CfA Urges Senators to Investigate Alleged Pay-for-Play in Trump Admin’s Supreme Court Nomination Process

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 20, 2023

Contact: Michael Clauw, mclauw@campaignforaccountability.org, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) sent a letter to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC) urging it to investigate whether Kellyanne Conway committed a federal crime during the selection of Supreme Court appointees by benefiting from a financial arrangement with conservative legal activist Leonard Leo. Newly discovered financial records raise the possibility that Conway, who served as a high-level advisor to former President Trump, may have used her official position to advocate for Leo’s Supreme Court picks in exchange for his assistance in a multi-million-dollar deal to purchase her private consulting firm. Senate aides confirmed to Politico that the committee is reviewing CfA’s complaint.

Read the complaint here.

CfA Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “Americans have the right to know whether the most extreme Supreme Court in decades exists because a White House staffer sought personal financial gain. With the release of these financial records, a thorough investigation is needed to understand the situation and make it clear that evidence of corruption cannot be ignored.”

Prior to joining the Trump White House as an advisor, Conway founded a political consulting firm known as The Polling Company and used it to provide services to clients that included President Trump, the National Rifle Association, Americans for Prosperity, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Though she allegedly resigned from the firm before being sworn-in to her White House role, she retained her stake in the company. In September 2017, public reports revealed that Conway had sold the company to CRC Public Relations, another conservative consulting firm, for between $1 and $5 million.

On December 20, 2022, Politico published a review of previously unseen Virginia financial records that suggest the sale of Conway’s firm was facilitated by Leonard Leo through the BH Fund, a group Leo started in 2016. A review of these documents revealed that Leo and the BH Fund co-signed a loan to CRC Public Relations worth at least $2.5 million on the same day that Conway’s firm was sold, providing her with a large windfall.

Prior to the 2016 election, Leo drafted a list of potential Supreme Court nominees which Donald Trump made public during his campaign. Leo later met with the President-Elect at Trump tower, followed by a meeting with Conway herself. After this meeting, Conway confirmed that President Trump would pull from Leo’s list to fill the vacant seat left by Justice Antonin Scalia. Conway was open about her involvement in the selection process for President Trump’s Supreme Court justices and claims to have provided input on specific nominees.

An administrative ethics investigation is unlikely to be a viable option, as Conway is no longer a federal employee and the most severe penalty for that course is generally removal from one’s position. Given these circumstances, CfA urges HSGAC to exercise its authority to investigate potential violations of federal criminal law, which prohibits federal employees from participating “personally and substantially” in matters that could affect their personal financial interests.

Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “The details surrounding this transaction raise questions about Ms. Conway’s motives and involvement in the selection of Supreme Court nominees. The Trump Administration had a clear and blatant disregard for its employees’ ethical standards, and HSGAC has an opportunity to correct that error with a proper investigation that will chill further ethical disasters like the last administration.”

Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.