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:
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’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.
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.
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’ 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 judicial nomination commission, “meaning politicians will choose every member.”
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.
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 also represented a group of cockfighters in Puerto Rico who argued the federal government could not regulate the sport within the territory.
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”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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, 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 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.”
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.
In the Marble Freedom Trust’s tax filing revealing the donation, America Engaged, BH Fund, and the Rule of Law Trust were identified as “related entities.”