DC attorney general launches investigation into prominent Catholic conservative activist

Leonard Leo Leonard Leo appears on "The World Over with Raymond Arroyo" on Feb. 2, 2017. | Credit: The World Over/YouTube

A noted Catholic conservative activist who for years has played a significant role in the selection of U.S. judges is under investigation by the D.C. attorney general following allegations of improper spending at several nonprofit groups to which he is connected.

Leonard Leo, the head of D.C.-based consulting firm CRC Advisors, is currently being investigated by Washington, D.C., Attorney General Brian Schwalb, according to Politico, which cited “a person with direct knowledge of the probe.”

The extent and purpose of the investigation is unclear, though it comes several months after the left-wing Campaign for Accountability (CfA) filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service alleging improper payments at what it called “Leo-affiliated nonprofits.”

Among those nonprofits are the 85 Fund, the Federalist Society, the Concord Fund, and several other prominent conservative political groups that distribute funding to major conservative causes.

CfA claims that these nonprofits may “have diverted substantial portions of their income and assets, directly or indirectly, to the personal benefit of Leonard Leo,” though CfA admitted in the filing it was “[not] able to easily determine” the full scope of financial complexities involving those groups.

Schwalb’s office did not return a phone call and an email seeking comment.

David B. Rivkin Jr., an attorney for Leo, criticized the CfA filing and told CNA that lawyers are currently working with Schwalb on the allegations.

“The complaint filed by Campaign for Accountability, an Arabella-connected dark money group, is sloppy, deceptive, and legally flawed,” he said, “and we are addressing this fully with the D.C. attorney general's office.”

Leo has been a mainstay in conservative politics for decades. A longtime affiliate with the conservative Federalist Society in Washington, he worked with both the George W. Bush and the Donald Trump administrations in selecting and promoting their respective judicial nominations.

He played prominent roles in promoting all three of former President Trump’s Supreme Court nominations, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.

The New York Times last year claimed that Leo’s “sprawling network” of advocacy groups constitutes “one of the best-funded and most sophisticated operations in American politics.”

A Catholic, Leo has served as the national co-chairman of Catholic outreach for the Republican National Committee; he also served as a strategist for George W. Bush’s successful 2004 reelection bid.

Leo further helped found, in 2004, the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, an annual event in Washington that regularly features prominent keynote speakers, including Archbishop Timothy Broglio in 2023.

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