The Alabama Legislature’s open defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Allen v. Milligan ordering the creation of a second majority-Black district baffled and infuriated the federal three-judge panel that initially ordered the state to redraw its 2021 congressional map.
These previously unreported connections between Alabama officials who led the state’s 2023 redistricting process and various players seeking to reshape America may be the reason Alabama’s Republican-controlled legislature gambled on a rehearing before the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes their inside intelligence was right in believing Kavanaugh would change his previous vote in Allen v. Milligan.
APR has now identified connections between Alabama officials who led the 2023 redistricting process — which disregarded the U.S. Supreme Court’s order — with far-right power broker Leonard Leo’s dark money network, described this past week by Politico as “a billion-dollar force that has helped remake the judiciary and overturn longstanding legal precedents on abortion, affirmative action, and many other issues.”
APR’s reporting shows the extent to which Alabama’s calculation to defy the Supreme Court was made not simply by state legislators in Alabama but has been driven by nationally connected political operatives at the center of the well-documented right-wing effort to reshape the composition and jurisprudence of the Supreme Court and to overturn the remaining key protections established by the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Despite the organization’s claims that it does not take positions on policies or nominations, former President Donald Trump famously stated that Leo’s Federalist Society had “picked” his judges, and all six Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices “were seated with major help from Leonard Leo,” who has come to be known as the “hidden architect of the Supreme Court.” With few exceptions, the justices Leo has ushered to the bench have reliably voted to permit the partisan gerrymanders and strict restrictions on voting access that have proliferated in recent years from red-state legislatures, which themselves work in tandem with — and sometimes under the direction of — Leo’s dark money groups.
Dark money: The backstory of Alabama’s redistricting defiance
Leonard Leo, everybody’s favorite dark money goon, is under scrutiny: Politico reported that Washington D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb has launched an investigative probe into his sinister network of nonprofit groups.
The Lever has reported extensively on Leo’s shady shenanigans. From stacking the Supreme Court to bankrolling climate denial, eviscerating abortion protections, and championing the right to discriminate, the man truly does it all. But he might finally be starting to get his comeuppance. The probe follows increased media scrutiny and comes after a progressive watchdog group filed a complaint against Leo with the attorney general and the IRS.
Best known as Donald Trump’s White House “court whisperer,” Leo played a behind-the-scenes role in the nominations of all three of the former president’s Supreme Court justices and promoted them through his multi-billion-dollar network of nonprofits. Trump chose his three Supreme Court picks, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, from a list drawn up by Leo. More recently, Leo was the beneficiary of a $1.6 billion contribution, believed to be the biggest political donation in U.S. history.
It’s unclear what the scope of the investigation will be, or how much power the attorney general has to halt Leo’s influence. But hopefully, the move will bring increased scrutiny to the outsized power Leo holds over the conservative legal movement. At the very least, maybe it’ll make him sweat.
D.C. Attorney General is probing Leonard Leo’s network
More than 150 years after the Navajo Nation signed treaties with the United States establishing its reservation and recognizing its sovereignty, the country’s largest tribe still struggles to secure the water guaranteed by those agreements.
Decades of negotiations with the state of Arizona have proven fruitless. The state has been uniquely aggressive in using the scarce resource as a bargaining chip to extract concessions from the Navajo Nation and other tribes, dragging out the talks while Indigenous communities await desperately needed water and infrastructure, a recent ProPublica and High Country News investigation found.
A copy of the 1868 treaty at the heart of the case is displayed in the Navajo Nation’s tribal museum in its capital of Window Rock. The agreement, signed by 29 Diné representatives and U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, allowed the Diné people to return to a part of their ancestral homeland after five years in exile and internment at Bosque Redondo in New Mexico.
The Navajo Nation sued in hopes of accelerating the process. The case launched 20 years ago, held the potential to reimagine how tribes secure their water rights. But the U.S. Supreme Court last week dashed those hopes by largely deferring to the status quo the tribe has dealt with for decades.
In a 5-4 decision, the court denied the Navajo Nation’s request that the federal government be forced to act in a timely manner to help the tribe quantify, settle and access its water rights. (While tribes negotiate with states for water, the federal government acts on tribes’ behalf by, for example, helping account for how much is needed and available.) Writing for the majority, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the tribe’s treaties do not impose “a duty on the United States to take affirmative steps to secure water for the Tribe.”
Supreme Court Keeps Navajo Nation Waiting for Water