As crime rages in the Nation’s Capital, D.C.’s liberal activist Democrat attorney general is investigating a prominent conservative leader far outside his jurisdiction – a ploy that not only breaches U.S. constitutional and federalist structure, but could also come back to haunt him.
Leonard Leo, co-chair of the Federalist Society and a successful conservative businessman, has long been targeted by liberal groups and media.
Now, a Democrat attorney general has set his sights on him.
After a leftist advocacy group, The Campaign for Accountability accused Leo, a conservative judicial activist, of violating D.C. law and called on far-left D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb to launch an investigation, Schwalb did just that – even though none of Leo’s organizations mentioned in the complaint are located in D.C.
The Campaign’s complaint alleges that nonprofits associated with Mr. Leo overpaid for services from his for-profit consulting firms, BH Group and CRC Advisors, supposedly violating D.C. laws barring the use of charities for private benefit.
But, by its own admission, The Campaign for Accountability doesn’t know what services Leo’s BH Group and CRC Advisors provided, their value, or the details of their business transactions. Nonetheless, the Campaign demanded an investigation and Schwalb complied.
Thus, liberal AG Schwalb is trying to use civil laws from inside his jurisdiction to find a way to punish conservative organizations far outside his jurisdiction.
If successful, Schwalb’s ploy wouldn’t just violate U.S. constitutional and federalist structure, it would also open a Pandora’s Box that could be used against both him and his left-wing cohorts, a group of Republican state attorneys general warn Schwalb in a letter obtained by The Wall Street Journal.
As The Journal explains:
“[M]atters relating to an entity’s internal workings are governed by the laws of the state of its incorporation and enforced solely by that state’s officials. The doctrine is part of the U.S. constitutional and federalist structure, ensuring sovereign equality among states, as well as regulatory and enforcement consistency.”
“Enter the Republican AGs. They point out to Mr. Schwalb that ‘if the internal affairs doctrine wanes, nonprofits across the country could suddenly be subject to the whims of each of the 56 attorneys general.’ They note ‘by way of example’ that ‘we are aware of allegations concerning excess-benefit transactions and the diversion of charitable assets by District nonprofits’ that ‘are engaged in policy and political advocacy, albeit from a different point of view.’”
As a consequence, conservative attorneys general could press charges against liberal organizations within D.C. that Schwalb has refused to investigate. And they could probe them for violations of either D.C. laws or the laws in their own states.
What’s more, investigations by conservative attorneys general wouldn’t have to be limited to explicitly-political advocacy groups. They’d also be free to prosecute laws broken by any type of liberal activist group, the letter warns.
“[O]nce the dam breaks, we and our successors will be under intense pressure to investigate the inner workings of every abortion advocacy group, every immigration advocacy group, every environmental advocacy group,” the letter cautions Schwalb.
The precedent set by Schwalb’s efforts to target Leo would result in “lawfare run amok,” the attorneys general say.
And “lawfare” – using the law as a political weapon – is exactly what Attorney General Schwalb is waging.
As the editors at National Review explain in “D.C.’s Lawfare against Leonard Leo”:
“Campaign for Accountability found a willing client in D.C. attorney general Brian Schwalb, who has dutifully launched an investigation that seeks information about Leo’s network — information valuable to the left-leaning activist journalists who have produced reams of hit pieces in the past few months. Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats, led by Dick Durbin and Sheldon Whitehouse, are pursuing a separate investigation of Leo.”
The editors say the political goals of Schwalb’s investigation of Leo are three-fold:
- To impose the costs of the process on Leo,
- To blacken his reputation, and
- To gain intelligence on his activities.
“Investigations of this nature aren’t just an abuse of the legal process and an abuse of D.C.’s jurisdiction over the national capital,” National Review’s editors note:
“They’re also a cheap and shabby way to divert resources and distract the electorate from Schwalb’s own dismal record fighting the kinds of violent crime that plague the residents of his city. But locking up carjackers won’t get you headlines in Politico or the gratitude of your party’s activist and donor class.”
Indeed, D.C. AG Schwalb has failed to exhibit either interest or success in fighting the crime epidemic within his own jurisdiction:
- Carjackings have increased nearly 250% in past five years.
- Carjackings so far this year are more than double their total at the same point in 2022.
- Guns are involved in three-fourths (75%) of D.C. carjackings.
- Violent crime is up nearly 40% year-over-year.
- Robberies are up 65%
- Schwalb hasn’t investigated accusations, similar to those against Leo, made against liberal activist groups operating within his jurisdiction, such as Arabella Advisors, a leftist dark-money umbrella group.
On Monday, Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas was carjacked by armed assailants in D.C. – the second known assault of a member of Congress in Schwalb’s jurisdiction this year. Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN) was injured when she was physically assaulted outside her D.C. apartment back in February.
The D.C. attorney general is even on record voicing his opposition to law enforcement, declaring that he does not “believe we can arrest and prosecute our way out of crime problems.”
AG Schwalb has an extensive record of liberal partisanship, including:
- Longtime donor to Democratic campaigns.
- Attorney General in one of the most Democrat-dominated jurisdictions in the U.S.
- Previous partner-in-charge of the home office of a law firm that represented dark-money Arabella nonprofits Sixteen Thirty Fund, New Venture Fund (NVF), Hopewell Fund, Windward Fund and North Fund.
- His chief deputy, Seth Rosenthal, was formerly legal director of the Alliance for Justice, one of Leo’s leftist competitors.