Pro-Israel donor Barre Seid donated $1.6 billion to conservative group

The New York Times reported that the donation is “among the largest — if not the largest — single contributions ever made to a politically focused nonprofit.”

Leonard Leo speaks at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, April 23, 2019. Leo heads the Marble Freedom Trust, to which Barre Seid donated $1.6 billion. (photo credit: MICHAEL ROBINSON CHAVEZ/THE WASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES)
Leonard Leo speaks at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, April 23, 2019. Leo heads the Marble Freedom Trust, to which Barre Seid donated $1.6 billion.
(photo credit: MICHAEL ROBINSON CHAVEZ/THE WASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES)

Barre Seid, a secretive donor to conservative and pro-Israel causes, made a historic $1.6 billion donation last year to a conservative group that seeks to influence policy in the United States.

The New York Times reported on Monday that the massive infusion went to the Marble Freedom Trust. The group is run by veteran political operative Leonard Leo, who for years led the Federalist Society group of conservative activists and is credited with helping produce the current conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

Seid helmed Tripp Lite, a company that manufactures electronic goods, for decades and has donated to a number of conservative outfits, as well as to Jewish and pro-Israel causes. In 2010, Bar-Ilan University gave him an honorary degree for “supporting those organizations which will fortify Israel’s position in the world.” He has also donated to the Jewish Camp Foundation.

 Aish Hatorah World Center opposite the Kotel in Jerusalem. (credit: Oyoyoy, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons) Aish Hatorah World Center opposite the Kotel in Jerusalem. (credit: Oyoyoy, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

An unusually large donation

The Times reports that the donation is “among the largest — if not the largest — single contributions ever made to a politically focused nonprofit.” Seid used a complex mechanism, donating shares of Tripp Lite to the Marble Trust prior to its sale to an overseas group, as a means of avoiding taxes on the contribution. The Chicago-based electronics magnate is secretive and rarely photographed. An exception is a cupcake celebration in 2015, marking 56 years of running his company.

Seid is believed to have funded the Clarion Fund’s controversial distribution of an Islamophobic DVD to voters ahead of the 2008 presidential elections. The Clarion Fund, now the Clarion Project, is a group that claims to expose extremism, but has been accused of promoting false anti-Muslim propaganda. The group has also been linked to Aish HaTorah International, the support group for the Aish HaTorah yeshiva in Jerusalem that has been a locus for Diaspora Jews who choose to become more religious.