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Who is Barre Seid, the billionaire who donated record $1.6 billion to conservative group?

Barre Seid, a secretive electronics magnate, has reportedly donated a record $1.65 billion to a new conservative nonprofit led by Federalist Society co-chairman Leonard Leo.

Seid donated 100 percent of the shares of his company, Tripp Lite, to the nonprofit Marble Freedom Trust, which then sold the stock to Ireland-based power company Eaton, The New York Times reported.

The asset donation from Seid to the nonprofit likely allowed both parties to sidestep taxes on the sale’s proceeds, according to CNN. 

It is also expected to expand Leo’s already formidable influence in conservative politics.

ProPublica reported that the $1.65 billion gift is the largest such donation on record to a political advocacy group.

Seid was chairman and CEO of Tripp Lite, a Chicago-based manufacturer of surge protectors and other electric equipment, and founded the Barbara and Barre Seid Foundation.

The 90-year-old has largely avoided the spotlight, though he’s reportedly been noted as a donor to some Republican candidates and conservative causes in the past.

In 2010, Salon reported that Seid may have been connected to the dissemination of DVDs about radical Islam during the 2008 presidential election, which were distributed by the nonprofit Clarion Fund.

Seid’s new donation recipient, the Marble Freedom Trust, is helmed by Leo, board co-chairman and former vice president of the conservative legal group the Federalist Society.

According to the Times, the Marble Freedom Trust lists that its mission 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.”

Leo also chairs CRC Advisors, a group that helps manage conservative nonprofits, according to an interview with Axios.

Leo has been a leading activist behind the appointments of conservative judges to high courts throughout the country and was an adviser to former President Trump on his three U.S. Supreme Court picks. 

According to the Washington Post, Leo provided a list of potential nominees for Trump as he considered who would replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. 

His bio from the Federalist Society touts that Leo “organized the outside coalition efforts” to support the confirmations of Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts to the court, and “assisted with the Gorsuch and Kavanaugh Supreme Court selection and confirmation process.”

Marble Trust is what is commonly called a “dark money group,” which can raise and spend money without requirements to disclose its donors.

The Hill has reached out to the Federalist Society, Seid, the Marble Freedom Trust and Tripp Lite’s media contact at Eaton for comment.


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