Trump ally’s fund received over $20 million last year, then funneled cash to other right-leaning groups

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  • A black money group that was founded by one of former President Trump’s key aides raised more than $20 million in 2020 and used the money to finance various conservative groups.
  • Leonard Leo’s The 85 Fund received funding through Donors Trust, a donor-advised nonprofit group that funnels money from wealthy conservative financiers into other organizations, according to tax filings first seen by CNBC. Is.
  • Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA received $200,000 for the “TP Campus Project” from 85 funds, according to the filing.

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A black money group that was set up by one of the key aides of former President Donald Trump raised over $20 million in 2020 and used the money to finance various conservative groups.

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Leonard Leo’s The 85 Fund received funding through The Donor Trust, a donor-advising nonprofit group that often funnels money from wealthy conservative financiers to other organizations, according to one Donor Trust 990 Tax Filing First seen by CNBC.

85 Fund is part of Leo’s broader network of organizations that seek to influence policy, the president’s choice for the judiciary, and the larger conservative movement. Leo, who co-chairs the Federalist Society, was a key outside adviser to Trump when the then-president selected Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch for slots on the Supreme Court.

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Donations to the 85 Fund included one contribution that exceeded $19 million and several other smaller contributions. Due to donations, the 85 Fund, which filed to change its name from the Judicial Education Project to The 85 Fund in 2019, had its most successful fundraising year yet.

It is not clear how much money, if any, the group raised more than $20 million-plus from donations to the Donor Trust. Representatives of 85 Fund, which is registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, did not provide further details about how much it raised and who viewed their money prior to publication.

The Donor Trust is a 501(c)(3) organization regularly used by conservative megadonors to finance their intended groups, often leaning on the right side of the political spectrum. The Mercer family, led by longtime Trump aides Robert and Rebekah Mercer, Last year it invested approximately $20 million in Donors Trust through its foundation.

Donor trust contributors remain anonymous because these types of organizations are not required to publicly disclose their donors. The Donor Trust raised more than $180 million last year and gave more than $350 million in grants.

Leonard Leo and the 85 Fund

Leo where is He started the 85 Fund to act as a countermeasure to similar efforts on the progressive side of the Democratic Party, such as the leftist group Sixteen Thirty Fund. who invested more than $400 million in 2020, according to Politico. The Sixteen Thirty Fund is a 501(c)(4) non-profit group.

Leo previously told Axios that one of his initial projects for this new effort, including The 85 Fund, “will be a minimum $10 million issue advocacy campaign focusing on judges in the 2020 cycle.” He did not respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.

The Donor Trust 990 gives a first look at the money raised by The 85 Fund and right-wing groups with similar non-profit status receiving funding from the fund. One such group, Turning Point USA, was founded by Trump aide Charlie Kirk to amplify conservative voices on high school and college campuses.

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According to its 2020 annual report filed with the state of Virginia, 85 of the fund is run by Leo’s affiliates themselves. Leo himself is not listed in the document as one of the group’s leaders. Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, an outside group that advocates for conservative-leaning judges, including all of Trump’s challenges to the Supreme Court, is listed as the organization’s secretary.

A spokesman for Severino declined to comment about the 85 fund-backed groups.

Gary Marks, who is listed on the annual report as president and treasurer of The 85 Fund, is a senior advisor to the Judicial Crisis Network, according to his company’s website. Marx is the president and co-founder of Madison Strategies, a political consulting and public relations firm. His firm’s website lists past and current clients including Judicial Crisis Network, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, president, and campaign for retail giant Walmart.

Marks did not return calls seeking comment.

donation group

According to a 990 filing from the Donor Trust, Turning Point USA received $200,000 for the “TP Campus Project” from 85 funds. A spokesperson for Turning Point USA confirmed that the contribution went towards their organization.

A further $750,000 was sent to The 85 Fund, which has been described as a “project with the Merctus Center”. The Mercatus Center is a think tank of George Mason University.Years undone by nonprofits linked to billionaire Charles Kochu and other external groups financed by conservative-leaning business leaders.

Mercatus conducts research on a number of topics that lean more on the right side of the political spectrum, in what the group calls “market-oriented views”. The group’s website says it advocates for rule cuts, pushing back on government bailouts and subsidies, and fighting back on corporate tax hikes, as did President Joe Biden. Proposed 15% global corporate minimum tax.

A spokesperson for the Mercatus Center did not deny that his group received funding from The 85 Fund.

“Mercatus maintains a firewall between our funding and research teams to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. All Mercatus scholars select their own research projects and all work products undergo rigorous peer review for its quality and reliability. Must be able to cope,” Cate De Lanoy, a spokeswoman for the organization, told CNBC in a statement Thursday. “Mercatus’ financial supporters have absolutely no influence or control over the research design, methodology, analysis or findings of Mercatus research projects, nor do they have any influence or control over the content of educational programs. Offers of financial assistance based on such requirements do not are accepted.”

The Honest Election Project received $70,000 from 85 funds. In form of center for responsible politics As reported, Honest Election is a nickname for the Project 85 Fund, backed by Virginia business records from earlier last year.

While the Honest Elections Project calls itself nonpartisan, there are elements of it that reflect the often critical and false claims made by Trump and other Republican leaders about the state of the US election system. There was criticism from Republicans after Trump lost the election to Biden last year. Honest Election Project previously told CNBC It concluded that there was no widespread voter fraud after the 2020 election.

In a report posted on the Honest Elections website, the group targets the For the People Act, also known as HR1, which was introduced by Democrats and passed in the House. Democrats say the law will help people have better access to ballot boxes. It has yet to be passed in the Senate.

“The 2020 election was marred by confusion, random voting changes, and undemocratic attempts to use the courts to undermine voting security measures and skew rules for partisan gains,” the Honest Elections report said. “The law constitutes an unprecedented effort by the federal government to rewrite election laws in all 50 states. The policies contained in its 800 pages violate the principles of federalism, weaken election protection laws, allow states to hold elections.” force broad changes to the voting process, and expose the voting process to unnecessary risks of fraud, chaos and litigation.”

During the election, the group played a video that highlights Democratic leaders, while voiceover says “Politicians want to win elections at any cost. Even if they try or break some of the rules. Lawsuits, election rules changing, Taking advantage of the crisis. Promoting voting by mail for all which invites chaos and fraud. This is wrong.” The advertisement then advances the idea of ​​new election laws.

85 Fund also donated $1 million, described in Form 990 as an “Accountability and Civics Trust Project”. The Foundation for the Accountability and Civics Trust was once run by former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who served under Trump. according to CNN, the organization filed ethics complaints against several Democratic Party officials, including former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The group lists on its website a complaint filed In the Office of the Special Counsel to investigate Biden’s Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. A representative for the group did not return a request for comment on whether it had received money from The 85 Fund.

A further $990 million was paid for what the Donor Trust described as a “government accountability project” of 85 funds on the 2nd. While it is not clear which group saw the funding, the money could have gone to the Government Accountability Institute, which was founded by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and investigator Peter Schweizer. The group is also supported by Rebekah Mercer, who is listed on their website as chair of the board.

The longtime investigator once wrote a book called Clinton Cash, which was a New York Times bestseller and was meant to highlight Clinton’s longtime business relationship. Biden, the president’s son Hunter Biden, the withdrawal of Afghanistan and President Xi-Jinping of China are among the latest topics listed on the site that the group is currently focusing on.

A spokesman for the Government Accountability Institute did not return a request for comment. Meanwhile, a representative for a completely different Government Accountability Project denied that it was the group that received funding from the 85 fund. The Government Accountability Project is a non-profit organization that protects informers.

“We were not Received any funding from 85 funds. Donors Trust Inc. The marking in K 2020 990 is flawed. “We ask Donors Trust Inc. to correct or clarify our IRS filing that we have not received such a grant,” Louis Clark, executive director and CEO of the Government Accountability Project, told CNBC in a statement Wednesday.


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