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Catholic Dark Money: The Federalist Society

The Republican National Committee held a meeting February 2-4. They made clear that Donald Trump will be their presidential candidate in 2024. The Federalist Society held their meeting February 4-5. The featured speakers were Mike Pence and Gov. Ron DeSantis. “There’s a buzz about both” as presidential candidates in 2024. “It was a chance for the two men to talk to potential supporters, voters and donors,” Fox News reported

The Federalist Society has “controlled judicial selections” made by both Bush and Trump said Amanda Hollis-Brusky, author of “Ideas With Consequences: The Federalist Society and the Conservative Counterrevolution.” Bush appointed 325 federal judges. Trump appointed 245. There are 870 federal judgeships. So the Federalist Society not only controlled the selection of Supreme Court justices, but also most of an entire branch of our government. 

In view of their last meeting, it seems the Federalist Society now wants to influence the Executive Branch as well because they do not want another Trump presidency. Although supporting Trump in 2016, like all who support rule by the plutocracy they found out that his chaos was bad for business. International financiers depend on stable trade agreements and reliable alliances to increase their wealth and power. Additionally they know that Trump will not win in 2024 having already lost in 2020.


Four of the five right-wing justices appointed by Bush and Trump are Catholic.

The only non-Catholic is Neil Gorsuch, an Episcopalian. However, during his time at the U.S. Court of Appeals Tenth Circuit, he decided twice in favor of restricting Obamacare’s contraception coverage.

Gorsuch was the speaker on the opening day of the February 4-5 Federalist Society meeting. His speech was closed to the press.

Trump’s last Supreme Court appointee is Amy Coney Barrett, an alumna of Notre Dame Law School.

The Federalist Society “has a large presence on Notre Dame’s campus” noted the Nov. 11 issue of Scholastica, the student magazine. Notre Dame is “kind of like the Federalist Society distilled in the sense of that’s the place you go for your judges and this is where you go for your clerks. Its graduates take on major roles in the legal field,” a Notre Dame Law School faculty member told Genevieve Redsten Scholastica.

Before an audience at Notre Dame on Sept. 30, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito “aimed his outrage at the media, at leading legal academics, and at people like me who are concerned about, as he put it, the Supreme Court ‘deciding important issues in a novel, secretive, improper way in the middle of the night, hidden from public view,’” wrote Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in an Oct. 14 Salon article.  

 “In 2019, then-Attorney General William Barr delivered a high-profile speech on Notre Dame’s campus, condemning ‘secularists and their allies’ for carrying out ‘an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.’ Just 10 days before Alito’s spoke at Notre Dame Law School, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas stepped up to the podium at Notre Dame. He criticized a divided nation and a ‘race-obsessed world,” Whitehouse noted. 

Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society, is widely recognized as the man who selected Bush and Trump judicial appointments. Like Barr and Pat Cipollone, Trump’s White House counsel, Leo is a member of Opus Dei, a secret society. We know they are members only because they held official positions at the Opus Dei-run Catholic Information Center (CIC).

Opus Dei is an official arm of the Catholic Church and, therefore, exempt from financial oversight, including secret donors. The CIC is “a rallying point for ultra-conservative Catholics eager for a voice in the secular halls of government power,” stated the magazine for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The CIC’s “members and leaders continue to have an outsize impact on policy and politics. Its influence is felt in all of Washington’s corridors of power,” wrote Joe Heim in the Washington Post.

Opus Dei and the Federalist Society are of one mind in support of the plutocracy including their current opposition to Trump. Barr, although previously a devout Trump loyalist, resigned in December 2020 rather than support the “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was “stolen.” Cipollone told Trump he would resign if he replaced then-Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with Jeffrey Bossert Clark, a DOJ official who was aiding Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, as reported by Reuters.

Dark Money

“Our Supreme Court is awash in dark money influence,” Sen. Whitehouse said in a Nov. 16 speech on the Senate floor. “For the ninth time this year,” the Rhode Island Democrat “blasted right-wing anonymous donors whom he believes have ‘captured’ the Supreme Court and ‘built’ its current 6-3 conservative majority,” reported Oma Seddig for businessinsider.com.

“Whitehouse, who chairs a key panel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, calls it a three-fold ‘scheme’ – private groups use anonymous donations to groom Supreme Court candidates, promote and defend these nominees with political ad campaigns and later try to influence these justices in legal briefs filed without any financial disclosures,” Seddig wrote.

 “The Federalist Society is a gatekeeper, monitoring Republican-appointed judges for allegiance to right-wing donor interests, while accepting gobs of anonymous donations,” Whitehouse declared in Salon.

The Federalist Society is classified under I.R.S. Code Section 501 (c)(3) as a charitable and educational foundation. That means that its financial activities – income, expenditures, donors – can be kept secret. Additionally, contributions are tax-deductible. That is also true for Opus Dei, also classified as a 501 (c)(3) religious organization, as well as the thousands of Catholic bishops’ diocesan offices, organizations and agencies they identify as officially Catholic. The American Catholic Church has hundreds of billions of dollars in assets according to a review of sex abuse court filings by Bloomberg Businessweek as reported on Jan. 8, 2020.

The End of Roe v. Wade?

On Dec. 1, the justices heard the case on a Mississippi law which bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. “That is unconstitutional according to the Supreme Court’s current case law, including Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey” explained Jessica Levinson, professor at Loyola Law School and former president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission. 

“The Supreme Court concluded its oral arguments with the majority-conservative justices suggesting they are in favor of upholding Mississippi’s abortion law …. The court is likely to take one of three routes: It could conclude that states can completely ban abortions; that states can restrict abortions before a fetus is viable, which would allow much more restrictive abortion laws than are currently permitted; or it could decide that abortion laws should stay about the same as they are now (an unlikely scenario),” Levinson stated.

The Supreme Court justices delayed making their decision until the end of June 2022. Watch the polls and remember that the Catholic right-wing justices were selected of, by and for the plutocracy. If it appears that the abolition or serious restriction of Roe v. Wade is inciting political activism and get-out-the-vote fervor for a Democratic victory, these justices will back off and leave current law largely intact.

Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America.


One Response

  1. This is such a touchy subject because of the history of anti-catholic groups like Know Nothings and even the Klan. When legal scholars like Judge Bork coined the idea that there was no right to privacy because it wasn’t directly written into The Constitution or Bill of Right directly rather than through implication, he rewrote The Constitution not just to before the Civil War but to the beginning of country. In doing so, he laid the ground work for an authoritarian America. The Patriot Act when Viet D. Dinh created came from Bork’s precept about no privacy. There are a lot of group that see people as property and don’t see a point in the private self including the catholic church, evangelicals, authoritarian billionaires, multinational corporations, neo-Confederate groups, white supremacists, etc. No one is willing to talk about this.

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