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Dark, anonymous money really is the lifeblood of Washington, DC, according to documents recently published by Maplight.

While digging through tax returns for an obscure nonprofit organization, Maplight’s Andrew Perez stumbled upon a disturbing revelation: One donor was largely behind the successful push to put Neal Gorsuch in the Supreme Court, and we may never know who they are.

The 990 form filed by The Wellspring Committee — a Virginia-based nonprofit — shows that the group received roughly $32 million in contributions in 2016, but $28.5 million of that money (89 percent of the total amount received that year) came from just one anonymous donor.

Thanks to the 2010 Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision, corporations can donate unlimited amounts of money for political advertising while avoiding traditional disclosure rules. However, groups like Wellspring are not required by law to disclose donors’ information, as they are classified as “social welfare” organizations.

While there are no public elections for Supreme Court justices, there is undoubtedly a large push within Washington by certain groups to influence both President Trump’s judicial appointments and senators’ confirmation votes.

Perez reported that $23 million in contributions Wellspring received last year went to the Judicial Crisis Network (which is run by the president of Wellspring’s spouse). That group proceeded to spend $7 million pushing Republican senators to block Merrick Garland — former President Barack Obama’s pick to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by Antonin Scalia — from being confirmed. They spent another $10 million lobbying for Neal Gorsuch’s confirmation.

In addition to its Judicial Crisis Network donation, Wellspring also contributed $100,000 to the Federalist Society, according to the Maplight report. The Federalist Society — which recommended Gorsuch’s appointment — is one of the groups that has President Trump’s ear when it comes to potential judicial appointees. Leonard Leo, who is Executive Vice President of the Federalist Society, is one of the key advisors to the Trump White House for judicial appointments.

 

Scott Alden is a freelance contributor covering national politics, education, and environmental issues. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in the suburbs of Detroit.

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