For the past decade, Leonard Leo has led a multimillion-dollar effort to remake state Supreme Courts, leveraging hefty support from corporate backers like Philip Morris and Charles Koch and his late brother, David.
Leo, a longtime conservative power broker and the co-chairman of the Federalist Society, is well known for the key role he reportedly played in influencing then-President Donald Trump’s nomination of Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. More recently, he made news this year as the recipient of the largest single political contribution in U.S. history — a $1.6 billion windfall from reclusive billionaire Barre Seid.
Less well known, however, is Leo’s role in orchestrating a successful decadelong effort to aid at least a dozen conservative judges in winning or retaining their seats on state high courts.
A Grid investigation has found that a network of political nonprofits connected to Leo has funneled at least $31 million in campaign funds into at least 42 races for seats on state Supreme Courts or other high-level state judgeships in 15 states since 2010.