Marble Freedom Trust

Marble Freedom Trust is a nonprofit headed by conservative activist Leonard Leo. The organization received a monumental $1.6 billion contribution in 2021 from electronics manufacturing mogul and conservative mega donor Barre Seid through the transfer of ownership in his company to the trust.

About Marble Freedom Trust

Nonprofit Run by Leonard Leo and Recipient of What Appears to be the Largest Single Donation to a Politically-Oriented Nonprofit in American History

Marble Freedom Trust is a nonprofit headed by conservative activist Leonard Leo. The organization received a monumental $1.6 billion contribution in 2021 from electronics manufacturing mogul and conservative mega-donor Barre Seid through the transfer of ownership in his company to the trust. 

The unprecedented single-gift contribution was likely the largest donation of its kind to a politically oriented nonprofit in American history, and according to an analysis by the New York Times, it is “more than the total of $1.5 billion spent in 2020 by 15 of the most politically active nonprofit organizations that generally align with Democrats.” Marble Freedom Trust was formed in 2020 and has contributed over $200 million to right-wing causes in the last two years, including $16.5 million to the Judicial Crisis Network’s effort to put far-right judges on the federal courts. Other notable payments from Marble Freedom’s Trust include:

  • $41 million to Donors Trust, one of the most influential conservative organizations in contemporary American politics. In 2013, Mother Jones dubbed Donors Trust the “dark-money ATM of the right.” 

$1.6 Billion Contribution

Billionaire Barre Seid contributed $1.6 billion to Marble Freedom Trust by transferring 100 percent of the shares in his company, Tripp Lite, to the nonprofit in 2021. Tripp Lite was Seid’s Chicago-based electrical device manufacturing company and upon transfer of ownership to Marble Freedom Trust, the company was sold to Eaton, a publicly-traded Irish conglomerate (NYSE:ETN). Marble Freedom Trust’s 990 indicated that the $1.6 billion came from the “sale of gifted company and subsidiaries,” but withheld identifying information “to protect donor confidentiality.”

In January 2021, Eaton announced that it would pay $1.65 billion to acquire Tripp Lite. As ProPublica reports, the next month Tripp Lite filed its Illinois state annual reports with Barre Seid’s name crossed out and replaced with Leonard Leo’s. According to disclosure filings, a Tripp Lite subsidiary in Canada “similarly removed Seid as a director and added Leo as a director in March 2021.” The New York Times reports that a “person with knowledge of the matter” said that the Tripp Lite shares were donated to Marble “months before the deal with Eaton was announced in January 2021.” The deal closed in March 2021. Marble Freedom Trust was not mentioned in any announcement by Eaton, and the “structure of the donation allowed Seid to avoid as much as $400 million in taxes” in the sale, all of which will go to Leo’s Marble Freedom Trust entity.

Leonard Leo, Trustee and Chairman

Leonard Leo’s position of Trustee and Chairman places him at the helm of the Marble Freedom Trust. Leonard Leo was “widely known as a confidant to Trump” and served as Trump’s Supreme Court Advisor during the nominations of Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, and Neil Gorsuch.

Leo has been called “arguably the most powerful figure in the federal justice system” with his “network of interlocking nonprofits” that aggressively support conservative judges. 

  • One of these nonprofits is the Federalist Society, which cultivates conservative judicial nominees in Leo’s fight to take over the courts. 
  • Leo operates a series of nonprofits that can move money without public scrutiny, such as the 85 Fund, the BH Fund, America Engaged, and the Freedom and Opportunity Fund.

Leo has personal and professional ties to Justice Clarence Thomas, who is an original faculty member of the Federalist Society and a frequent speaker at the organization’s events. 

  • Thomas has hired Leo’s PR firm CRC Advisors to promote his memoir and a documentary about Thomas.

Jonathan Bunch, Successor Trustee

Jonathan Bunch is a former senior vice president at the Federalist Society who has been described as Leo’s “right-hand man,” and is listed as the “successor trustee” for the Marble Freedom Trust. Bunch has been involved in several Leo-linked entities and is currently the president of CRC Advisors, a public relations consulting firm Leo founded in 2020. 

  • The Rule of Law Trust, another Leo-linked group, paid Bunch $1.5 million in consulting fees in 2018 —- RLT’s largest single payment that year.

From 2007 to 2008, Jonathan Bunch was the executive director of “Better Courts for Missouri,” a nonprofit organization that aimed to fundamentally alter the state’s merit-based judicial nomination process

  • Better Courts sought to replace Missouri’s selection method for state appeals court judges — called the Missouri Plan — where the governor appointed a nominee from a list curated by special judicial nominating committees. JCN proposed an inherently partisan system that would give the governor power to nominate any individual to the commission, subject to Senate confirmation. The group also spearheaded a ballot measure to allow the governor to appoint a majority of the members of the commission. 
  • The Missouri Bar Association and the judiciary overwhelmingly supported keeping the state’s existing judicial selection system, contending that “the process diminishes the politics behind selections.” 
  • Critics of Bunch’s group called their proposal “a GOP power grab” to give the governor more power as “the state is getting redder and redder.” The president of the Missouri Bar said Better Courts’ proposal would “make partisan politics the heart and soul” of selecting judges.

Better Courts’ strategy reflects the Leo network’s typical playbook at the state level. In Iowa, the Judicial Crisis Network financed a 2018 campaign that advocated for giving partisan legislators the power to select members of the judicial nomination commission, “meaning politicians will choose every member.” 

  • Iowa’s existing system — where half of the commissioners were selected by the governor and half were elected by licensed lawyers — was meant to “emphasize legal experience while keeping politics at arm’s length.” 

Tyler Green, Administrative Trustee

Marble Freedom Trust’s listed address is a house in North Salt Lake City, Utah owned by Tyler Green, who is listed as an “administrative trustee” on Marble Freedom Trust’s tax filing. Green is a member of the Federalist Society and a former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who is himself a Federalist Society member and close friend of Leonard Leo. Green was also a lawyer for the U.S. Chamber Of Commerce.

Green served as solicitor general in the Utah Attorney General’s office from 2015 to 2020.

  • Green also filed a Supreme Court amicus brief supporting a case that argued Donald Trump could remove the head of the independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. According to NPR, this SCOTUS ruling allowed Trump to potentially fire the heads of other independent agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, based on political disagreements.

In 2020, Green became a partner at D.C. law firm Consovoy McCarthy. Consovoy McCarthy is perhaps best known for representing Donald Trump in his efforts to shield his financial records from congressional investigators and New York state prosecutors. Green has continued to fight legal battles on behalf of right-wing forces in Utah at Consovoy McCarthy. 

  • Green is also a part of the team defending Utah’s abortion trigger law, which automatically banned abortions after 18 weeks once Roe v. Wade was overturned. The case is on hold as of August 2022. 
  • According to Transparency Utah, the state attorney general’s office has paid Consovoy McCarthy $370,000 since 2020.

Green also represented a group of cockfighters in Puerto Rico who argued the federal government could not regulate the sport within the territory.

Neil Corkery

Marble Freedom Trust’s 990 identifies Neil Corkery as being in charge of the organization’s books. Neil and his wife Ann Corkery are influential right-wing operatives closely involved in Leonard Leo’s network of nonprofits seeking to advance religious right-wing agendas. Salon reported that the Corkerys have used the network they built alongside Leonard Leo “to prop up conservative judicial nominees

Right-Wing Religious Activism

  • Ann Corkery served as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly and the UN Commission on Women under President George W. Bush. She fought to institute a ban on human cloning at the UN.
  • Ann was also a board member at The Becket Fund and The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Media Ties

  • Neil and Ann Corkery were involved in efforts to promote conservative entertainment media. Ann worked with Friends of Abe, a group of Hollywood conservatives who aim to push back on the industry’s perceived liberal bias, and was an associate producer on a movie mocking Michael Moore. Neil is the former CEO of Wedgewood Circle, a group that aims to fund “redemptive cultural content.”

Connections to the Leonard Leo Network

  • The Corkerys helped launch Leonard Leo’s Judicial Crisis Network. Leonard Leo and Neil Corkery conceived of the Judicial Crisis Network at a dinner party attended by conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Leo and Corkery wanted to create an organization to help confirm conservative nominees in anticipation of the Supreme Court vacancies that George W. Bush ultimately filled with Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

In the same timeframe as it received a $1.6 billion donation, Marble Freedom Trust donated over $200 million to organizations associated with Leonard Leo and paid over $1 million in legal fees.

Rule of Law Trust: $153,000,000

A single donation of $153 million to the Rule of Law Trust made up the bulk of the Marble Freedom Trust’s donations in this tax filing period. The Rule of Law Trust is a 501(c)(4) group founded in 2018. Its sole employee is Leonard Leo. RLT’s stated mission is to “advance conservative principles and causes through communications, research, strategy, and assistance to other organizations,” yet the group keeps its operations completely private. RLT does not have a website and “claimed it had no employees and no volunteers in its first year and listed what appears to be a virtual office in Virginia as its main address.”

Judicial Crisis Network (Concord Fund): $16,500,000

The Concord Fund (also known as the Judicial Crisis Network) received $16.5 million from the Marble Freedom Trust. The Judicial Crisis Network is the lynchpin of conservative activist Leonard Leo’s efforts to capture the court system and has led to the nomination of five Supreme Court justices. Judicial Crisis Network spent nearly $40 million on efforts to confirm Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominees and also played a significant role in getting George W. Bush’s nominees confirmed and opposing President Obama’s nominees.

Donors Trust: $41,100,000

Marble Freedom Trust gave $41 million to Donors Trust, which in past years has provided a majority of the funding for select Leo-linked groups. The Federalist Society is a frequent recipient of Donors Trust funds and other nonprofits linked to Leonard Leo like the 85 Fund. The 85 Fund received more than 99% of its funding in a single year from Donors Trust.

Donors Trust and its affiliate organization, Donors Capital Fund, are two of the most influential conservative organizations in contemporary American politics. In 2013, Mother Jones dubbed Donors Trust the “dark-money ATM of the right.” Donors Capital Fund is for major spenders — donors must spend at least $1,000,000 to give to the organization, while Donors Trust accepts donations of all sizes. Both organizations operate as “donor-advised funds,” which accept donations and recommendations for grants to be given, helping to separate the original donors’ identities from the destination of their funds.

Schwab Charitable Fund: $18,000,000

Marble Freedom Trust gave $18 million to the Schwab Charitable Fund, a donor-advised fund similar to Donors Trust that “steers money into conservative politics.”

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP: $940,000

Marble Freedom Trust paid $940,000 to the multinational law firm Sullivan & Cromwell. Sullivan & Cromwell has represented numerous controversial clients over the years, from tobacco companies to the United Fruit Company, which the firm lobbied on behalf of to push the United States’ 1954 intervention in Guatemala.

Kirton McConkie: $140,602

Kirton McConkie, a law firm that describes itself as “Utah’s premier full-service law firm,” received $140,602 from Marble Freedom Trust. Kirton McConkie has represented the Mormon Church and staffed a sexual abuse “help line,” which was used “to help the church keep its secrets and to cover up abuse.” A leaked document from 2012 reveals that the firm has represented the church in numerous sexual abuse cases.

Holtzman Vogel: $101,556

Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky received $101,556 from Marble Freedom Trust. Holtzman Vogel is a boutique political law firm that represents “some of the nation’s largest super PACs and their related nonprofits” on the conservative side, including American Crossroads, Americans for Prosperity, the Honest Elections Project, the BH Fund, the Freedom and Opportunity Fund, and American Engaged among others. According to McClatchy, Holtzman Vogel “specializ[es] in creative legal maneuvers that allow donors to fund conservative causes to remain anonymous.” 

During its 2021 financial year, Marble Freedom Trust contributed $182,700,000 to two organizations.

Judicial Crisis Network (Concord Fund): $28,900,000

Marble Freedom Trust granted $28.9 million to the Concord Fund in 2021.

Schwab Charitable Fund: $153,800,000

Marble Freedom Trust contributed $153,800,000 to the donor-advised Schwab Charitable Fund during its 2021 financial year. During that same period, the fund granted $141.5 million to the 85 Fund, a node in Leonard Leo’s network of dark money nonprofits. Part of that haul ended up flowing back to Leo: In 2021, the 85 Fund paid Leo’s firm CRC Advisors $21,715,382 for consulting, public affairs, and advertising, according to the group’s annual disclosure.

Baker & Hostetler: $1,038,927

In 2021, Marble Freedom Trust reported paying the law firm Baker Hostetler over $1 million in legal services. 

During its 2022 financial year, Marble Freedom Trust contributed $216,850,000 to three organizations.

Schwab Charitable Fund: $153,750,000

Marble Freedom Trust contributed $153,750,000 to the donor-advised Schwab Charitable Fund during its 2022 financial year. During that same period, the fund granted $141.25 million to the 85 Fund, a similar amount to the previous year and accounting for nearly all of the 85 Fund’s 2022 revenue.

Judicial Crisis Network (Concord Fund): $55,500,000

Marble Freedom Trust contributed $55,500,000 to the Concord Fund in 2022, bringing the trust’s total contributions to the group to $100,900,000.

Knights of Columbus Charitable Fund: $7,600,000

Marble Freedom Trust contributed $7,600,000 to the Knights of Columbus Charitable Fund in 2022. This was the first year this organization was a recipient of funds from Marble Freedom Trust.

Barre Seid

Barre Seid is a conservative mega-donor who has maintained a lower profile than other major conservative donors, but he has been quietly giving to right-wing causes for decades. ProPublica reports that between 1996 and 2018, he gave at least $775 million in charitable donations, mostly to conservative organizations. Most recently, he gave $1.6 billion to Marble Freedom Trust by transferring ownership of his company to the trust. Seid also has notable connections to both Leonard Leo and the Koch family.

  • Seid allegedly donated $20 million to George Mason University in order to rename its law school after the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Leonard Leo and Jonathan Bunch, a former Federalist Society vice president, managed Seid’s alleged donation via the nonprofit BH Fund. As of May 2022, Leo was the president of BH Fund and Bunch served as the organization’s treasurer. The Koch family also contributed millions to the renaming effort, which was criticized as an unprecedented expansion of the Federalist Society’s and Koch’s influence on the public university. 
  • Seid funded the Competitive Enterprise Institute, where Leo was a legal advisor. In 2014, following a failed Competitive Enterprise Institute SCOTUS case that aimed to overturn the ACA, Leo reached out to the influential right-wing funder, the Bradley Foundation. Bradley agreed to donate to Leo’s Judicial Education Project (JEP) to fund Supreme Court amicus briefs. Bradley’s grant to JEP cited the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s case. 
  • Seid has also funded the conservative Hillsdale College and the State Policy Network.
  • Seid has also contributed millions to other far-right efforts, including the conservative public policy think tank, the Heartland Institute, and the right-wing nonprofit, the Clarion Fund. In 2008, a multimillion-dollar donation to the Clarion Fund from Seid financed virtually the entire DVD distribution campaign for an Islamophobic film describing the threat posed by Iran.

RELATED ENTITIES: America Engaged, BH Fund, And The Rule Of Law Trust

In the Marble Freedom Trust’s 2020 tax filing revealing the donation, America Engaged, BH Fund, and the Rule of Law Trust were identified as “related entities.” The following year, America Engaged and the BH Fund were no longer identified as related entities. Corporate documents filed in Virginia show that Leo terminated these two groups in November 2022.

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