No matter how the Supreme Court rules on Donald J. Trump’s challenge to a Colorado court ruling barring him from the state’s primary ballot, the case has already been a win for one group.
Oral arguments in the case on Thursday represent the culmination of a long and sometimes fitful evolution for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, the watchdog group that initiated the case. The group helped find the plaintiffs who brought the case in Colorado and funded the lawsuit arguing that Mr. Trump is ineligible for the presidency because he engaged in an insurrection by promoting the storming of the Capitol by his supporters on Jan. 6, 2021.
Its pivotal role in the case comes amid intensifying pressure from donors for technically nonpartisan groups to take unambiguous and aggressive sides in a polarized Washington.
Since it was founded in 2002, CREW, which is registered under a section of the tax code for nonpartisan nonprofit groups, has been caught in a tug of war between Democratic donors who wanted it to wage political warfare and less partisan supporters who wanted to expose corruption and ethical lapses regardless of party. It often struggled to raise money.
Mr. Trump’s emergence as a political force — and his disregard for legal and ethical norms — fundamentally changed the equation. During his presidency, CREW was able to satisfy both sides of the internal debate by training its sights almost entirely on him and his allies as they flouted ethics rules.
CREW’s fund-raising soared, as donors poured cash into a host of left-leaning watchdog groups that came to be seen as a part of the resistance to Mr. Trump. CREW raised $28 million during Mr. Trump’s presidency, more than triple the $8.5 million it raised during President Barack Obama’s final term.
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