A deep-pocketed nonprofit founded by conservative activist leonard a. I read he handed over $182.7 million within a year, a new tax return shows, demonstrating how aggressively he has worked behind the scenes to support other right-wing groups and causes.
The organization, Marble Freedom Trust, was formed in 2020 and funded by a gift of more than $1.6 billion, an extraordinary windfall resulting from a single donor contributing 100 percent of a company’s stock before it was sold. sell the business, leaving Marble with the proceeds of the sale, The New York Times reported last year.
Mr. Leo, lawyer and former executive of the Federalist Society, has been instrumental in the years-long effort by conservatives to push the federal judiciary to the right, both through his direct targeting of Republican leaders and by funding conservative causes. In recent years, he has built an opaque, powerful network of organizations, many of which have funding sources that are not required to be disclosed, that can influence elections and other issues, including education policy, abortion, and free speech issues on campus.
In a statement responding to questions about Marble’s work, Leo described it as an attempt to match Democratic efforts in the world of so-called dark money, a term used to describe the vast flow of funds, often from untraceable donors. track, through non-profit organizations. and other organizations in politics and political causes. Democrats raised and spent more dark money for the 2020 elections than the Republicans.
“It is time for the conservative movement to join the ranks of George Soros, Hansjörg Wyss, Arabella Advisors and other left-wing philanthropists, going hand-in-hand in the fight to defend our Constitution and its ideals,” Leo said. saying.
(Mr. Wyss, a Swiss billionaire, is a major donor to left-wing nonprofit groups; Arabella Advisors is a for-profit consulting group that manages a network of progressive non-profit organizations who together spent nearly $1.2 billion in 2020).
Marble Freedom Trust, a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization, is a centerpiece of Mr. Leo’s network. The group’s stated mission is to “maintain and expand human freedom in accordance with the values and ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”
It was not immediately clear from the group’s contribution record how Marble was carrying out that mission. Marble’s recent filing, a tax filing for the year ending April 30, 2022 obtained by liberal transparency group Accountable.US, doesn’t reveal much about the ultimate destination of the $182.7 million.
In the year ending last April, according to the filing, Marble gave $153.8 million to the Schwab Charitable Fund, a donor-advised fund manager that allows individuals and entities to direct their deposits over time to charitable organizations. , including some politically inclined groups. and institutions.
Another $28.9 million went to the Concord Fund, a conservative advocacy organization. Formerly known as the Judicial Crisis Network, the group has acted as a funding hub in the past, providing tens of millions of dollars in grants to allied nonprofit groups and supporting internal projects, including opposing Democrats’ attempts to expand access to vote.
Of those two organizations, it is impossible to directly trace where Marble’s money went.
During that approximate period of time, according to Schwab Tax Returns, Schwab gave $141.5 million to another group linked to Mr. Leo, Fund 85, a nonprofit organization that says its mission is to “educate the public and support activities that highlight the relationship between the structural limits of government power and the protection of our dignity and our freedom.”
The 85 Fund supports the Honest Elections Project, a conservative group founded in 2020 that has worked in states across the country to restrict access to voting.
Some of the money that flows through Mr. Leo’s network of nonprofit groups goes to the for-profit companies he controls. In 2021, 85 Fund paid $21.75 million to CRC Advisors, a consulting firm run by Mr. Leo, according to 85 Fund tax returns.
Several other entities in Mr. Leo’s network, including the Concord Fund, have also paid CRC Advisors millions of dollars in the past two years, tax records show.
“Marble Freedom Trust is Leonard Leo’s billion-dollar slush fund to erode democracy,” said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US. “With all this money under his control, Leo can further his extreme agenda by influencing conservative lawmakers on Capitol Hill, deploying state attorneys general to do his bidding, and pushing extreme bills through legislatures. state”.
In a statement, Mr. Leo said that CRC Advisors “employs nearly 100 best-in-class professionals whose expertise spans all aspects of public affairs, and we deliver results that are leading the conservative movement to win more than ever before. ”
Marble’s grants last year were down slightly from the previous year, when the group reported nearly $229 million in grants, including for Concord and Fund 85.
Since the $1.6 billion windfall, which came from Barre Seid, an electronics manufacturing mogul, Marble has received no contributions or grants, but reported $26.6 million in investment income last year. About a year ago, Marble still had $1.2 billion to spend.
Marble’s tax return also shows that Mr. Leo’s salary for his part-time position with the company increased from $350,000 to $400,000.
Mr. Leo’s work and his long relationship with Judge Clarence Thomas have recently come under renewed scrutiny. the washington post reported last week that Mr. Leo had arranged for Judge Thomas’s wife, conservative activist Ginni Thomas, to receive tens of thousands of dollars for consulting work, and had urged that her name be kept off the paperwork.
In a statement, Mr. Leo said the payment did not present a conflict of interest with the court. “It’s no secret that Ginni Thomas has a long history of working on issues within the conservative movement,” he said. “The work that she did here did not involve anything related to court matters or other legal matters.”