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New Details From Leonard Leo’s Trust Fund Expose the Inner Workings of the Right

Newly obtained documents shed light on a vast and corrupt right-wing influence network.

Leo has spent at least $182 million during the Biden administration to fund right-wing groups from May 1, 2021, through April 30, 2022.

Newly obtained documents show that the billion-dollar trust fund given to Leonard Leo — the right-wing attorney and longtime leader the Federalist Society who orchestrated Donald Trump’s Supreme Court picks — has dumped at least $411 million into fueling right-wing infrastructure in the U.S. since mid-2020.

The latest IRS filing of the new nonprofit, Marble Freedom Trust — obtained by Accountable.US, a progressive watchdog group — shows that Leo has spent at least $182 million during the Biden administration to fund right-wing groups from May 1, 2021, through April 30, 2022. This surge has come as Leo has become more publicly outspoken in attacking reproductive rights as well as efforts to protect our environment and crucial measures that advance Americans’ equality.

Leo chose to have most of that, more than $153 million, wash through the Schwab Charitable Fund, a “donor-advised fund” that serves as a passthrough to help obscure the money trail between a funder and its beneficiaries. In recent years, since Leo secured control of $1.6 billion in the largest single gift of its kind from Chicago billionaire Barre Seid, Leo’s network of groups has relied heavily on donor-advised funds to move cash between entities in ways that can help keep the original donor secret from the public.

Marble’s filing included only one other grantee: the Concord Fund (also known as the Judicial Crisis Network), to which it gave a $29 million gift. The Concord Fund then paid $12 million in fees to CRC Advisors, a for-profit PR firm that Leo has helped helm since 2020.

Kyle Herrig, the president of Accountable told Truthout that in his opinion “Leonard Leo is playing fast and loose with his $1.6 billion slush fund, enriching himself and doling out paychecks and favors for his cronies. This kind of corruption is par for the course for Leo. It clearly pays to do his bidding.”

Before Accountable’s latest revelations, the Campaign for Accountability filed an IRS complaint against Leo based on other filings showing that seven of his affiliated nonprofits had sent $73 million to his for-profit CRC Advisors.

Despite more than $1 billion in assets, Leo’s Marble Freedom Trust has no publicly known website, and its street address is actually a UPS drop box in Utah. Meanwhile, however, Marble disclosed spending nearly $250,000 on “office expenses.” Its disclosed phone number, with an area code for southeastern coast of Florida, has been held for years — well before Marble was created — by Leo’s longtime collaborator Neil Corkery, an anti-gay rights and anti-abortion operative central to Leo’s court capture network.

This latest filing also adds to the growing public knowledge of how Leo’s for-profit business works in tandem with nonprofit groups he funds to change the rules in our democracy, and also provides a glimpse of how lucrative this effort is.

Marble’s filing shows that in its second year of operations Leo gave himself a raise from $350,000 to $400,000 a year for working part-time (25 hours a week) for the trust he controls. It also reported that he spends 10 hours a week on Rule of Law Trust, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit launched in 2018 with a gift of nearly $80 million from a donor kept secret from the public. Leo is the only trustee of that entity, and Corkery holds its books. Like Marble, it has no website and its address is a drop box location. Its listed phone goes to a law firm.

Marble’s latest filing shows that Leo’s billion-dollar trust also added a new employee to its operations: Alex Marshall as CIO, an acronym that typically stands for Chief Information Officer. His salary was listed at a whopping $764,000.

According to Accountable, until 2021 Marshall was likely working as a branch manager for the investment firm Oppenheimer & Co., a brokerage firm and investment bank, and was likely making hundreds of thousands less because Marshall’s broker record indicates he completed “entry-level” financial industry exams for principal and supervisory roles.

How did Alex Marshall get plugged into Leo’s operation?

As True North Research’s Lisa Graves first uncloaked, Alex Marshall is married to Maria Marshall, who currently works at Leo’s CRC Advisors and previously worked for the Federalist Society, the networking group created to get right-wing lawyers into powerful offices. Marshall’s title was “director of operations” in the “Office of the Federalist Society’s Executive [Vice President].” That was Leo’s office, where she handled his schedule, among other roles. She previously worked as U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter’s scheduler.

She left her day job to work with Leo, who also left his day job at the Federalist Society in 2020 to help lead the PR firm Creative Response Concepts, which rebranded as CRC Advisors, though he still helps lead and fund the Federalist Society as co-chair of its board.

While she was working for Leo at the Federalist Society, Leo’s Rule of Law Trust paid nearly $600,000 to YAS, LLC. That is the name of the Washington, DC-filed consulting firm created in 2015 and owned by Maria Marshall. Leo’s Rule of Law Trust paid YAS another $175,000 in 2020, after he left his employment but not his leadership role with the Federalist Society.

The Marshalls were also guests at the special table purchased by the major “anonymous” donor to the renaming ceremony of George Mason University’s law school in tribute to Antonin Scalia, an event cohosted by Leo.

Allison Pienta, a George Mason student who worked with UnKoch My Campus to obtain public records, revealed that the anonymous donor who gave $20 million to rebrand the law school and put Leo in a key role was none other than Barre Seid. (Charles Koch also gave $10 million to fund the law school.) There is no indication that Seid, a notoriously secretive billionaire, was there at the Scalia tribute dinner cohosted by Leo.

The Marshalls were at that special table alongside Jonathan Bunch, who was later named as a successor trustee at Marble, meaning he is Leo’s potential successor at the billion-dollar trust. Bunch, who is now listed as president of CRC Advisors, was paid more than $1.5 million for consulting by Leo’s Rule of Law Trust in 2018, when he was also working at the Federalist Society with Leo. Two years later, as Heidi Przybyla from Politico documented, Bunch and his wife closed on a $1.28 million home on the Chesapeake Bay, a second home a few hours south of their longtime home in a suburb of Washington, D.C.

As Accountable uncovered, since the launch of YAS, the Marshalls also purchased a second home near the beach in Avalon, New Jersey, the third most expensive zip code in the state. That research revealed that the Marshalls rent out the home, valued at $1.38 million home, for up to $7,700 a week depending on the season.

As Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Shawn Boburg documented in the Washington Post, on the eve of the Senate vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination by Donald Trump to the U.S. Supreme Court, Leo bought a $3.3 million seaside mansion in Maine.

Just two months after that story broke, and less than a year after he closed on the mansion, Leo paid off the mortgage in full, for more than $2 million, while he was still working as the executive vice president of the Federalist Society, with a six-figure salary. As the Post revealed, a year earlier, after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement and as Leo was advising Trump on packing the Supreme Court as well as aiding the effort to get Trump’s nominees confirmed, Leo paid off his 30-year mortgage 22 years ahead of schedule.

As Politico later detailed, after officially joining CRC Advisors, Leo bought a second mansion in Maine, and has spent his growing wealth by purchasing four new cars, paying private school tuition for his children, and obtaining a wine buyer and locker at Morton’s Steakhouse. He has also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to religious groups and he has also spent money on electoral candidates himself. Additionally, Leo-tied nonprofits have directed millions of dollars to playing an increasing role targeting voters around elections.

As Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) has noted, before the public learned of the existence of Marble Freedom Trust, Leo rose to prominence as a volunteer advising Trump by creating the list of Supreme Court candidates that Trump chose from, as well as by helping to secure the confirmation of three controversial high court nominees — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett (and helped get numerous other lower court judges appointed). As True North documented, Leo’s network played a central role in this right-wing court packing, raising over $600 million from 2014 through the 2020 election. This dark money network has received more than $2 billion when accounting for Marble.

As Politico noted, “Campaign-style politics — and the generous paydays that go along with it — are now adjacent to the Supreme Court, the one U.S. institution that’s supposed to be immune to it.”

Leo’s ties to such efforts are not only recent. Last month, the Washington Post revealed that in 2012 Leo had been instructing Kellyanne Conway, who ran the Polling Company, to bill the Judicial Education Project (now known as the 85 Fund and the Honest Elections Project) to pay Ginni Thomas up to $100,000. She is the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. That is, Leo was secretly orchestrating the pay of the wife of a Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas, from a secret funder. That funder’s identity remains hidden. That year, the Judicial Education Project also paid CRC $165,000. CRC later acquired the Polling Company in 2017, with the help of another Leo group, as Politico revealed late last year.

Leo’s income from his for-profit operations or any consulting, such as CRC Advisors, is not required to be publicly disclosed.

The new filing that Accountable.US obtained provides vital insights into how Leo is using the billion that Seid gave him and also provides new information about the shape of his efforts to remake our courts and our country to advance his view of the world.

“This is just the latest development in Leonard Leo’s decades-long scheme to push his dangerous, extreme agenda and get rich while doing it,” Herrig told Truthout. “From personal enrichment for himself and his inner circle to his machine of nonprofits advancing the MAGA agenda, we’ve only scratched the surface of Leo’s devastating impact on our democracy.”

Note: Lisa Graves, True North’s executive director, contributed to this piece. A correction was made post-publication to correct a typo in a date (changing “May 1, 2020” to “May 1, 2021).

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