Wellspring Committee

Wellspring Committee

Background

The Wellspring Committee was a  “dark money” nonprofit group that channeled funding from anonymous donors to conservative political organizations.1Viveca Novak, Robert Maguire and Peter Overby. “Wellspring’s Flow: Dark Money Outfit Helped Fuel Groups on Political Front Lines,” OpenSecrets.org, November 5, 2013. The group ceased operations in December 2018.2An influential ‘dark money’ group turns off the lights for the last time,” OpenSecrets, May 23, 2019. Archived January 16, 2020. Archive.ph URL:https://archive.ph/fD6KT

Wellspring was incorporated as a 501(c)(4) organization, which according to U.S. Internal Revenue Service rules “must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare.” in order to maintain its tax-exempt status.

The Wellspring Committee was created by the Koch brothers, the billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. Wellspring has been described as one of the Kochs’ first attempts at using a nonprofit entity to funnel money to other political organizations while obscuring the source, according to Ken Vogel’s book Big Money and as reported at Mother Jones.3Stephanie Mencimer. “These Right-Wing Groups Are Gearing Up for an Onslaught on Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee,” Mother Jones March 19, 2016. Archived January 16, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/JKOhn

For several years, the Wellspring Committee supplied over 90% of the budget of the Judicial Crisis Network, a group deeply involved in getting conservative judges onto the U.S. Supreme Court.4Stephanie Mencimer. “These Right-Wing Groups Are Gearing Up for an Onslaught on Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee,” Mother Jones March 19, 2016. Archived January 16, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/JKOhn

The group is a conduit,” law professor Donald Tobin of Ohio State University told OpenSecrets. “The web of transactions […] makes you question whether [Wellspring] is really engaged in a social welfare purpose or not.”5Viveca Novak, Robert Maguire and Peter Overby. “Wellspring’s Flow: Dark Money Outfit Helped Fuel Groups on Political Front Lines,” OpenSecrets.org, November 5, 2013.

Building a Conservative Supreme Court

Wellspring was an integral part of a multimillion-dollar conservative political campaign to reshape the Supreme Court. In addition to funding the Judicial Crisis Network, Wellspring contributed millions of dollars to the Judicial Education Project, JCN’s sister 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, among other groups.6An influential ‘dark money’ group turns off the lights for the last time,” OpenSecrets, May 23, 2019. Archived January 16, 2020. Archive.ph URL:https://archive.ph/fD6KT

The MapLight Foundation reported that in 2016, the Wellspring Foundation received $28,475,000 from a single donor. It went on to give $23,454,997 to JCN.7Andrew Perez and Margaret Sessa-Hawkins. “Tax Returns Identify Dark Money Organization As Source of GOP Supreme Court Attacks,” Maplight, November 21, 2017. Archived September 19, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.fo/oTGlJ

Wellspring was also a major funder of the Federalist Society. Together with JCN, Wellspring helped to provide nearly 80% of the funding for the “Rule of Law Project,” a nonprofit that listed then-Federalist Society executive vice president Leonard Leo as a director in its tax filings.8Andrew Perez and Margaret Sessa-Hawkins. “Tax Returns Identify Dark Money Organization As Source of GOP Supreme Court Attacks,” Maplight, November 21, 2017. Archived September 19, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.fo/oTGlJ

Leo was key in creating JCN. A former associate of Leo’s described JCN as “Leonard Leo’s PR organization – nothing more and nothing less.”9The Secrets of Leonard Leo, the Man Behind Trump’s Supreme Court Pick,” The Daily Beast, July 9, 2018. Archived September 19, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/lsCHr

The Wellspring Committee was a central part of a network of nonprofits run by Ann Corkery and her husband Neil Corkery. The network was dedicated to exerting conservative influence over judicial nominations in the U.S., as well as other public policy. According to tax filings, Ann Corkery served  as Wellspring’s president until 2015, when her husband took over.10Viveca Novac, Robert Maguire, and Peter Overby. “Wellspring’s Flow: Dark Money Outfit Helped Fuel Groups on Political Front Lines,” OpenSecrets, November 5, 2013. Archived January 20, 2020. Archive.ph URL:https://archive.ph/wip/UGDLt

Neil Corkery is also associated with another group, The Annual Fund, which received all of its startup funding from Wellspring. The Annual Fund gives money to a wide variety of other conservative groups. Neil Corkery has also been listed as the treasurer of the Judicial Crisis Network.11Tax returns reveal one six-figure donor accounts for entirety of ‘dark money’ funding Whitaker’s nonprofit,” OpenSecrets.org, November 21, 2018. Archived June 8, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/iKekJ

Stance on Climate Change

The Wellspring Committee has funded a number of groups known to cast doubt on climate change science or work actively to oppose climate change mitigation policies. These include the American Energy Alliance, Americans for Prosperity, and the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, among others. According to Wellspring’s 2018 IRS Form 990 filing, it gave $500,000 to People United for Privacy, a project of the State Policy Network.

Funding

The following funding information is based on data archived by the Conservative Transparency Project, combined with original research by DeSmog of publicly available IRS Form 990 tax filings.12Wellspring Committee,” Conservative Transparency. Accessed January 2020.

See the attached spreadsheet for additional information on Wellspring Committee funding by year (.xlsx).

Wellspring Committee as Donor

Recipient20082009201020112012201320142015201620172018Grand Total
Judicial Crisis Network  $350,000$170,000$1,515,000$1,435,000$6,655,000$5,775,000$23,454,997$14,814,998 $54,169,995
The Catholic Association    $440,000$60,000$650,000$365,000$755,000$400,000$345,000$3,015,000
Americans for Job Security$2,605,824 $346,098        $2,951,922
Annual Fund  $2,450,000  $48,000$49,000$49,000$45,000$48,000$50,000$2,739,000
Illinois Policy Action        $2,500,000  $2,500,000
American Future Fund$367,457    $125,000  $2,000,000  $2,492,457
Americans for Prosperity$1,651,811          $1,651,811
Right Change  $900,000$231,459       $1,131,459
American Majority  $1,020,125        $1,020,125
Susan B. Anthony List$753,278         $250,000$1,003,278
Missourians for Better Courts $30,000$850,000$50,000       $930,000
45 Committee       $750,000   $750,000
Common Sense VA PAC     $719,193     $719,193
Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies  $200,000   $235,000$75,000$100,000  $610,000
American Energy Alliance$509,000 $95,000        $604,000
National Right to Life Committee$542,000          $542,000
Illinois Manufacturers’ Association  $500,000        $500,000
Wisconsin Club For Growth   $400,000       $400,000
Citizens for the Republic  $360,000        $360,000
American Dream Initiative      $350,000    $350,000
FGA Action         $350,000 $350,000
Louisiana Conservative Action Network$312,000          $312,000
American Action Network  $305,500        $305,500
Winning for Women          $250,000$250,000
Faith & Freedom Coalition  $250,000        $250,000
First Amendment Alliance Educational Fund      $250,000    $250,000
American Conservative Union    $240,000      $240,000
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce$200,000          $200,000
Data Trust       $200,000   $200,000
Freedom Vote  $200,000        $200,000
Judicial Education Project  $50,000$136,000       $186,000
Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity  $160,000        $160,000
Citizenship Fund          $150,000$150,000
Missouri Retailers Association       $105,000$35,000  $140,000
American Justice Partnership  $125,000        $125,000
Michigan Chamber of Commerce  $125,000        $125,000
Veterans Against the Deal        $120,000  $120,000
Know Campaign $111,317         $111,317
State Government Leadership Foundation     $100,000     $100,000
Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee$100,000          $100,000
Emergency Committee for Israel       $100,000   $100,000
AR2, Inc.       $100,000   $100,000
Bradley Impact Fund       $100,000   $100,000
Renew Colorado  $90,000        $90,000
Alabama Voters Against Lawsuit Abuse$85,000          $85,000
United in Purpose Education        $75,000  $75,000
Stop Lawsuit Abuse$50,000          $50,000
Engage America       $50,000   $50,000
Washington Free Beacon       $50,000   $50,000
Common Sense Issues Coalition  $50,000        $50,000
Engage Nevada       $50,000   $50,000
Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee$50,000          $50,000
Lincoln Labs Action       $50,000   $50,000
American Opportunity Alliance          $50,000$50,000
Greenwich Fund          $49,900$49,900
Rule of Law Project      $30,000$10,000   $40,000
The Adam Smith Foundation        $40,000  $40,000
Citizens for Traditional Values$30,000          $30,000
Kansas Club for Growth$25,000          $25,000
Adam Smith Foundation      $25,000    $25,000
North Carolina Chamber of Commerce      $25,000    $25,000
Let Freedom Ring $25,000         $25,000
Arizona Public Integrity Alliance      $15,000    $15,000
Judicial Reform Coalition $12,500         $12,500
Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch$10,000          $10,000
Louisiana Citizens for Action Now $10,000         $10,000
United and Strong Strong America   $10,000       $10,000
Baylor University       $5,000   $5,000
Wedgwood Circle Institute      $5,000    $5,000
Grand Total$7,291,370$188,817$8,426,723$997,459$2,195,000$2,487,193$8,289,000$7,834,000$29,124,997$15,612,998$1,144,900$83,592,457

Wellspring Committee as Recipient

According to tax filings, in 2009 Wellspring received a $150,000 donation from the American Democracy Alliance.

Independent Contractors Hired by Wellspring

Contractor Name & Service2008201020112015201620172018Grand Total
1060 Group        
– Project management$210,219      $210,219
3dbob Productions        
– Video production $681,750     $681,750
Advantage        
– Voter Research$210,662      $210,662
BH Group LLC        
– Consulting     $919,900 $919,900
– Public Relations    $750,000  $750,000
Clover        
– Project management $231,666     $231,666
Creative Response Concepts        
– Public Relations    $600,000 $165,000$765,000
Lincoln Strategy        
– Voter registration $225,000     $225,000
Magellan        
– Data analysis and mapping $565,730$807,587    $1,373,317
Opportunity Solutions Corporation        
– Public Relations   $500,000   $500,000
Targetpoint Consulting        
– Voter Research$789,444      $789,444
Tarrance        
– Voter Research$326,948      $326,948
W3BG        
– Web consulting $576,999     $576,999
Grand Total$1,537,273$2,281,145$807,587$500,000$1,350,000$919,900$165,000$7,560,905

IRS Form 990 Filings

Key People

Name20082009201020112012201320142015201620172018Description
Neil Corkery        YYYPresident
Ann CorkeryYYYYYYYY   President
Kathleen Corkery    YYY    Director
Michael Casey    YYY    Secretary, Treasurer
John KlinkYYYY       Director
Steve WagnerYYYY       Director, Secretary, Treasurer

Other People

Actions

December 2018

The Wellspring Committee reportedly ceased operations in December 2018.14An influential ‘dark money’ group turns off the lights for the last time,” OpenSecrets, May 23, 2019. Archived January 16, 2020. Archive.ph URL:https://archive.ph/fD6KT

2016

In 2017, MapLight reported that the Wellspring Committee spent $17 million towards replacing the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia with another Republican. Following Scalia’s death in 2016, Wellspring donated $23 million to the Judicial Crisis Network. JCN in turn spent $7 million on ads encouraging Republican senators not to hold confirmation hearings for Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia. After Donald Trump became president in 2017, JCN then spent an additional $10 million supporting the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s pick for the open seat. 15Andrew Perez and Margaret Sessa-Hawkins. “Tax Returns Identify Dark Money Organization As Source of GOP Supreme Court Attacks,” Maplight, November 21, 2017. Archived September 19, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.fo/oTGlJ

Tax documents revealed that in 2016, Wellspring received $28.5 million of its $32 million in donations from a single donor.16Andrew Perez and Margaret Sessa-Hawkins. “Tax Returns Identify Dark Money Organization As Source of GOP Supreme Court Attacks,” MapLight, November 21, 2017. Archived September 19, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.fo/oTGlJ

JCN also funneled Wellspring money to the Republican Governors Association and the Republican Attorneys General Association, as well as organizations supporting conservative justices for courts in Wisconsin and North Carolina.17Andrew Perez and Margaret Sessa-Hawkins. “Tax Returns Identify Dark Money Organization As Source of GOP Supreme Court Attacks,” Maplight, November 21, 2017. Archived September 19, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.fo/oTGlJ

Wellspring gave $2 million directly to the American Future Fund, which spent a total of $12 million supporting Florida Republican Marco Rubio, in his 2016 presidential bid and Senate re-election campaign.18Andrew Perez and Margaret Sessa-Hawkins. “Tax Returns Identify Dark Money Organization As Source of GOP Supreme Court Attacks,” Maplight, November 21, 2017. Archived September 19, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.fo/oTGlJ

Contact & Address

According to the Wellspring Committee’s 2018 tax filing, its address was:

Suite 131 – 3220 N Street NW
Washington, DC
20007
(561) 563-3547

The above address appears to match that of a branch of The UPS Store.19Georgetown,” The UPS Store. Archived January 20, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/kvYUE

Social Media

  • The Wellspring Committee had no presence on social media.

Other Resources

Resources

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