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Leonard Leo to Keep Judicial Advocacy Focus in New Venture

Jan. 7, 2020, 11:31 PM

A multi-million-dollar campaign touting President Donald Trump’s judicial appointments ahead of the 2020 election cycle will be among the first projects for a new conservative advisory group headed by the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo.

The issue campaign will be an at-minimum $10 million effort in which the new group, CRC Advisors, will work with conservative organizations to promote the message through media and voter education efforts, an individual associated with the new venture told Bloomberg Law. Leo confirmed the campaign in a news report announcing the venture Jan. 7.

Leo is an influential figure in the conservative movement who began advising on judicial nominations during the George W. Bush administration. He’s continued that judicial nominations work with the Trump administration, including helping craft its Supreme Court shortlist.

The new role will not impact Leo’s work advising judicial nominations, which is something he does outside of his work for the Federalist Society, the individual said.

The announcement comes as Trump has begun highlighting his push to remake the judiciary with conservatives on the campaign trail. So far, Trump has appointed 183 judges to lifetime tenures on the federal bench, including two Supreme Court nominees Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.

Judges have been a Republican talking point long before Trump, but the judiciary became a major issue for conservative voters in the 2016 presidential election when Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell refused to hold hearings for President Barack Obama’s pick to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s vacant seat.

Although there isn’t currently a vacancy on the Supreme Court, “the stakes in this area are just as high now as they were in 2016,” the individual associated with CRC Advisors said.

Next Up for Leo

In order to join the venture, Leo is stepping down down from his role as vice president of the Federalist Society, which is the foremost conservative legal group.

He will, however, maintain his role as co-chairman of the organization’s board. In that capacity, Leo will still be involved in things like the group’s educational work, the individual associated with the new group said.

Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who follows judicial nominations, said Leo’s move could be due in part to the Federalist Society’s position that it doesn’t get involved in politics.

“My impression was that because the Federalist Society says it doesn’t get involved in elections, it would go against that mandate for the Federalist society itself to basically start running campaign ads,” Wheeler said.

New Structure

The new venture stems from an existing conservative public relations firm CRC Strategies, which works with groups like the Federalist Society and the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative judicial advocacy group.

CRC Strategies President Greg Mueller will be CEO of the new CRC Advisors and Leo will be chairman.

“CRC Advisors will leverage the combined experience, expertise, resources, and networks of our merged teams to create a new model for identifying and solving problems, whether in public policy or private enterprise,” Leo and Mueller said in a joint statement provided to Bloomberg Law.

The group will also work to “incubate public policy projects, coalitions, and groups,” and build networks among “professionals, successful non-profits, and savvy philanthropists,” the new leaders said.

That structure, which is modeled off of liberal advisory group Arabella Advisors will allow CRC Advisors to “gap-fill” for conservative causes and strengthen their efforts, the individual associated with the group said.

And while CRC Advisors plans to get involved in policy areas like regulatory reform, energy, and technology, the individual said they expect judicial advocacy will be a “centerpiece” of the new group’s work.

To contact the reporter on this story: Madison Alder in Washington at malder@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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