Throughout the confirmation battle over Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Ronald Cass was a go-to pundit. He authored columns for USA Today and the Wall Street Journal pressing for Gorsuch, he was quoted in reports on the fight, and he was a guest on radio programs where he defended Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to use the “nuclear option” to confirm Gorsuch.
Cass’s citations and author bios frequently cited his obvious credentials: the dean emeritus of the Boston University School of Law, the author of The Rule of Law in America, and the former chairman of the Federalist Society's Practice Group on International Law & National Security.
But those citations didn’t mention one relevant bit of information, because that information was not yet public: a group run by Cass was getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by a network of deep-pocketed advocacy groups working to confirm Gorsuch.
Newly released financial documents show that the Judicial Education Network, the 501(c)(3) arm of the network of conservative legal advocacy groups that spent millions on Gorsuch’s behalf, paid $995,000 to Cass’s Center for the Rule of Law in 2017. Cass did not respond to questions about the specifics of that work, or whether it continued into 2018 and through the confirmation battle over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The JEP, those financial records show, was almost entirely funded by a single anonymous donor last year. The group brought in a total of $9,469,500. A contributor listed in JEP’s annual financial filing only as Donor A provided $9,382,000, or 99%, of those funds.
The payment to Cass’s group was itemized as “consulting” fees. In biographies on the websites of the Federalist Society and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank, Cass describes the Center for the Rule of Law as “an independent, non-profit center.” Though it was founded as a nonprofit, the IRS revoked its tax exempt status in 2011 after the group failed to file annual reports for three straight years.
In addition to the Center for the Rule of Law, the JEP reported paying $1.35 million to a company called BH Group LLC. That firm, which has been tied to FedSoc president Leonard Leo, was behind a $1 million donation to President Trump’s inaugural committee in early 2017.