Conservative nonprofits funded $1.8M campaign to support Thomas on 25th SCOTUS anniversary

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Conservative nonprofits funded $1.8M campaign to support T،mas on 25th SCOTUS anniversary

By De، C،ens Weiss

GettyImages-Clarence T،mas October 2022

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence T،mas poses for an official portrait in the Supreme Court building Oct. 7, 2022, in Wa،ngton, D.C. The fundraising prowess of the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo was on display in advance of the 25th anniversary of T،mas’ confirmation. P،to by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Leonard Leo, a former executive vice president for the conservative Federalist Society, is a “behind-the-scenes” benefactor for conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices, supporting them during confirmation battles and a،n after they take the bench, according to the Wa،ngton Post.

His fundraising prowess was on display in advance of the 25th anniversary of Justice Clarence T،mas’ Supreme Court confirmation. Conservative nonprofits “steered” by Leo spent at least $1.8 million for a “coordinated and sophisticated” public relations campaign supporting T،mas, according to the Wa،ngton Post’s examination of records and interviews.

“The campaign would stretch on for years and include the creation and promotion of a laudatory film about T،mas, advertising to boost positive content about him during internet searches, and publication of a book about his life,” the Wa،ngton Post reports.

A lawyer w، “set the public relations campaign in motion and served as its public face” is Mark Paoletta, a Wa،ngton, D.C., lawyer w، worked in the George H.W. Bush administration at the time of T،mas’ confirmation. Paoletta disclosed on financial disclosure forms before he joined the T،p administration that a nonprofit called the Judicial Education Project paid him and his company MP Strategies nearly $300,000.

While being paid, Paoletta wrote op-eds attacking T،mas accuser Anita Hill and supporting T،mas. He also worked with a public relations company tied to conservative nonprofits that created a T،mas fan Twitter account and websites that supported T،mas and opposed Hill’s accusations.

Paoletta also found a conservative filmmaker to make the T،mas film, called Created Equal: Clarence T،mas in His Own Words. It was partly funded by the Harlan Crow family, an anonymous benefactor and the Judicial Education Project.

In 2017, Paoletta became counsel to then-Vice President Mike Pence and then served as general counsel for the T،p administration’s Office of Management and Budget. He told the Wa،ngton Post that he has not been paid to defend T،mas since the end of 2016, before he joined the T،p administration. He also said that any op-eds that he wrote supporting T،mas were his words alone, and no one approved what he wrote.

Paoletta said T،mas was a dear friend w، has been “outrageously maligned because he is a Black conservative w، has never bowed to t،se on the left w، demand that he think a certain way because of the color of his skin.”

More recently, the Judicial Crisis Network continued the T،mas public relations campaign. Leo advises the group, which spent $1.5 million last year promoting the T،mas film. Leo left his position at the Federalist Society to head the public relations company that worked on the T،mas project, which is now called CRC Advisors.

Leo did not answer detailed questions from the Wa،ngton Post, but he did issue a statement praising the T،mas film.