On Monday, the New York Times reported that an electronics executive donated $1.6 billion to a new dark money group run by one of the worst motherfuckers in Republican politics, in what is possibly the single biggest political donation ever—all in time for the crucial midterm elections. This is, in a word, bad. One of the story’s reporters said it was “an extraordinary sum that could boost the right for years to come.”
Thanks to Swiss cheese tax laws, a man named Barre Seid donated all of the shares of his company, Tripp Lite, to a nonprofit group called Marble Freedom Trust before the company was sold for $1.65 billion to Eaton, an “Irish conglomerate,” according to the NYT, in March 2021. Marble Freedom Trust then received all the proceeds of the sale. This is incredibly sketchy or, as the NYT described it, “an unusual series of transactions” that seem to “have been structured to allow the nonprofit group and Mr. Seid to avoid paying taxes on the proceeds.”
Marble Freedom Trust is run by Leonard Leo, the former leader and current co-chairman of the board of the Federalist Society, a group that opposes, among other things, abortion rights, voting rights, and climate policy. Leo was jokingly referred to as the third “most powerful person in the world” by Justice Clarence Thomas during an event in 2018. The same Justice who, after Roe v. Wade was overturned in June, said he wants to get rid of marriage equality and birth control next.
And if the Federalist Society sounds familiar it’s because former President Donald Trump picked all three of his Supreme Court justices from a Federalist Society-vetted list, that was personally curated by Leo. (President Joe Biden recently caught a lot of well-earned shit for reportedly making a deal with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to nominate a Federalist Society member to a lifetime judgeship in Kentucky. The nomination was halted only because Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul objected.)
Following the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC, dark money groups can spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns—without having to disclose where they got the money. Reporters unearthed this $1.6 billion donation thanks to tax documents, corporate filings, and anonymous sources—but it will be near impossible to find out where Leo spends the money.
On the tax form the Times obtained, Leo said the mission of Marble Freedom Trust is “to maintain and expand human freedom consistent with the values and ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.” You can be sure that this means fighting for the rights of wealthy white men above all else.