The Federalist Society


The Federalist Society was founded in 1982 by a group of law students at the University of Chicago. Today, the Federalist Society has 70 chapters with between 60,000 to 70,000 members. The chapters host over 300 annual events, dominated largely by debates and speakers at law schools. In addition, they host dinners, speaking events, produce podcasts, publish articles and offer $222,000 annually in Olin/Searle Fellowships for law students.

While the Federalist Society does not take any official legal or public policy positions, they allow their members to use their clout to make their own opinions known

The Federalist Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization making all donations tax-deductible. Their annual budget is usually between 11 to 19 million a year with a recent upward trend. In 2014 for example, they received $13 million. In 2015, the total rose to $18 million.

The president of the Federalist Society, Eugene B. Meyer, takes in an annual salary of $450,000.  

The Federalist Society lobbies the government to appoint judges that hold conservative values. The Federalist Society has been very successful in getting their preferred judges appointed during both Bush presidencies.  

The Federalist Society now has more influence than ever before. President Trump has claimed to be outsourcing the task of selecting federal judicial positions to the Federalist Society.


Federalist Society Funds from THE KOCH BROTHERS: $6,466,139

Koch Industries, Koch Foundations, and David H. Koch gave over $6,466,139 from 1997-2017.

Since 2006, Koch combined funds are at least $5,106,463:

FY 2017: $827,000+

  • $100,000+ from David Koch
  • $100,000+ from Koch Industries
  • $627,000 from Charles Koch Foundation (CY 2017)

FY 2016: $572,876+

  • $100,000+ from David Koch
  • $100,000+ from Koch Industries
  • $372,876 from Charles Koch Foundation (CY 2016)

FY 2015: $586,476+

  • $100,000+ from David Koch
  • $100,000+ from Koch Industries
  • $380,076 from Charles Koch Foundation (CY 2015)
  • $6,400 from Charles Koch Institute (CY 2015)

FY 2014: $471,312+

  • $100,000+ from David Koch
  • $100,000+ from Koch Industries
  • $271,312 from Charles Koch Foundation (CY 2014)

FY 2013: $465,000+

  • $100,000+ from David Koch
  • $100,000+ from Koch Industries
  • $265,000 from Charles Koch Foundation (CY 2013)

FY 2012: $469,836+

  • $100,000+ from David Koch
  • $100,000+ from Koch Industries
  • $265,000 from Claude R. Lambe Foundation (CY 2012)
  • $4,836 from Charles Koch Foundation (CY 2012)

FY 2011: $460,000+

  • $100,000+ from David Koch
  • $100,000+ from Koch Industries
  • $260,000 from Claude R. Lambe Foundation (CY 2011)

FY 2010: $335,000+

  • $100,000+ from David Koch
  • $235,000 from Claude R. Lambe Foundation (CY 2010)

FY 2009: $381,299+

  • $100,000+ from Koch Industries
  • $100,000+ from David Koch
  • $175,000 from Claude R. Lambe Foundation (CY 2009)
  • $6,299 from Charles Koch Foundation (CY 2009)

FY 2008: $200,000+

  • $100,000+ from Koch Industries
  • $100,000+ from David Koch
  • $75,000 from Charles Koch Foundation (CY 2008)

FY 2007: $375,000+

  • $100,000+ from Koch Industries
  • $100,000+ from David Koch
  • $75,000 from Charles Koch Foundation (CY 2007)
  • $100,000 from Claude R. Lambe Foundation (CY 2007)

FY 2006: $292,500+

  • $50,000+ from Koch Industries
  • $50,000+ from David H. Koch
  • $75,000 from Charles Koch Foundation (CY 2006)
  • $117,500 from Claude R. Lambe Foundation (CY 2006)

Before this time frame, from 1997-2006, Koch foundations disclosed an additional $2,034,676 to the Federalist Society.

In total, from 1997-2016, Koch Foundations donated $3,992,499 to the Federalist Society, according to exact dollar amounts reported in annual IRS 990 tax filings from the Charles Koch Foundation, the Charles Koch Institute, and the now-defunct Claude R. Lambe Foundation.

The following Federalist Society donors gave over $100,000 in 2012, as documented by the Alliance for Justice:

  • Koch Industries
  • David H. Koch (as an individual, not his foundation)
  • Koch Family Foundations
    • The now-defunct Claude Lamb Foundation
  • The John Templeton Foundation
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Searle Freedom Trust
  • Rex Sinquefield
  • Sarah Scaife Foundation
    • One of three foundations set up by Richard Mellon Scaife
    • The Scaife foundations have a history of funding fake science to dispute climate change
  • Donors Capital Fund
  • Donors Trust
    • Between 2004 and 2013, Donors Trust distributed $80 million to conservative causes, many of which deny the science and impacts of human-caused climate change or the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund share the same address in Alexandria, Virginia, and share several directors.
    • See more about Donor Trust and Donors Capital Fund at Desmogblog.
  • Bracewell & Giuliani, a law firm that represents a wide variety of polluting companies.

Chevron Corporation gave between $99,999 and $50,000 to the Federalist Society in 2012, and ExxonMobil gave between $24,999 and $10,000.

The following Institutions either directly support the Federalist Society or have numerous members that use their name to support the Federalist Society:


Law/Business Schools

  • Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
  • Notre Dame Law School
  • University of North Carolina School of Law.
  • University of Florida Levin College of Law
  • Boston College Law School
  • Fordham University School of Law
  • Texas A&M University
  • The George Washington University Law School
  • New York University School of Law
  • Columbia Law School
  • Yale Law School
  • The University of Texas at Austin School of Law
  • Harvard Law School
  • Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • University of Missouri School of Law
  • Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University
  • Clemson College of Business
  • Institute for Judicial Administration at the New York University School of Law


  • American Civil Rights Union
  • Cato Institute
  • The Heritage Foundation
  • The Hoover Institution
  • Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
  • American Bankers Association
  • Manhattan Institute
  • R Street Institute
  • Pacific Legal Foundation
  • Washington Legal Foundation
  • National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center
  • International and National Security Law Practice Group 
  • Center for Equal Opportunity
  • The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • National Review Institute
  • America Matters 
  • Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)
  • National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center
  • Institute for Justice
  • Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
  • Alliance Defending Freedom 

Law firms

  • Bancroft PLLC
  • Wiley Rein LLP
  • Brown Wegner LLP
  • Kirkland & Ellis LLP
  • Mayer Brown LLP
  • Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP


Climate Change – What Consensus?

While the Federalist Society’s website does not outright deny climate change, it allows members to publish articles that make statements like “there isn’t a consensus”.  One method members use to promote a lack of consensus is to criticize specific publications by climate change scientists to call into question the validity of their entire body of work and the work of all their colleagues. Specifically, it was argued that the reports published by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), a summation of thousands of scientists’ models, data and analysis, should be taken with heavy skepticism because a single lab in England didn’t have, in their opinion, fully accurate findings.


Climate Change – If the future can’t be predicted with 100% accuracy members of the Federalist Society want people to ignore the prediction!

In addition, members of the Federalist Society make claims that because the IPCC report utilizes scaled probability that lists with the best scientific estimations of the likelihood of what degree of impact will occur, the report should not be considered because there is not a 100% guarantee the impact will be exactly what the IPCC estimates it will be.  


Climate Change –Introducing students across the country to bad science!

The Federalist Society makes tangible efforts to make others question the science behind climate change, by hosting debates.

An example of one such debate - October 18th, 2016 at Rice University

Professor Ronald Sass vs.  Dr. Willie Soon

Dr. Sass is the Chair of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Rice University and Dr. Willie Soon received $1,657,587 in research funding from fossil fuel interests and fossil fuel-linked dark money organizations (see Dr. Willie Soon for a detailed report). 

The impacts of such events are not insignificant. A student that attended told Rice’s official newspaper, Ricethresher: "the debate brought a valuable dissenting opinion to what is commonly considered settled science”.


Climate Change – Government Consensus is needed for effective action

Whether politicians accept that climate change is caused by human activities largely impacts the government’s willingness and ability to put into place policies to mitigate warming.

The Federalist Society has multiple publications that imply that when considering policy actions to mitigate climate change, whether humans are causing it should be left out. One such example is, “The next administration will have the opportunity to elevate the discussion in the interest of developing a realistic and affordable set of policies to cope with whatever climate change may occur, without regard for whether it is human caused”. The implication that climate change is not human caused makes actions taken seem less impactful or important if they are solving the implied cause of the problem.


Climate Change – The Federalist Society claims that it’s better to adapt than to mitigate

The continued use of ‘scientific skepticism” generates positions on the Federalist Society’s website that support adaptation over mitigation, even through scientific peer reviewed literature supports the opposite view.

A Federalist Society article published in 2015, (which we have color-coded to assess different kinds of disinformation) stated:

 “The better approach is to prepare for the possible impacts of climate change with strategies for adaptation if and when changes occur, and with an understanding that the predictions are based on models that necessarily simplify extremely complex natural processes. Because most climate change mitigation strategies that have been proposed would dramatically affect the cost of energy, and because energy costs are a significant factor for virtually all businesses, climate change policies must account for economic effects including innovation, investment, employment, compensation, and the quality of goods and services. Recent innovations in the technology of petroleum extraction (‘fracking’ and directional drilling) demonstrate that private innovation can have significant environmental benefits (reduced carbon emissions from the substitution of natural gas for coal, for example) as well economic benefits (lower energy costs and new jobs, for example) [added bolding, underlining and coloring]”.

This statement is a perfect example of many of the arguments authors of Federalists Society articles utilize to sew doubt about climate change or deflect the conversation.

In that statement, the author implies two warrants of doubt on the climate change science (red) and implied absolute opinion on a topic without evidence (green), asserts the comparative cost of mitigation vs adaptation is financially more in favor of adaptation as if it is an established fact instead of what it really is, the minority view (orange). It attacks the science without giving proof that the ‘flaws’ they point out actually yield incorrect results (underlined). It places ultimatums on hypothetical situations to narrow the reader’s perspective when the conditions are not 100% or nothing as implied (purple and bold).  Misrepresents the difference between technological improvements and “environmental benefits” by comparing fracking to the more polluting Coal with no regard for any another energy source (blue)


Regulations – Are the Environmental Regulations we disagree with nefariously planned?

The Federalist Society has publications that use language that makes it appear that they support regulations but also make statements that the regulations they oppose are put into place for nefarious purposes and seem to always be exaggerations of what is needed to protect the environment.

An example of this behavior is the following statement: “while most environmental regulations have important and legitimate purposes, the monitoring and compliance costs often exceed the public benefits and, like all regulations, those relating to environmental protection and natural resources conservation can be manipulated for the benefit of special interests rather than the public welfare.”


Regulations – If the government failed in the past, is it better to give up regulating all together?

The Federalist Society’s members use the argument that because decisions by the federal government have in the past led to environmental problems they should leave it up to companies to handledifficult questions sucjh as water rights.

An example of that argument was the following, “while there is a necessary role for federal involvement in the allocation of interstate waters, it is important to recognize that historic government policies have contributed to some of the nation’s most serious environmental problems, and that private water markets can make an important contribution to the efficient use of water resources”.

Considering that environmental regulations have commonly been enacted because companies have operated in irresponsible and harmful ways, the argument that federal government should step back and allow private industry to be in charge doesn’t make sense. A UN report confirmed continuing industry failing when they reported that the top 3,000 firms have caused an estimated 2.2 trillion dollars in damages to the environment as of 2008, a number that has only risen since then.