Missouri’s Attorney General Isn’t MAGA Enough for Leonard Leo 

Gun Rights

Conservative megadonor Leonard Leo is funneling millions of dollars into the primary race for Missouri’s attorney general. His anointed candidate is Will Scharf, a personal attorney to Donald Trump who represented the former president in the immunity case decided Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

What’s remarkable about the Missouri race is that the Republican incumbent, Andrew Bailey, is also an archconservative star-in-the-making, with endorsements from the National Rifle Association, top Missouri lawmakers, and state law enforcement unions. 

Despite Bailey’s deeply conservative agenda and rhetoric, Leo is helping bankroll a primary challenge.

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Since his appointment in 2023, Bailey has sued the Biden administration over student loan cancellationprotections for transgender students, and federal officials’ efforts to influence social media content moderation practices around Covid-19. 

This isn’t enough for Leo. Despite Bailey’s deeply conservative agenda and rhetoric, Leo is helping bankroll a primary challenge that’s pitting national rightwing donors against wealthy conservative Missourians. The primary will be held on August 6. 

Leo’s Largesse vs. Old Beer Money 

Campaign finance disclosures show that Leo and his allies have underwritten much of Scharf’s bid to be the next state attorney. 

The Concord Fund, one of Leo’s dark-money organizations, has given $3.5 million so far to two pro-Scharf PACs: $500,000 to Defend Missouri last year, plus another $3 million to Club for Growth Action Missouri so far in 2024. (One of these $1 million checks was initially misreported as coming from Leo personally, rather than from the Concord Fund.) 

Republican megadonor Paul Singer — a hedge fund billionaire and fishing buddy of Justice Samuel Alito who is closely aligned with Leo — has chipped in another $1.5 million to support Scharf, also via Club for Growth Action. Singer and his firm are based in West Palm Beach, Florida.   

To try to keep up with this flood of national money to a state primary, the main committee supporting Bailey — Liberty and Justice PAC — has turned primarily to wealthy Missourians. These include the heir to the Anheuser-Busch beer fortune, August A. Busch III, who has given $200,000 in the past two years. Mike and Carolyn Rayner, a retired couple that are part of the family that owns Cargill, have given more than $1 million to Liberty and Justice PAC over this period. Another wealthy couple, Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield, gave $500,000, and a Kansas City law firm, Ketchmark & McCreight, gave more than $230,000.

As of April 1, Liberty and Justice PAC had just under $2 million in the bank, and Club for Growth Action had just under $2.2 million. Since then, Bailey’s mostly local highrollers have contributed around $750,000, compared to the $3.4 million that Club for Growth Action got in just two checks from Singer and the Concord Fund.

Bailey has been unable to unlock one crucial war chest: the Republican Attorneys General Association, a collective of his conservative counterparts in 27 other states. In the Louisiana attorney general race last year, RAGA spent $1.8 million to support the winner, Elizabeth Murrill. 

In his brief time as a RAGA member, Bailey has led various coalition efforts, including letters warning CVS and Walgreens in 2023 that sending abortion pills by mail would violate the Comstock Act. He has also led group briefs to the Supreme Court, including in the mifepristone case and the challenges to Texas and Florida laws regulating social media platforms. 

Still, RAGA — to which Leo’s Concord Fund is a top contributor and which is also a client of Leo’s consulting firm, CRC Advisors — has not backed Bailey. So far, RAGA has not made a formal endorsement in the race, though its executive director actually donated a small amount to Scharf’s campaign. Last September, Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons, who appointed Bailey, wrote a letter to RAGA complaining about its “unprecedented and deeply concerning” lack of support for an incumbent. 

RAGA and Bailey’s campaign did not respond to The Intercept’s questions, including whether Leo’s support for Scharf impacted RAGA’s decision not to back Bailey.

Longstanding Ties

Scharf has a longstanding relationship with Leo and the Concord Fund, which was previously called the Judicial Crisis Network. 

Scharf’s campaign website emphasizes that he “played an instrumental role” in building “the most conservative Supreme Court in almost a century” by helping with the confirmation battles over Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.  

For both confirmations, Scharf would have worked closely with Leo, who was the Trump administration’s “court whisperer.” 

Kavanaugh’s confirmation took place in the summer and fall of 2018. During this period, Scharf was a consultant for the Judicial Crisis Network, according to profiles when Scharf first announced his candidacy. (Scharf’s LinkedIn profile indicates he was a self-employed “consultant” and “portfolio manager” for an undisclosed “private foundation” at the time.) 

Scharf joined CRC Advisors in January 2020, around the same time that Leo announced he was stepping down as executive vice president of the Federalist Society to join the firm. 

In September 2020, Scharf joined the Justice Department, where he served as nominations counsel at the Office of Legal Policy, according to his LinkedIn. The same month, Trump nominated Barrett to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. 

Since Scharf left the Justice Department for private practice, he continued working alongside Leo as part of the membership committee for Teneo, a private network for conservatives that Leo chairs.  

Leo and others at CRC Advisors were early backers of Scharf’s campaign. Leo gave $2,650 to Scharf in December 2022, as did the CEO of CRC Advisors, Greg Mueller, and its president, Jonathan Bunch, who is also a trustee of Leo’s primary dark-money vehicle the Marble Freedom Trust.

The firm’s chief financial officer, Neil Corkery — who is listed as the keeper of records for multiple Leo-linked groups, including the Marble Freedom Trust, Rule of Law Trust, the 85 Fund, and the defunct BH Fund — chipped in $1,000 to Scharf’s campaign in February 2023. The same month, Corkery’s wife, Ann, who works for the 85 Fund, also contributed $1,000.

A handful of lower-ranking CRC Advisors employees also contributed to Scharf’s campaign since 2022. 

As observers of the race have pointed out, there is almost no daylight between Scharf and Bailey when it comes to campaign issues. But only one of them has Leo’s blessing and the cash that comes with it. 

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