This story was originally published by ProPublica.
A few months ago, Leonard Leo laid out his next audacious project.
Ever since the longtime Federalist Society leader helped create a conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court, and then received more than a billion dollars from a wealthy Chicago business owner to disburse to conservative causes, Leo’s next moves had been the subject of speculation.
Now, Leo declared in a slick but private video to potential donors, he planned to “crush liberal dominance” across American life. The country was plagued by “woke-ism” in corporations and education, “one-sided journalism” and “entertainment that’s really corrupting our youth,” said Leo amid snippets of cheery music and shots of sunsets and American flags.
Sitting tucked into a couch, with wire-rimmed glasses and hair gone to gray, Leo conveyed his inspiration and intentions: “I just said to myself, ‘Well, if this can work for law, why can’t it work for lots of other areas of American culture and American life where things are really messed up right now?’”
Leo revealed his latest battle plan in the previously unreported video for the Teneo Network, a little-known group he called “a tremendously important resource for the future of our country.”
Teneo is building what Leo called in the video “networks of conservatives that can roll back” liberal influence in Wall Street and Silicon Valley, among authors and academics, with pro athletes and Hollywood producers. A Federalist Society for everything.
Despite its linchpin role in Leo’s plans, Teneo (which is not the similarly named consulting firm
associated with former officials in the Bill Clinton administration) has kept a low public profile. Its one-page website
includes bland slogans — “Timeless ideas. Fresh approach” — and scant details. Its co-founder described Teneo as “private and confidential” in one presentation, and the group doesn’t disclose the vast majority of its members or its funders.
But ProPublica and Documented have obtained more than 50 hours of internal Teneo videos and hundreds of pages of documents that reveal the organization’s ambitious agenda, influential membership and burgeoning clout. We have also interviewed Teneo members and people familiar with the group’s activities. The videos, documents and interviews provide an unfiltered look at the lens through which the group views the power of the left — and how it plans to combat it.
In response to questions for this story, Leo said in a statement: “Teneo’s young membership proves that the conservative movement is poised to be even more talented, driven, and successful in the future. This is a group that knows how to build winning teams.”
The records show Teneo’s members have included a host of prominent names from the conservative vanguard, including such elected officials as U.S. Sens. J.D. Vance
of Ohio and Missouri’s Josh Hawley
, a co-founder of the group. Other members have included Rep. Elise Stefanik
of New York, now the fourth-ranking House Republican, as well as Nebraska’s attorney general and Virginia’s solicitor general. Three senior aides to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, are members. Another is the federal judge who struck down
a Biden administration mask mandate. The heads of the Republican Attorneys General Association, Republican State Leadership Committee and Turning Point USA — all key cogs in the world of national conservative politics — have been listed as Teneo members.
Conservative media figures like Ben Shapiro of the Daily Wire, several pro athletes and dozens of executives and senior figures in the worlds of finance, energy and beyond have also been members.
Leo joined Teneo’s board of directors as chairman in 2021 and has since become a driving force…Continue Reading