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The Secret Money Behind the Push to Ban Abortion

An index from the Institute for Southern Studies

Carrie Severino leads the Judicial Crisis Network, a 501(c)(4) secret-money "social welfare" nonprofit that has spent millions of dollars promoting conservative judges and plays a key role in the campaign to ban legal abortion in the U.S.

Carrie Severino leads the Judicial Crisis Network, a 501(c)(4) secret-money "social welfare" nonprofit that has spent millions of dollars promoting conservative judges and plays a key role in the campaign to ban legal abortion in the U.S. The image is a still from a 2018 C-SPAN interview in which Severino defends her group's refusal to disclose its donors.

Rank of Brett Kavanaugh's 2018 appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court among the reasons there's a new push to ban abortion in state legislatures across the South and elsewhere: 1

In the fiscal year before it spearheaded Kavanaugh's confirmation, amount the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) — a secret-money 501(c)(4) "social welfare" nonprofit that promotes conservative judges — received in anonymous donations, according to a tax return recently obtained by campaign finance watchdogs: $22 million

Size of a single anonymous donation JCN got during the period between July 2017 and June 2018, when abortion rights-protecting Justice Anthony Kennedy resigned, opening the door to Kavanaugh, who was backed by anti-abortion groups: $17 million

Number of other anonymous donations JCN got that year, all of them at least six-figure: 9

JCN's spending in 2017 to support the confirmation of President Trump's other Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, who has also shown hostility to the Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion: $10 million

Year in which Carrie Severino — a former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and spouse of Catholic anti-abortion lawyer Roger Severino, who now runs the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Civil Rights and opposes contraceptive access under the Affordable Care Act — took the helm of JCN: 2014

Among JCN's top funders, rank of the Wellspring Committee, a secretive nonprofit that serves as a conduit for anonymous contributions to conservative causes and is led by hard-line Opus Dei Catholic Ann Corkery and her husband, Neil Corkery, who has served as JCN's treasurer: 1


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Amount Wellspring funneled to JCN between 2010 and 2018: more than $54.2 million

According to the newly released tax return, amount JCN paid that fiscal year to the BH Group, a Virginia limited liability company connected to Trump advisor Leonard Leo, who's also the executive vice president of the Federalist Society, an influential conservative legal organization whose current or former members include five sitting Supreme Court justices: $241,000

Decades for which Leo — also reportedly an Opus Dei member who plays a key role in hiring at George Mason University's law school in Virginia — has worked to push the judiciary to the right in order to enable an abortion crackdown: 3

According to conservative commentator Ed Whelan, number of people "more dedicated to the enterprise of building a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v. Wade" than Leo: 0

Month in which Leo told a gathering of conservative activists in Florida that they had to mobilize in "very unprecedented ways" to finish their transformation of the U.S. Supreme Court: 2/2019

Between 2014 and 2017 alone, amount Leo and his allies raised for JCN and other secret-money nonprofits to carry out their court-transforming agenda: more than $250 million

Year since JCN has also been funneling millions of dollars to state supreme court races, money that has bought misleading or even libelous ads: 2012

(Click on figure to go to source.)

Sue Sturgis

Sue Sturgis

Sue Sturgis is the Director and regular contributor to the Institute for Southern Study's online magazine, Facing South, with a focus on energy and environmental issues. Sue is the author or co-author of five Institute reports, including Faith in the Gulf (Aug/Sept 2008), Hurricane Katrina and the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (January 2008) and Blueprint for Gulf Renewal (Aug/Sept 2007). Sue holds a Masters in Journalism from New York University.

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