A Leonard Leo-Linked Group Is Secretly Funding Legislative Attacks On Trans Rights

A group at the center of conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo’s network funneled $750,000 to an influential new lobbying operation that pushes anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the country, new tax records show.

Do No Harm presents itself as a grassroots association of doctors against gender-affirming care and diversity efforts in the medical profession. The group, which was founded in 2022, does not disclose its donors. But newly disclosed tax filings provided to HuffPost by Accountable.US, a progressive watchdog, show that the Concord Fund, the funding arm of Leo’s network, donated $750,000 in 2022 to Do No Harm Action, the group’s official lobbying effort.

Do No Harm also received more than $1.4 million from a nonprofit, the Project on Fair Representation, run by conservative activist Edward Blum, new records show. Blum, a conservative activist who helped engineer two Supreme Court cases that struck down affirmative action and major sections of the Voting Rights Act, is now a Do No Harm board member. 

HuffPost previously revealed that Do No Harm received $1 million in seed funding from Joseph Edelman, a billionaire hedge fund CEO, and his wife, Suzy Edelman, who has said she considers “transgenderism” “a fiction designed to destroy.” 

Leo is best known as the kingpin of a decades-long effort to pack the federal judiciary with conservative judges. As the leader of the Federalist Society, Leo assembled a vast and secretive network of wealthy donors and nonprofits to amplify the power of the conservative legal movement, culminating in Leo handpicking the list of former President Donald Trump’s potential nominees to the Supreme Court. While some of his efforts are highly public, others, like the funding of Do No Harm, occur with little fanfare.

The medley of conservative groups channeling money to Do No Harm underscores the growing belief on the right that attacking trans rights is “a political winner.”

The scale of the contributions also helps illuminate how Do No Harm became a successful influence operation so soon after its launch. Last year, the group deployed lobbyists to more than a half-dozen states to advocate for restrictions on gender-affirming care, and at least two states passed laws using its model legislative language. In Montana, Do No Harm provided the blueprint for a ban on gender-affirming care for minors, which sparked furious local protests. 

Transgender rights activists march through the University of Montana campus on May 3 in Missoula, Montana. Dozens were protesting the censure of transgender Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D), who was blocked from speaking after she said state legislators would have

“It just made the worst of the worst people here more bold in their bigotry, and that trickles down to our kids,” Darcy Saffer, the parent of two transgender nonbinary children in Bozeman, Montana, told HuffPost last year. The law is blocked while the Montana Supreme Court weighs whether it is unconstitutional.

Do No Harm has also filed a host of lawsuits to block programs aimed at diversifying the medical profession.

In addition to receiving $750,000 from Leo’s network, Do No Harm paid Leo’s consulting firm $231,185 for “public affairs” services. The consulting firm, CRC Advisors, and other for-profit firms in which Leo has a financial stake have been paid millions of dollars over the years by various nonprofits in Leo’s orbit, resulting in a liberal watchdog calling on the IRS to investigate whether the payments violate rules on charitable giving.

Last year, Brian Schwalb, the attorney general of the District of Columbia, opened an investigation into Leo and his nonprofit network. The scope has not been made public.

Neither Do No Harm, Blum, nor Carrie Severino, the president of the Judicial Crisis Network, a legal alias of the Concord Fund, responded to requests for comment.

A spokesperson at CRC Advisors sent HuffPost the following statement: “CRC Advisors employs nearly 100 best-in-class professionals that put its clients’ money to work more effectively than any other enterprise of its sort, and the repeated baseless attacks by groups linked to Arabella Advisors show the left agrees. CRC’s results speak for themselves, and we are blessed to be able to have this kind of impact in our country.” (A fund run by Arabella Advisors, a left-leaning nonprofit, initially helped launch Accountable.US.)

After Trump left office, Leo vastly expanded his efforts to target a wide spectrum of conservative policy goals and hobby horses. Powered in part by the largest known political donation in U.S. history — a $1.6 billion gift from a reclusive electronics mogul named Barre Seid — Leo’s network is now fueling political attacks on issues including abortion access,voting rights and critical race theory

Since 2022, the Concord Fund has received at least $55 million from the nonprofit that houses Seid’s gift, the Marble Trust.

Right-wing activist Leonard Leo attends the 2023 Antonin Scalia Memorial Dinner that is part of the Federalist Society's 2023 National Lawyers Convention at the Washington Hilton Hotel on Nov. 9, 2023, in Washington.
Right-wing activist Leonard Leo attends the 2023 Antonin Scalia Memorial Dinner that is part of the Federalist Society's 2023 National Lawyers Convention at the Washington Hilton Hotel on Nov. 9, 2023, in Washington. The Washington Post via Getty Images

Do No Harm’s goals dovetail neatly with Leo’s expanded mission. The group has helped pay for activists and expert witnesses to travel the country, testifying in favor of bans on gender-affirming care for minors.

On top of fighting to restrict transgender care, Do No Harm is suing Louisiana and Montana over modest efforts to diversify their state medical boards and trying to dismantle a Pfizer fellowship designed to put more Black, Latino and Native American medical professionals in leadership positions. 

The lawsuits represent a continuation of Blum’s efforts to unravel racial equality efforts using the courts. In 2023, a group Blum led brought the pair of Supreme Court cases that effectively banned race-based affirmative action in college admissions. A Blum group also brought Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court case that eliminated federal oversight of racially discriminatory voting laws.

“It’s no surprise that Leonard Leo is using his vast dark money network to bankroll far-right groups working to roll back LGBTQ Americans’ rights,” Caroline Ciccone, president of Accountable.US, told HuffPost. “This is how Leonard Leo works. He leverages his web of nonprofits — bolstered by a massive $1.6 billion windfall — to carry out his radical, unpopular agenda because he knows it will never win at the ballot box.”

This story has been updated to clarify Carrie Severino’s title.