump got elected.
“What (Trump) said in clear and certain terms from the very beginning was I want people who are ‘not weak,’ and I want people who are going to ‘interpret the Constitution the way the framers meant it to be,’” Leo said.
He eventually submitted a list of nominees that included Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. And he later took time off from the Federalist Society to advise the White House on their confirmation hearings.
The Federalist Society is a group of conservative attorneys, judges and legal scholars that are an arm of the Council for National Policy (CNP). The CNP is described as a “secretive umbrella group of far right leaders” that’s pushing America toward a theocratic government; a society ruled by God’s law.
Members of the Federalist Society and the CNP are generally opposed to immigration, regulation, global warming science, abortion and homosexuality.
Paul Weyrich was a co-founder of the Heritage Foundation and the CNP. He was closely related to Dominionism and the beliefs of Southern Baptist Pastor Jerry Falwell. Weyrich and Falwell partnered to battle against the Civil Rights Act and desegregation in the South on the grounds of religious freedom.
Weyrich also denied that a U.S. citizen’s right to vote was guaranteed. In 1980, he said that the way for Republicans to win elections was to limit the votes of non-whites.
“I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down,” Weyrich said.
Weyrich founded the American Legislative Exchange Council, a dark money group that writes conservative legislation. It’s partially funded by the Koch Brothers and has introduced voter suppression legislation in at least 38 states.
Trump’s named one in four Federal Appeals Court judges. He’s nominated — and the U.S. Senate has confirmed — a 172 federal judges for life, two associate justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, 48 at the U.S. Courts of Appeals, 120 in U.S. District Courts and two on the U.S. Court of International Trade.
Leo also worked with members in the W. Bush White House — like Kavanaugh, who was then White House associate counselor — to get John Roberts and Samuel Alito nominated.
Beth Ann Williams, a contributor to the Federalist Society who was president of its student chapter at Harvard law school, was the Special Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary who helped guide Roberts and Alito through their confirmations.
After leaving the W. Bush administration, she worked at Kirkland & Ellis for more than a decade representing clients like the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, UBS Securities and Facebook.
She defended Facebook — and some of its officers — against class action litigation involving its 2012 IPO. She lead the work in the case and participated in discovery and depositions.
In 2015, she was admitted to the SCOTUS bar. In 2017, she was confirmed as the U.S. Assistant AG for the Office of Legal Policy. She’s the primary policy advisor to the U.S. Attorney General William Barr and the U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen. Barr and Rosen are contributors to the Federalist Society.
Overall, Bush appointed 327 federal judges for life; two U.S. Supreme Court justices, 62 at the U.S. Courts of Appeals, 261 at U.S. District Courts and two on the U.S. Court of International Trade.
He also put U.S. Attorney Generals John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales in charge of the DOJ. Both are contributors to the Federalist Society. Ashcroft has been a member of the CNP. His law firm represented convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout. Gonzales has spoken at CNP events.
In 2008, a joint investigation by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of Professional Responsibility found that from 2002–2006, politically appointed DOJ officials purposefully “considered political or ideological affiliations when deselecting candidates” for the Attorney General’s Honors Program and the Summer Law Intern Program.
“A disproportionate number of the deselected candidates had liberal affiliations as compared to the candidates with conservative affiliations…Similarly, the pattern was evident when we compared membership in the American Constitution Society versus the Federalist Society,” according to the report.
Evidence showed Republican committee member, Esther Slater McDonald “wrote disparaging statements about candidates’ liberal and Democratic Party affiliations on the applications she reviewed and that she voted to deselect candidates on that basis.” Slater McDonald is a contributor of the Federalist Society.
Mike Elston, chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, was also involved in the hiring process. The OIG found he violated federal regulations by “taking political affiliations into account.”
A year before, Elston was exposed for being involved in the firing of nine U.S. federal prosecutors. Some said they received threats from Elston encouraging their silence. The plan for the firing of the prosecutors originated with Karl Rove.
In 2009, thousands of pages of internal e-mail and Congressional testimony were released that showed Rove and other senior Bush aides were unhappy with New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias because he was “dragging his feet on voter fraud and corruption investigations involving Democrats.”
Publicly, Bush chose to blame the firings on the prosecutors “failing to prosecute the raft of offenses that make up voter fraud.” The Republicans were greatly concerned with voter fraud under Bush.
Back in 2002, AG Ashcroft announced an initiative that required “all components of the (DOJ)” to “place a high priority on the investigation and prosecution of election fraud.” Almost five years later, 86 people had been convicted of voter fraud.
After the Bush v. Gore decision, the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was passed to “fix” the broken election system. Through September 2018, a total of $3.4 billion in federal funds have been awarded to 50 states to buy updated electronic voting equipment and security.
HAVA created the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and gave it control over the testing, certification, decertification and recertification of voting system hardware and software. It also requires states ensure that voter registration records are accurate and updated regularly.
Dr. John C. Eastman is a contributor to the Federalist Society. He worked at Kirkland & Ellis after clerking for Justice Thomas. He was the Director of Congressional & Public Affairs at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in the Reagan administration. He was the 1990 GOP Nominee for Congress in California’s 34th District. He’s the Chairman of the Board for the National Organization for Marriage.
He’s also the chairman of the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), a dark money conservative voting rights organization involved in state and federal legislation requesting to review state voter registration databases for non-citizens.
- “PILF v. North Carolina State Board of Elections”
PILF accuses the North Carolina State Board of Elections of failing to disclose noncitizen registered voter records.
- “PILF v. Harris Bennett”
PILF accuses the Office of the Harris County, TX Tax Assessor-Collector of failing to disclose noncitizen registered voter records.
- “PILF v. Torres”
PILF accuses the Pennsylvania Department of State of failing to disclose a reported 100,000 noncitizen registered voter records.
- “ACRU, et al. v. Snipes”
PILF accuses Brenda Snipes, the Supervisor of Elections in Broward County, FL of “failure to maintain accurate and current voter rolls and for failure to provide records related to voter roll maintenance and possible noncitizen voters…”
- “LULAC et. al. v. Texas“
It defends the Texas government’s efforts to identify and remove non citizens registered in TX.
It filed other briefs favoring gerrymandering, disclosure laws, citizenship and the sharing of voter data between states.
- “Rucho v. Common Cause”
PILF denies that North Carolina‘s 2016 congressional map was unconstitutional, partisan or gerrymandered. SCOTUS decided that states should be the ones judging how districts are drawn — not federal courts.
- “Americans for Prosperity Foundation and Thomas More Law Center v. Becerra”
PPILF supported striking down California’s disclosure law for charities.
- “2020 Census Citizenship Question Case”
PILF defended the U.S. Department of Commerce’s reinstatement of a citizenship question for the 2020 Census. The Supreme Court ultimately decided the question was illegal.
A few years ago, it filed a motion to defend Indiana’s use of the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck program. The state passed a law that allowed it to identify and remove voters who may have registered or voted in two or more states. Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was one of the first to use the program. The Crosscheck program was last used in 2017, after 28 states exchanged 98 million registration records with the software.
Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams also work with Eastman at PILF. Spakovsky and Adams also both worked in the DOJ’s Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division under the W. Bush administration.
In 2005, Adams was hired at the DOJ to work in its voting section. He also worked there under Obama but eventually left the claiming the DOJ provided “racial preference that privileged African Americans.”
In September, Adams testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee about alleged evidence of current and ongoing voting discrimination. He does not like how easy it is for certain people to vote.
“It has never been easier to vote in the United States than now. In some cases, voter access has broadened to the point that it lacks sufficient safeguards to ensure immigrants and felons don’t register before they are eligible. There is still work to be done, however.”
von Spakovsky worked at the DOJ as counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights. Many career lawyers in the DOJ’s voting section believed his work there was done to suppress votes in low-income, minority communities. While at the DOJ, more than half of the career lawyers in the voting section eventually left in protest of von Spakovsky’s actions.
He also advised the W. Bush administration on HAVA. He later served for two years at the Federal Election Commission after W. Bush appointed him during a 2006 congressional recess. He didn’t serve a second term. He’s currently a senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.
Adams and von Spakovsky also do work for the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU), a group started in 1999 to “counter the anti-freedom agenda of the American Civil Liberties Union.” One of the group’s main focus is election integrity.
Ken Blackwell, a former Secretary State of Ohio who has a long history of election fraud, is on ACRU’s policy board. Edwin Meese III, the former AG under President Ronald Reagan, is an ACRU director. Blackwell is listed as member of the CNP in its 2014 directory. Meese was CNP president in 1996 and on its executive committee in 1994. He was awarded the National Medal of Freedom by Trump in October.
Blackwell and Meese later helped launch the ProtectYourVote[us] to “prevent election fraud by requiring a photo ID to vote in person.” It’s part of ACRU’s Voting Integrity Institute.
Three of the five ACRU board members worked in the Reagan administration. Susan A. Carleson worked in various roles for Regan and later served as Legislative Director for Jack Kemp. She’s listed as a CNP member in its 2014 directory. Wendy Borcherdt, is a former special assistant to Reagan for Public Policy. Morton Blackwell was special assistant to Reagan from 1981–1984. He’s listed as a CNP member in its 2014 directory.
Blackwell, Adams, von Spakovsky and Kobach were also members of Trump’s now-defunct Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Its entire mission as outlined in Trump’s executive order was to “prevent improper voter registrations and improper voting, including fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.”
Kobach is well known for pushing the 2011 Kansas law that required Kansans to present proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. He claims the law was necessary to prevent voter fraud. He was ultimately allowed by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt to represent the state in defense of the law. It was ultimately ruled unconstitutional and appeal of the case was taken over by Schmidt’s office.
Schmidt’s office is also now defending Kobach in a lawsuit claiming he shouldn’t be held “personally liable for exposing sensitive personal info about hundreds of voters because they have no constitutional right to their data being kept private.”
Schmidt and Kobach were members of the Kansas City Objections Board when it spent years trying to prove Obama was not born in the U.S. so it could get his name removed from the 2008 Kansas presidential ballot.
Schmidt first ran for Kansas Attorney General in 2010. During that campaign, he had national endorsements from Bob Dole, the NRA, future Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and his old boss Chuck Hagel.
Hagel campaigned for Schmidt in his run for Kansas City’s top prosecutor. At the time, Hagel was the Co-Chairman of the President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board.
Schmidt was Hagel’s chief legal adviser and top policy administrator after Hagel won his first Senate race in 1996.
In the seven years leading up to that race, Hagel was working for American Information Systems Inc. (AIS), a small Omaha voting machine company.