Alex Constantine - May 12, 2022
Excerpt: "The Dark Money Funding Trump’s Coup,"
... The dark money behind the rally went deeper than Donald Trump’s campaign payroll. It involved various radical-right funders and the projects they support, some of which actively transported rioters to the Capitol with the message that they needed to “save America” and “fight for this President”.
Central to the radical-right’s dark money operations is the Donors Trust, a shadowy organisation that funds a range of projects both in the US and in Europe.
The list of its beneficiaries includes climate denying, anti-abortion, anti-LGBTIQ and pro-Brexit forces, including those with links to the UK Conservative Party.
As a donor-advised fund, Donors Trust is not legally required to disclose the identity of its donors and many of them remain anonymous. However, it is widely understood that it is linked to the oil and gas billionaires the Koch Brothers, while Robert Mercer’s family foundation poured $20 million in 2020.
One of the beneficiaries of Donors Trust money is the Federalist Society, an organisation linked to the events of 6 January, not least via John Eastman, chair of the society’s Federalism and Separation of Powers practice group.
In the run-up to 6 January, Eastman joined Trump’s “command centre” at the Willard Hotel in Washington D.C. where Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani – who had called for “trial by combat” in the run-up to the events – strategist Steve Bannon and former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who was there as an investigator, and others, plotted a strategy to prevent Biden’s presidency. On 4 January, Eastman attended the Oval Office with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to outline scenarios for denying Biden the presidency.
Eastman also authored what is known as the ‘Eastman memo‘, outlining a proposed scenario to block Joe Biden’s election being certified. “The main thing here is that Pence should do this without asking permission,” the memo read. On 6 January, John Eastman told the assembled mob that any member of Congress “not willing to stand up” and vote against certification of the 2020 election results “does not deserve to be in office”.
The Federalist Society played an important role in shaping the US judicial system under Trump. Leonard Leo, the society’s former long-time vice president and co-chairman of its board, exerted great influence over Trump’s judicial nominations throughout his presidency, including his Supreme Court picks. Leo worked with both the Trump and the George W. Bush administrations to get his men onto the Supreme Court bench, with pro-abortion organisation NARAL saying that Leo was “personally responsible for helping install one-third of the current Supreme Court”.
The Supreme Court would have a say on whether or not the 2020 election was stolen. As it happened, it chose to uphold democracy. But as we will see in the rest of this series, the radical-right influence in the court is helping to achieve the far-right goals of the insurrectionists.
Leonard Leo is linked to the The 85 Fund which received $48.7 million in grants from the Donors Trust in 2020 – more than six times the group’s total revenues for 2018.
That money is disseminated across groups that helped support the “big lie” or were actively involved in the incidents of 6 January. These included the Honest Elections Project, which filed a brief with the US Supreme Court arguing that the Pennsylvania court had usurped the legislature’s authority to oversee elections. It was unsuccessful, but election law professor Richard Hasen called the arguments the “powder kegs” that threaten American democracy. Turning Point USA won grants worth $580,000 from the 85 Fund. The organisation – which has links to Conservative Party donors via its UK branch – bussed protestors to Washington D.C.