Conservative group leader rips Sen. Whitehouse over ‘dark money’ claims at Barrett hearing

Whitehouse is more interested in discussing his 'conspiracy theory' than Barrett, Severino says

Judicial Crisis Network President Carrie Severino slammed Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse for connecting her and her organization to so-called dark money during Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing on Tuesday, telling “Varney & Co.” that the Democratic senator was more interested in talking about his “conspiracy theory” than the Supreme Court nominee.

“I think what he really wanted to do, clearly, is change the topic from Amy Coney Barrett,” Severino told host Stuart Varney on Wednesday.

She went on to say that Whitehouse would rather talk about his “conspiracy theory” than the “outstanding, incredible judge sitting in front of him because I think it was clear from yesterday’s hearings she was the smartest person in the room and I think they want to stay as far away as they can from spotlighting Amy Coney Barrett herself.”

Whitehouse, D-R.I., opted not to question Barrett during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, instead treating the Senate Judiciary Committee to a nearly half-hour presentation on how big-money donors have influenced both the Republican Party and the Supreme Court.

Whitehouse tied issues like abortion and health care to large donations to conservative judicial groups and statements from Republicans about court selections, such as a quote from President Trump that is related to an Affordable Care Act case that will go before the Supreme Court in November.

During his presentation, Whitehouse mentioned Severino and her conservative activist political campaign organization when he delved into what he called “the scheme” that he believes is at play.

“In all cases, there’s big anonymous money behind various lanes of activity,” he said, holding up a sign bearing the names of the Federalist Society and the Judicial Crisis Network, along with a reference to legal “groups,” all of whom receive millions in anonymous donations as they influence judicial nominations and court cases.

“We have, again, anonymous funders running through something called the Judicial Crisis Network, which is run by Carrie Severino … it got  … [a] single $17 million donation in the Garland/Gorsuch contest. It got another single $17 million donation to support Kavanaugh. Somebody, perhaps the same person, spent $35 million to influence the makeup of the United States Supreme Court,” Whitehouse said on Tuesday.

He went on to say that Severino “jumped in to take over in this case for Judge Barrett.”

While Whitehouse began his lecture by citing issues such as health care, abortion and gay marriage, he said the cases he was talking about were not related to those issues. Instead, he said they were matters related to “power,” such as dark money in politics.

Varney flat out asked Severino if she is “part of dark money"?

“That is a smear term that he [Whitehouse] uses to kind of bully conservative groups,” Severino said in response. “What he’s talking about are groups that don’t disclose the names of their donors, but that’s something that describes groups across the spectrum.”


She went on to say that “Demand Justice, the group spending millions of dollars on the other side of this judicial fight, and groups like League of Conservation Voters (LCV), one of Sheldon Whitehouse’s biggest donors,” also do not disclose their donors.

“So he really is just very selective with this slur term that he’s using,” Severino continued, adding that in reality, Whitehouse is “happy to take donations and make allies with people across the political spectrum because there’s nothing wrong with protecting donor anonymity.”

Whitehouse did not immediately respond to FOX Business’ request for comment regarding Severino’s claims.

Varney noted that Severino wrote a book about Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings saying she “went into it at length and really took it to pieces” and perhaps that is why “Sen. Whitehouse and others don’t like” her.

He also noted that Barrett’s hearings seem to be less contentious than Kavanaugh's “because if you go after a mother of seven, a brilliant jurist, you’re going to look real bad.”

“Yeah, I think they’re being more careful this time,” Severino told Varney. “That’s part of the reason we’ve seen a more civil back and forth at this hearing.”

She also cited the novel coronavirus restrictions as a reason.

“Because of COVID, there aren’t outside individuals in the room, so we don’t have those paid protesters this time shouting and getting arrested which, frankly, has been a much more pleasant process to watch,” she said, noting that the hearings are still involved and include hours of testimony.

She said senators keep “asking the same questions” over and over again and Barrett has been “so patient, so clear and articulate.”

“I’m amazed because she doesn’t even have any notes,” Severino continued. “People saw her hold up her paper yesterday. No notes, answering all these questions often 10, 20 times the same question.”


President Trump’s conservative nominee relied on her memory alone for the lengthy questioning process during the second day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing, which took about 11 hours.

“I’m so impressed by her and I think she’s really knocking it out of the park,” Severino said.

Barrett, 48, was nominated last month to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The mother of seven was a law clerk for the late Justice Antonin Scalia from 1998 to 1999. She has served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since 2017.


Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.