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Leonard Leo speaks to media at Trump Tower, Nov. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Inside The Right’s Historic Billion-Dollar Dark Money Transfer

Industrialist Barre Seid funded a new dark money group run by Trump judicial adviser Leonard Leo, who helped eliminate federal abortion rights.

Aug 22, 2022

By Andrew Perez, Andy Kroll & Justin Elliott

Editor’s note: This story was co-published with ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power.

An elderly, ultra-secretive Chicago businessman has given the largest known donation to a political advocacy group in U.S. history — worth $1.6 billion — and the recipient is one of the prime architects of conservatives’ efforts to reshape the American judicial system, including the Supreme Court.

Through a series of opaque transactions over the past two years, Barre Seid, a 90-year-old manufacturing magnate, gave the massive sum to a nonprofit run by Leonard Leo, who co-chairs the conservative legal group the Federalist Society.

The donation was first reported by The New York Times on Monday. The Lever and ProPublica confirmed the information from documents received independently by the news organizations.

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

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The Lever is a reader-supported investigative news outlet that holds accountable the people and corporations manipulating the levers of power. The Lever was founded by award-winning investigative journalist David Sirota, co-writer of Don't Look Up and presidential campaign speechwriter for Bernie Sanders, and staffed by a team of groundbreaking investigative journalists.

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