A couple weeks ago, we made fun of political reporters who fell for Koch's attempted rebrand, as it turned out the network spent at least $1.1 billion dollars on the 2020 elections.
Turns out that Koch was hardly the only game in town. Yesterday the New York Times' Kenneth Vogel and Shane Goldmacher reported that Barre Seid, billionaire maker of power strips and other electronics, sold his company Tripp Lite to Irish publicly-traded company Eaton for $1.65 billion in 2021, and donated 100% of the shares to a new 501c(4) nonprofit called the Marble Freedom Trust. It "received all of the proceeds from the sale, in a transaction that appears to have been structured to allow the nonprofit group and Mr. Seid to avoid paying taxes on the proceeds."
And if effectively stealing the $400 million in taxes owed to the public on a $1.65 billion dollar sale wasn't evil enough, the person running this new conservative propaganda production facility is Leonard A. Leo, "an activist who has used his connections to Republican donors and politicians to help engineer the conservative dominance of the Supreme Court and to finance battles over abortion rights, voting rules and climate change policy."
You'll likely recognize him from his SCOTUS-corrupting work with the Federalist Society, long a player in the climate disinformation game (and occasionally scared of strong cartoon women).
Interestingly, the Times claims that's on par with "the total of $1.5 billion spent in 2020 by 15 of the most politically active nonprofit organizations that generally align with Democrats, according to an analysis by The Times," which supposedly "dwarfed the roughly $900 million spent by a comparable sample of 15 of the most politically active groups aligned with the Republican Party."
But since the Koch network alone spent $1.1 billion, a few hundred million more than the "measured in millions not billions" spend by the top 15 Democratic groups, clearly the Times had a little trouble counting all that money in a way that provided an accurate picture instead of a skewed "both sides" narrative. It will be interesting to see if, after the Times reports on this billion-dollar bonanza, its Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak carries through with his plans to moderate a Federalist Society panel on the Supreme Court.
Anyway, the Times uploaded the Marble Freedom Trust's 2020 990 tax form, where you can see $228,600,000 of Seid's tax-dodging-donations went out as grants to other groups, funding an undisclosed number of conservative disinformation operations, leaving the "charity" with some $1,413,208,131 in net assets.
Where'd that measly two-hundred-mil go? Well, $41.1 million went right to the other big conservative "charity" money concealing-then-donating machine, Donors Trust, while $153 million went to the Rule of Law Trust, which appears to be another Leo-controlled, former Federalist Society-staffed front group.
While everyone who opposes dark money covertly influencing politics and the courts should be outraged about this, we're probably not quite as angry as the folks over at the Heartland Institute.
Because they used to be Barre Seid's baby, some ten years ago it was revealed that he was almost certainly their biggest funder, giving over $13 million between 2007 and 2011. Seems he was holding back, and in the intervening years Heartland failed to impress him in the ways that Leonard apparently did.
So no matter how badly you may screw up in life, at least you know you didn't perform so poorly that your sugar daddy gave $1.6 billion to your competition!
[Ed. note: Want to help write and edit the ClimateDenierRoundup? Now’s your chance!]