This is Lever Weekly, a recap of our work from the past week. If you only read one email from us all week, this should be it.
Below you will find a breakdown of our reporting, podcasts, videos, and live events — a feature now open to all subscribers. Following that, we are providing paid subscribers with an original column, written by a member of The Lever, connecting the dots on our coverage to deliver important takeaways.
In this week’s column, exclusively for paid subscribers, Andrew Perez explores how new dark money revelations related to conservative operative Leonard Leo and crypto huckster Sam Bankman-Fried together hammer home how this political era has become corrupted by secret cash.
Rock the boat.
Stuff The Lever Reported This Week:
• Leonard Leo’s Latest Supreme Court Play — “The conservative activist’s dark money network is bankrolling groups pressing the high court to gut election, affirmative action, and discrimination laws.”
• BlackRock’s Stealth Anti-Climate Agenda — “A massive investment company publicly touts its green credentials while quietly pressing to weaken a landmark climate disclosure rule.”
• Crypto Bros Want Your 401(k) — “Despite FTX’s collapse, a lawsuit linked to the exchange’s investor is trying to force regulators to allow crypto into the retirement market.”
• Fake Populists See A Real Opportunity — “As Dems have sided with the donor class, Republicans have made huge gains among working- and middle-class voters.”
• YOU LOVE TO SEE IT: A New Hope For Louisiana’s Climate Future — “The win opens a path for the state’s small but influential utility commission to play a big part in improving Louisiana’s climate trajectory.”
Stuff To Watch & Listen To:
• LEVER TIME: The Scientific Breakthrough That Could End Climate Change — David Sirota sits down with UK plasma physicist Dr. Arthur Turrell to learn about this “holy grail” of scientific research.
• LEVER TIME PREMIUM: Dental Scams, Sam Bankman-Fried Arrested, And Movies About Class — Producer Frank, Rebecca Burns, and Julia Rock discuss the “One Thing” that’s been most on their minds recently, including the arrest of crypto huckster Sam Bankman-Fried.
• THE AUDIT: Introducing A Starting Candidate — Dave, Josh, and their new study buddy, Senator Nina Turner, crack open the books and audit David Axelrod and Karl Rove’s MasterClass.
The Corruption Is Getting Worse
By Andrew Perez
It’s been 12 years since the Supreme Court opened the floodgates with its Citizens United decision, allowing unlimited, anonymous “dark money” to flow into the political system. Two seemingly unrelated stories in the news this week — GOP operative Leonard Leo’s latest secret political maneuvers and crypto Ponzi scammer Sam Bankman-Fried’s arrest in the Bahamas — together illustrate how the wave of corruption unleashed by the high court is now getting worse.
This week, The Lever and ProPublica teamed up again to document the latest influence campaign from Leo, the dark money maven who built the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority as judicial adviser to former President Donald Trump before receiving a historic $1.6 billion political advocacy donation.
Together, we reported that Leo’s dark money network has bankrolled an army of politicians and nonprofits pressing the high court this term to ban affirmative action, allow businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ+ customers, and give state legislatures full control over federal elections.
The other big dark money news was the arrest of crypto Ponzi scammer Samuel Bankman-Fried, the founder of the now-defunct FTX cryptocurrency exchange. A prolific political donor over the past two election cycles, Bankman-Fried is accused of illegally funneling corporate money into elections and using straw donors to make illegal conduit contributions.
While Bankman-Fried has been perceived as a liberal donor, he recently said he “donated about the same amount to both parties this year,” relying on dark channels to distribute money to Republicans.
“All my Republican donations were dark,” he said. “The reason was not the regulatory reason. It’s because reporters freak the fuck out if you donate to a Republican because they’re all super liberal. And I didn’t want to have that fight. So, I made all the Republican ones dark.”
The watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint calling on the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether Bankman-Fried’s dark money donations were illegal.
The stories on Leo and Bankman-Fried spotlight why it’s so important for Democrats in Washington to finally put an end to this era of politics dominated by secret cash.