How a mysterious billionaire gave his fortune to the architect of the conservative takeover of the courts.

such court s Andrew Gomez of The Pulley, Andy Kroll and Justin Elliott of ProPublica.

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This piece was published jointly with The Lever.

An elderly, tightlipped Chicago entrepreneur has made the biggest known donor to a governmental activist organization in U.S. history: $1.6 billion. Its recipient is one of the designers of conservative efforts to reshape the American judicial system, including the Supreme Court.

Barre Seid, a 90-year-old manufacturing magnate, gave the enormous sum to a nonprofit run by Leonard Leo, co-chair of the conservative legal organization the Federalist Society, through a series of opaque transactions over the past two years.

Monday was the first day that The New York Times reported the donation. The Lever and ProPublica independently confirmed the information using documents obtained by the news organizations.

Our reporting sheds additional light on how the two men, a judicial kingmaker and a mysterious but prolific donor to conservative causes, came together to create a political war chest that will likely accelerate efforts to shift American politics further to the right.

As President Donald Trump’s adviser on judicial nominations, Leo contributed to the formation of the conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court, which recently eliminated constitutional protections for abortion rights and has made a series of sweeping pro-business decisions. Leo, a conservative Catholic, has assisted in the selection of Supreme Court nominees and led multimillion-dollar media campaigns to confirm them.

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Leo’s immense political influence stems from his ability to raise and distribute enormous sums of money throughout the conservative movement in order to influence elections, judicial appointments, and policy battles. However, the largest funders of Leo’s operation have been a mystery for a long time.

Seid, who led the surge protector and data-center equipment manufacturer Tripp Lite for more than fifty years, is virtually unknown outside of a small circle of political and cultural elites. The donation propels him immediately into the ranks of major funders such as the Koch brothers and George Soros.

There are few practical restrictions on how Leo’s new organization, the Marble Freedom Trust, can spend the enormous donation. The donation’s structure allowed Seid to avoid paying up to $400 million in taxes. Therefore, he maximized Leo’s financial resources.

Now, at age 56, Leo is in a position to finance his already expansive network with one of the largest political capital pools in American history. Leo has inherited the legacy of Seid.

It is, to the best of my knowledge, unprecedented for a political operative to be entrusted with such a staggering sum of money, according to Brendan Fischer, a campaign finance attorney at the nonpartisan watchdog group Documented. Leonard Leo is already incredibly powerful, and now he will have more than a billion dollars to continue destabilizing our nation’s institutions.

In a statement to the Times, Leo asserted that “the time has come for the conservative movement to join the ranks of George Soros, Hansjorg Wyss, Arabella Advisors, and other left-wing philanthropists in the fight to defend our constitution and its ideals.” Leo and Seid representatives did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

The Marble Freedom Trust is a so-called “dark money” organization whose donors are not required to be disclosed publicly. It has broad discretion to spend on both elections and ideological projects, such as funding issue advocacy groups, think tanks, universities, religious institutions, and organizing efforts.

Barre Seid’s company added Leonard Leo as an officer in an unusual move. Seid resigned from the board of directors, and his name was removed from state corporate disclosure filings

It is, to the best of my knowledge, unprecedented for a political operative to be entrusted with such a staggering sum of money, according to Brendan Fischer, a campaign finance attorney at the nonpartisan watchdog group Documented. Leonard Leo is already incredibly powerful, and now he will have more than a billion dollars to continue destabilizing our nation’s institutions.

In a statement to the Times, Leo asserted that “the time has come for the conservative movement to join the ranks of George Soros, Hansjorg Wyss, Arabella Advisors, and other left-wing philanthropists in the fight to defend our constitution and its ideals.” Leo and Seid representatives did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

The Marble Freedom Trust is a so-called “dark money” organization whose donors are not required to be disclosed publicly. It has broad discretion to spend on both elections and ideological projects, such as funding issue advocacy groups, think tanks, universities, religious institutions, and organizing efforts.

Barre Seid’s company added Leonard Leo as an officer in an unusual move. Seid resigned from the board of directors, and his name was removed from state corporate disclosure filings.

It is, to the best of my knowledge, unprecedented for a political operative to be entrusted with such a staggering sum of money, according to Brendan Fischer, a campaign finance attorney at the nonpartisan watchdog group Documented. Leonard Leo is already incredibly powerful, and now he will have more than a billion dollars to continue destabilizing our nation’s institutions.

In a statement to the Times, Leo asserted that “the time has come for the conservative movement to join the ranks of George Soros, Hansjorg Wyss, Arabella Advisors, and other left-wing philanthropists in the fight to defend our constitution and its ideals.” Leo and Seid representatives did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

The Marble Freedom Trust is a so-called “dark money” organization whose donors are not required to be disclosed publicly. It has broad discretion to spend on both elections and ideological projects, such as funding issue advocacy groups, think tanks, universities, religious institutions, and organizing efforts.

Barre Seid’s company added Leonard Leo as an officer in an unusual move. Seid resigned from the board of directors, and his name was removed from state corporate disclosure filings.

It is, to the best of my knowledge, unprecedented for a political operative to be entrusted with such a staggering sum of money, according to Brendan Fischer, a campaign finance attorney at the nonpartisan watchdog group Documented. Leonard Leo is already incredibly powerful, and now he will have more than a billion dollars to continue destabilizing our nation’s institutions.

In a statement to the Times, Leo asserted that “the time has come for the conservative movement to join the ranks of George Soros, Hansjorg Wyss, Arabella Advisors, and other left-wing philanthropists in the fight to defend our constitution and its ideals.” Leo and Seid representatives did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

The Marble Freedom Trust is a so-called “dark money” organization whose donors are not required to be disclosed publicly. It has broad discretion to spend on both elections and ideological projects, such as funding issue advocacy groups, think tanks, universities, religious institutions, and organizing efforts.

Barre Seid’s company added Leonard Leo as an officer in an unusual move. Seid resigned from the board of directors, and his name was removed from state corporate disclosure filings.

Seid’s $1.6 billion donation is a landmark in the era of deregulated political spending ushered in by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. That case, along with subsequent changes and weak federal oversight, empowered a tiny group of the super rich in both parties to fund groups that can spend unlimited sums to support candidates and political causes. In the last decade, donations in the millions and sometimes tens of millions of dollars have become common.

Individuals could give unlimited amounts of money to nonprofit groups prior to Citizens United, but the decision allowed those nonprofits to more directly influence elections. A handful of billionaires such as the Koch family and Soros have spent billions to achieve epochal political influence by bankrolling networks of nonprofits.

Even in this money-drenched world, Seid’s $1.6 billion gift exceeds all publicly known one-time donations to a politically oriented group.

The court Donor

In his hometown of Chicago, there are no art galleries, opera companies, theaters, or university buildings bearing his name. There is even confusion regarding the correct pronunciation of his last name. (Those who have dealt with him describe it as a “side”)

Through interviews, court documents, and other public-records requests, The Lever and ProPublica were able to piece together the details of his life and his motivations for his extensive donations.

One of the only photographs of Seid that The Lever and ProPublica could locate depicts him as a 14-year-old boy traversing a college campus with a small group. According to census records, Seid was born in 1932 to Russian Jewish immigrants and grew up on the South Side of Chicago as the eldest of two brothers. He was selected for a special bachelor’s degree program at the University of Chicago, not far from his childhood home, because he was a precocious child.

Seid attended the University of Chicago in the early years of the “Chicago school,” a group of professors and researchers who would reimagine the field of economics by criticizing massive government interventions in the economy and emphasizing the significance of individual liberty and free markets. According to testimony given decades later in a court case, Seid served two years in the Army after graduating from college and returned to Chicago. He accepted a position as assistant to the investor and businessman Graham Trippe, whose company manufactured headlights and produced rotating warning lights for police cars.

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