If you’ve been watching the Trump impeachment hearings, then you’ve undoubtedly seen one of the president's attorneys, Jay Sekulow, in action.
Sekulow may be an unfamiliar figure to most Americans. He’s not to Americans United. We’ve been following his work for years and responding to his misinformation. Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a Christian nationalist legal group founded by TV preacher Pat Robertson, has been a prominent figure in working to erode church-state separation.
As Robertson’s top attorney, Sekulow was involved in numerous legal cases designed to lower the church-state wall. In court, he argued for religious displays on government property, advocated for tax funding of religion and pushed for more official religious presence in public schools.
Along the way, Sekulow has managed to make himself and his family quite wealthy. Three years ago, the U.K. newspaper The Guardian ran an eye-opening piece on Sekulow, highlighting the high-pressure fundraising techniques used by a group Sekulow founded called Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism (CASE) and detailing the millions in compensation Sekulow and his family have drawn from the two nonprofits.
The Guardian reported the following:
- A law firm owned partly by Sekulow called the Constitutional Litigation and Advocacy Group has received more than $25 million from the ACLJ and CASE for legal services since 2000. Another Sekulow-owned company, Regency Productions, was paid $11 million to produce Sekulow’s radio program.
- Sekulow received compensation exceeding $3 million from the nonprofits. His wife Pam received more than $1 million for serving as treasurer and secretary of CASE.
- Sekulow’s brother Gary serves as chief operating officer of both the ACLJ and CASE. He has been paid more than $9 million in salary since 2000. In a filing with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Gary Sekulow claimed that he works 40 hours per week for each group.
- Gary Sekulow’s wife Kim runs a media production company and has received more than $ 6million from the ACLJ and CASE since 2000. Some of the fees paid for a private jet for the use of Jay and Pam Sekulow.
- Jay Sekulow’s two sons and Gary Sekulow’s daughter have also done work for the ACLJ and CASE, earning nearly $2 million since 2000.
Arthur Rieman, an expert on nonprofit law, was asked by The Guardian to review these financial arrangements. Rieman was blunt, remarking, “I can’t imagine this situation being acceptable. That kind of money is practically unheard of in the nonprofit world, and these kinds of transactions I could never justify.”
Another expert, Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, told The Washington Post, “It’s more like a family business than a public charity.”
These allegations weren’t new. In 2005, Legal Times reporter Tony Mauro detailed Sekulow’s questionable use of nonprofit organizations to enrich himself. Mauro also reported that some years ago, Sekulow began calling himself a contractor so he did not have to report his salary on the Form 990, a document nonprofit groups must file annually with the IRS. The ACLJ’s most recent 990 shows no salary for Sekulow; CASE’s shows him receiving $104,000 for 20 hours of work per week.
You might wonder why Trump hired Sekulow, whose area of expertise is undermining church-state law, to defend him against serious charges in an impeachment trial. It may be as simple as this: To effectively defend a master grifter, it’s best to be one yourself.
Photo: Screenshot from NBC News