Pro-Kavanaugh group received millions from anonymous donors

An obscure nonprofit last year gave nearly $15 million it received from anonymous donors to a conservative advocacy group that backed Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, according to newly released federal tax records.

The Wellspring Committee made the contributions to the Judicial Crisis Network, one of the most prominent groups that championed Kavanaugh's acrimonious but ultimately successful bid to serve on the Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh was sworn in as the 114th Supreme Court justice in early October after an acrimonious confirmation process that involved a woman testifying that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her decades ago when both were teenagers. Kavanaugh denied the claim.

After President Donald Trump announced Kavanaugh's nomination in July, the Judicial Crisis Network declared that it was prepared to spend as much as $10 million or more in a pro-Kavanaugh advertising campaign. It set up, calling Kavanaugh "a person of impeccable character, extraordinary qualifications, independence, and fairness."

After the Senate narrowly voted to confirm Kavanaugh, the group announced it was launching a six-figure TV and digital ad campaign in Maine to thank GOP Sen. Susan Collins for supporting him. The moderate Collins infuriated the left with her vote to confirm Kavanaugh.

The Judicial Crisis Network has for years received robust financial support from the Wellspring Committee, which was founded a decade ago. Conservative activist Neil Corkery is Wellspring's president and sole trustee. He previously was treasurer of the Judicial Crisis Network. His wife, Ann Corkery, ran Wellspring before he did, according to federal tax records from prior years.

The latest return says that in 2017, "the organization identified, funded, and supported activities and organizations that foster the advancement of free markets and limited constitutional government."

Wellspring and the Judicial Crisis Network are both registered as social welfare organizations, which are permitted to engage in limited political activities if politics isn't their primary focus. Known by their IRS designation as 501(c)(4)s, they often include civic-minded groups such as homeowner associations and volunteer fire departments.

Wellspring isn't required to disclose its donors. Federal rules permit groups structured as tax-exempt social welfare organizations to shield the identities of their benefactors. Critics say this permits wealthy donors to wield significant influence without having to reveal who they are.

A list of Wellspring's contributors for 2017 shows donations totaling $16.6 million from four sources. One donation was for $8.9 million, more than half of Wellspring's total revenue for the year.

The Judicial Crisis Network's tax return for 2017 has not been filed yet.


Contact Richard Lardner on Twitter at