GOP Nonprofit Receives Surprise Donation of $1.6 Billion
Little-known Republican financier Barre Seid donated a whopping $1.6 billion to a new conservative nonprofit operated by American lawyer and conservative legal activist, Leonard Leo. The donation is likely the largest single contribution ever made to a political nonprofit .
Mr. Seid is a political activist and former CEO of electrical product manufacturer Tripp Lite. In 2021, he donated 100% of the company’s shares to political advocacy group Marble Freedom Trust. Within months, Marble had completed its sale of the company to American-Irish conglomerate Eaton for $1.6 billion.
The donation was made anonymously, but Seid’s identity was later confirmed by the press based on public financial disclosures. According to The New York Times, the donation was structured in such a way that neither Seid nor the nonprofit paid taxes on the proceeds.
Marble is legally exempt from paying taxes due to its status as a 501(c)4 nonprofit, i.e. an organization that focuses primarily on “social welfare.” Contributors to 501(c)4 companies are not allowed to deduct the donations from their income taxes, but they are able to donate assets that can later be sold without paying capital gains taxes.
“The windfall will help Mr. Leo’s status as a kingmaker in conservative big money politics,” notes NYT contributor Kenneth Vogel. “It could also give conservatives an advantage in a type of difficult-to-trace spending that shapes elections and political fights.”
Vogel is referring to “dark money,” which is a form of nonprofit spending wherein groups are legally allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on politics with few disclosure requirements.
As a private company, Tripp Lite is not subject to the same corporate disclosure rules that apply to public companies. On its tax filings, Marble described the donation as coming from the “sale of gifted company and subsidies” and did not include Seid’s name. Eaton does not refer to Marble in any way in documents related to the sale.
For perspective: the total amount of money spent in 2020 by the 15 most politically active nonprofit organizations that typically side with Democrats was $1.5 billion. That same year, the top GOP nonprofits spent $900 million. Seid’s donation could help level the playing field.
“It’s high time for the conservative movement to be among the ranks of George Soros, Hansjörg Wyss, Arabella Advisors, and other left-wing philanthropists, going toe-to-toe in the fight to defend our constitution and its ideals,” said Leo.
Through relationships developed during his years serving as executive vice president of the Federalist Society, Leo has assisted GOP politicians in battles regarding abortion rights, climate change policy, election procedure, and appointments to the Supreme Court. In 2018, Justice Clarence Thomas described Leo as the ‘third most powerful person in the world.’
The Marble Trust was founded in May 2020 and Leo’s role as head of the nonprofit has not been previously reported. Already, the group has donated nearly $122 million to other conservative nonprofits.
On its fax filings, Marble lists its “mission” as: “The trust exists 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.”