Dark Money Fuels Anti-Choice Assault in State HousesRoundup
tags: abortion, Federalist Society, Dark Money
Julia Peck is a linguist by training who recently worked at the University of Cambridge developing multilingual curricula to teach cultural literacy to schoolchildren. She is currently a research fellow at the watchdog organization True North Research tracking dark money in U.S. politics.
Evan Vorpahl is a research director for True North Research. His beat is tracking dark money groups distorting public policy, elections and our judiciary.
Alyssa Bowen received her Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 2021. She is currently a researcher for the progressive watchdog group True North Research where she tracks and writes about dark money in U.S. politics.
The day before the Supreme Court handed down the devastating Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania, members of the extremist anti-abortion group Students for Life of America flooded into Washington, D.C. Their gathering was nominally for a national convention of high school and college students. But tucked into the now-secret schedule were four hours of private “training” for state legislators conducted by Students for Life staff while students were busy with other activities.
Secret meetings funded by anonymous donors to push the outlawing of abortion at the state level — an expressed goal of Students for Life — seem to fly in the face of the leave-it-up-to-the-states argument that the group and other dark money opponents of abortion rights have collectively touted. Justice Samuel Alito himself in his Dobbs opinion claimed that the end of Roe was a victory for democracy and so-called “states’ rights,” rather than what it actually is: A direct attack on reproductive freedom.
This talking point is little more than a cover for the anti-democratic, dark money efforts to prevent abortion from staying safe, accessible and legal across the United States — even though a majority of voters want that.
Far right lawyer and Federalist Society fundraiser Leonard Leo plays a pivotal role in the network of groups set on banning abortion throughout the country. Known as Trump’s “judge whisperer,” Leo handpicked Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch for Trump’s list of nominees to the Supreme Court based on their alignment with his agenda, which included reversing Roe. Leo was also instrumental to the appointment of Alito and John Roberts, and worked on the confirmation of Clarence Thomas.
Leo now helms a web of dark money groups that have raised over $580 million in recent years and has been trying to roll back decades of precedent on reproductive freedom, LGBTQ+ rights, environmental protections, the separation of church and state, and more.
As Truthout previously reported, powerful right-wing groups with a few anonymous, ultrawealthy donors have targeted state courts and attorneys general to prevent them from protecting abortion rights at the state level in a future without Roe. That same playbook has been unfolding in state legislatures, where anti-abortion dark money groups like Students for Life have flooded the field with so-called “model” legislation.
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