Barre Seid

Barre Seid

Credentials

Background

Barre Seid is an American Industrialist and past chairman and CEO of Trippe Lite (formerly Trippe Manufacturing Company), a surge protector manufacturer. He has also controlled Fiber Bond of Michigan City, Indiana and is the founder of the Barbara and Barre Seid Foundation.5Tripp Lite Appoints New President,” CIO. September 22, 2011. Archived August 26, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/b7GWy

A number of sources have suggested that Barre Seid may be the “Anonymous Donor” that has supported many of the Heartland Institute’s climate change denial activities.6The case for Barre Seid as the Heartland Institute’s Anonymous Donor: Summation,” Daily KOS, March 6, 2012. Archived August 26, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/6BEOJ

According to leaked documents obtained by DeSmog, an anonymous donor contributed at least $13,342,267 to Heartland between 2007 and 2011.7Brendan DeMelle. “Heartland Institute Exposed: Internal Documents Unmask Heart of Climate Denial Machine,” DeSmog, February 14, 2012.

The idea of Barre Seid as the mystery donor is corroborated by October 20128John Mashey. “Fakery 2: More Funny Finances, Free Of Tax,” DeSmog, October 25, 2012. and February 2012 reports9John Mashey. “Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax,” DeSmog, February 14, 2012. compiled by computer scientist John Mashey. According to Mashey, “The combination of IRS Form 990s, February documents, and other information proves his identity, as the numbers simply do not work otherwise.”

Salon magazine reported that Seid may also have been the anonymous donor behind a right-wing campaign by the Clarion Fund to distribute DVDs about Radical Islam in swing states. Salon described Seid:10Mystery of who funded right-wing ‘radical Islam’ campaign deepens,” Salon, November 16, 2010. Archived August 27, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/pxpWq

“The elderly and press-shy Seid is president of Tripp Lite, a large Chicago-based manufacturer of power strips that got into the personal computer market on the ground floor back in the 1980s. Seid has personally poured millions of dollars into Republican campaigns and conservative causes, and his foundation has given generously to the Cato Institute, the Americans for Limited Government Foundation, and the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This year, Seid received an honorary degree from Bar-Ilan University outside Tel Aviv for his work ‘supporting those organizations which will fortify Israel’s position in the world.’”

Barbara and Barre Seid Foundation 990 Forms

Stance on Climate Change

While Barre Seid appears to have funded a number of climate science denial efforts including those of the Heartland Institute, he has not released an official statement on the issue.

Key Quotes

[Pending further investigation.]

Key Deeds

August 2022

The New York Times reported that Barre Seid was responsible for giving value worth $1.6 billion to a new conservative nonprofit controlled by Leonard A. Leo called Marble Freedom Trust.11Kenneth P. Vogel and Shane Goldmacher. “An Unusual $1.6 Billion Donation Bolsters Conservatives,” The New York Times, August 22, 2022. Archived August 31, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/tEfEM

“Rather than merely giving cash, Mr. Seid donated 100 percent of the shares of Tripp Lite to Mr. Leo’s nonprofit group before the company was sold to an Irish conglomerate for $1.65 billion,” The New York Times reported.

The amount Marble Trust received from the sale “is slightly more than the total of $1.5 billion spent in 2020 by 15 of the most politically active nonprofit organizations that generally align with Democrats,” The New York Times reported.

“The Marble Freedom Trust could help conservatives level the playing field — if not surpass the left — in such nonprofit spending, which is commonly referred to as dark money because the groups involved can raise and spend unlimited sums on politics while revealing little about where they got the money or how they spent it.”

Leonard Leo has been credited with helping Donald Trump fill supreme court seats The Washington Post,12Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Shawn Boburg. “A conservative activist’s behind-the-scenes campaign to remake the nation’s courts,” The Washington Post, May 21, 2019. Archived August 31, 2022. Archive URL:https://archive.ph/b4Wr6 True North Research, and others have documented.

“They have targeted the Supreme Court and other high offices to implement their shared agenda of repealing decades of legal precedents protecting Americans’ rights, including Roe v. Wade,” True North Research reported.13Lisa Graves. “Backgrounder on Barre Seid, the Extremist Who Made Leonard Leo an Overnight Billionaire in the Trafficking of Dark Money,” True North Research, August 22, 2022. Archived August 31, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/8CR9m

A joint investigation by ProPublica and The Lever uncovered additional information about Marble Freedom Trust and also showed Barre Seid funding other entities associated with Leonard Leo such as the Federalist Society, and the George Mason University law school.14Andrew Perez, Andy Kroll, and Juston Elliott. “How a Secretive Billionaire Handed His Fortune to the Architect of the Right-Wing Takeover of the Courts,” ProPublica, August 22, 2022. Archived August 31, 2022. Archive URL:https://archive.ph/bJL2l

“As President Donald Trump’s adviser on judicial nominations, Leo helped build the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority, which recently eliminated Constitutional protections for abortion rights and has made a series of sweeping pro-business decisions,” ProPublica and The Lever reported. “Leo, a conservative Catholic, has both helped select judges to nominate to the Supreme Court and directed multimillion dollar media campaigns to confirm them.”15Andrew Perez, Andy Kroll, and Juston Elliott. “How a Secretive Billionaire Handed His Fortune to the Architect of the Right-Wing Takeover of the Courts,” ProPublica, August 22, 2022. Archived August 31, 2022. Archive URL:https://archive.ph/bJL2l

“In practical terms, there are few limitations on how Leo’s new group, the Marble Freedom Trust, can spend the enormous donation. The structure of the donation allowed Seid to avoid as much as $400 million in taxes. Thus, he maximized the amount of money at Leo’s disposal,” they noted.16Andrew Perez, Andy Kroll, and Juston Elliott. “How a Secretive Billionaire Handed His Fortune to the Architect of the Right-Wing Takeover of the Courts,” ProPublica, August 22, 2022. Archived August 31, 2022. Archive URL:https://archive.ph/bJL2l

As it is not required to publicly disclose its donors, the Marble Freedom Trust is a so-called “dark money group.”17Andrew Perez, Andy Kroll, and Juston Elliott. “How a Secretive Billionaire Handed His Fortune to the Architect of the Right-Wing Takeover of the Courts,” ProPublica, August 22, 2022. Archived August 31, 2022. Archive URL:https://archive.ph/bJL2l

December 16, 2019

Over 800 pages of documents were produced by George Mason University in October 2019 and obtained via a FOI request by attorney and GMU Law School alumna Allison Pienta suggest Seid may be the “anonymous donor” who pledged $20 million over a five-year period to rename George Mason’s Law School after the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.18Allison Pienta. “GMU FOIA Documents October 2019 1 to 820.pdf,” Dropbox, October 2019. Archived May 27, 2021.

“The documents that prove that Mr. Seid is the Scalia Law donor were produced in response to requests under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act for ‘communications or documents containing the name of the anonymous donor under the March 31, 2016 Grant Agreement, or the name of the lawyer and agent for the anonymous donor’,” Allison Pienta, a volunteer advocate for UnKoch My Campus, wrote at Medium. “[T]he Law School’s former Dean Polsby and its current Dean, Henry Butler, regularly communicated with Mr. Seid in-person, by telephone, and by electronic communications.”19Allison Pienta. “New Evidence Suggests Chicago Billionaire “Closely Allied” with the Koch Brothers and Implicated in Funding Climate-Change Denial and Islamophobia Is Anonymous “Dark Money” Donor Behind Renaming of George Mason University’s Law School,” Medium, December 16, 2019. Archived May 27, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/6X5lU

According to Pienta, Virginia FOIA Advisory Council pushed the University’s Dean of the Law School—who claimed to be the only one who knew the name of the anonymous donor—to provide the name to the University’s FOIA officer in order to conduct the search, after which that name was redacted in all provided documents.

However, when a follow-up request was made for all communications with “Barre Seid,” Mr. Seid’s name appeared unredacted in some of the same communications that came from the prior response for the anonymous donor. 

“Other emails where the donor’s name had been redacted were revealed to be related to communications with Mr. Seid about meetings with the Law School’s current and former Deans,” Pienta wrote.

Some of the key findings, via Medium, from the FOIA included:

  • Following a January 2000 donation for $300,000 for “two new institutions for federal judges,” the same donor pledged $650,000 per year to the GMU’s Law & Economics Center, and “[m]ost of this money would pass through to donees external to GMU” 
  • Confirmation Seid started using Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund to make the source of his donations less transparent. Later communications described efforts to reveal contributions to Donors Trust as “the essence of a witch hunt.”
  • After Seid set up the Chicago Freedom Trust with officers from Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, as well as Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, Henry Butler met in person with Seid in March 2011 and solicited funding for “training” in September 2011. A followup email from the donor to Butler commented “400,000 coming from DT [Donors’ Trust] for econ/law and law/econ professor training. Hope to continue yearly”
  • The donor announced to Dean Polsby, responding to a March 2013 email, that “I intend to make 5 yearly contributions of $250,000 each to the Law School [amended five days later to $375,000 per year]” through “Donors Trust” “to fund the compensation and fringe benefits” of a specific professor whose name is redacted. The donor added, “if [name redacted] leaves GMU, the contributions will cease”  
  • In February 2014, the donor agreed to a project to address “extreme deference” to government agencies under administrative law. On July 14, 2014, then-LEC Director Butler told Leonard Leo that the conference “for which our friend provided special funding” on “Administration Unbound?” will be held on September 11–12, 2014 
  • Barre Seid met with incoming Dean Butler, Dean Polsby, LEC Deputy Director Paige Butler (Dean Butler’s spouse), and new LEC Director Todd Zywicki. Later that same day, the donor sent an email to Dean Polsby: “Confirming our discussion of today, we are forwarding from Donors Capital Fund $150,000 as the first installment of a three-year commitment to assist you in hiring [a professor whose name has been redacted]”
  • The anonymous donor, believed to be Seid, entered into a grant agreement for $4 million per year over five years ($20 million total) to rename George Mason’s Law School after Justice Scalia. An additional $10 million would come from the Charles Koch Foundation. The agreement included a provision for twelve faculty to be hired to carry out the “Mission,”  defined in the agreement as “[r]etain[ing] focus on the study of Law & Economics” and developing “areas of concentration” on “intellectual property, legal history, constitutional studies, administrative law, and the relationship between law and liberty.” The agreement identified Dean Butler as a “critical part of advancing the School’s Mission,” and the donor asked to be notified if the Dean was ever replaced. The agreement required support for the School’s Center that is dedicated to “dismantling the Administrative State” and a new “Center for Liberty & Law.” It also installed Leonard Leo in an oversight role for a newly created ““BH Fund.” The grants were to be conditional on the anonymous donor’s approval “ in his “sole and absolute discretion” and would include “annual written proposals.”
  • FOIA documents showed that the former dean Polsby and its current Dean, Henry Butler met with Barre Seid in person, including eight such meetings in Chicago.

2013–2014

Consumers’ Research, a magazine “closely aligned with conservative politics,”20Consumers’ Research,” SourceWatch. Accessed August 2022. received more than $1.4 million between 2013 and 2014.21Lisa Graves. “Backgrounder on Barre Seid, the Extremist Who Made Leonard Leo an Overnight Billionaire in the Trafficking of Dark Money,” True North Research, August 22, 2022. Archived August 31, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/8CR9m

Bradley Foundation files22Mary Bottari. “Weaponized Philanthropy: Document Trove Details Bradley Foundation’s Efforts to Build Right-Wing ‘Infrastructure’ Nationwide,PR Watch, May 7, 2017. Archived August 31, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/ZgkYm reviewed by True North Research contained a 2013 memo written by Bradley Foundation executive Mike Hartmann saying that grants of $250,000 that year would ‘match a $250,000 contribution from the anonymous donor in Chicago.’”23Lisa Graves. “Backgrounder on Barre Seid, the Extremist Who Made Leonard Leo an Overnight Billionaire in the Trafficking of Dark Money,” True North Research, August 22, 2022. Archived August 31, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/8CR9m

“The Bradley trove also stated Seid had used DonorsTrust, which Mother Jones has called a “dark money ATM,” to cloak some donations.”24Lisa Graves. “Backgrounder on Barre Seid, the Extremist Who Made Leonard Leo an Overnight Billionaire in the Trafficking of Dark Money,” True North Research, August 22, 2022. Archived August 31, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/8CR9m

“Indeed, in 2013, Consumers’ Research received a single grant in the amount of $250K from Donors Capital Fund, the dark money partner of DonorsTrust,” True North Research noted, adding “That could well be Seid.”25Lisa Graves. “Backgrounder on Barre Seid, the Extremist Who Made Leonard Leo an Overnight Billionaire in the Trafficking of Dark Money,” True North Research, August 22, 2022. Archived August 31, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/8CR9m

2012

Leaked documents revealed that an “Anonymous Donor” had contributed over $13,342,267 in donations between 2007 and 2011 to the Heartland Institute, an organization known for spreading climate science denial and misinformation.

“That trove also contains documentation of “matching” grants, which indicate that the anonymous donor Bradley was matching in 2013 was “Seid.” The only Seid referred to in numerous Bradley documents — such as executive travel to meet with major donors and to “coordinate” funding — is Barre Seid, a super wealthy Chicago industrialist whose net worth is not publicly known,” True North Research reported.

Sources have suggested that this anonymous donor is Barre Seid. This suggestion is corroborated by October, 2012 and February, 2012 reports by computer scientist John Mashey. According to Mashey, “The combination of IRS Form 990s, February documents, and other information proves his identity, as the numbers simply do not work otherwise.”26John Mashey. “Fakery 2: More Funny Finances, Free Of Tax,” DeSmog, October 25, 2012. 27John Mashey. “Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax,” DeSmog, February 14, 2012.

All of these donations were funneled through Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, organizations designed to “safeguard the charitable intent of donors who are dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise.”28Overview: What is Donors Capital Fund?“ Donors Capital Fund. Archived February 22, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/EoSI7

According to the leaked Heartland 2012 Fundraising Plan, the “Anonymous Donor” made the following contributions from 2007-2011:29Brendan DeMelle. “Heartland Institute Exposed: Internal Documents Unmask Heart of Climate Denial Machine,” DeSmog, February 14, 2012.

Project20072008200920102011
General Operating$500,000$500,000$500,000$700,000$350,000
Ramp Up Program$800,000$800,000$400,000$0$0
Global Warming Projects$1,976,937$3,300,000$1,732,180$964,150$629,000
Health Care$0$0$190,000$0$0
School Reform$0$0$0$0$80,000
Total$3,276,937$4,600,000$2,822,180$1,664,150$979,000

Illinois auditor reports for 2003-2009 reveal that a single donor (possibly the same individual as the “Anonymous Donor”) contributed the following percentages of outstanding accounts receivable in those years (also see p. 56 of John Mashey’s report):

2004 (PDF — See p. 27) — 74% contributed by two donors.

2005 (PDF — See p. 32) — 74% from one donor.

2006 (PDF — See p. 33) — 25% from one individual.

2007 (PDF — See p. 32) — 38% from one donor.

2008 (PDF — from 2009 — see p. 43) — 58% from one donor.

2009 (see previous, p. 43) — 35% from one donor.

The Anonymous Donor pledged an additional $1,250,000 for 2012, including contributions to the NIPCC Project (a climate skeptics’ report organized by the Science and Environmental Policy Project with assistance from the Heartland Institute), Anthony Watts‘ “Weather Stations Project,” and David Wojick‘s “Global Warming Curriculum Project.”

AmountProject
$457,000General Operating
$194,000NIPCC Project
$44,000Weather Stations Project
$100,000Global Warming Curriculum Project
$105, 000Cook County Debt Project
$100,000Operation Angry Badger
$250,000Additional gift (not determined)
$1,250,000Total

The “Weather Stations Project” referred to a new web site by Anthony Watts which would convert temperature data from the National Aeronautics and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “into easy-to-understand graphs that can be easily understood by weathermen and the general interested public” (p.18, Heartland’s 2012 “Fundraising Plan”).

David Wojick‘s “Global Warming Curriculum Project” is a K-12 curriculum designed to counter what Wojick suggests is an “alarmist perspective” being taught in schools. The modules would discuss why “whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy” and would promote the idea that climate models’ “reliability is controversial.”

2010

Numerous sources have credited Barre Seid as behind the attempted “ideological takeover” of Shimer College, a small Chicago-area “Great Books” college. Shimer received over $800,000 between 2007 and 2008 from Seid’s foundation. In 2008, through a year-long process conducted by the Shimer College Presidential Search Committee, three candidates were chosen for the position of president. All three were rejected by an anonymous donor now understood to be Barre Seid. The fourth candidate, Thomas Lindsay, was brought forward by friend of Seid and longtime Board of Trustees Member Patrick Parker.30Barbara and Barre Seid Foundation,” Conservative Transparency. Accessed February 22, 2018.

In 2009, Thomas Lindsay was appointed president and soon began implementing sweeping changes to Shimer’s board which included the addition of trustees with significant conservative connections and many with ties to Barre Seid.31Barbara and Barre Seid Foundation,” Conservative Transparency. Accessed February 22, 2018.

These additions included Carson Halloway and Matthew Franck of the National Review, Michael McDonald who founded the conservative Center for Individual Rights, Anne Coulter, and Bob Chitester who headed Free to Choose Media.32The Conservative Menace,” Chicago Reader, December 10, 2009. Archived August 27, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/tZpVY Other notable members of the “takeover faction” included Heartland Institute President Joseph Best and Eric O’Keefe of the Sam Adams Alliance and (Seid-funded) U.S. Term Limits.33Who’s Buying Shimer?“ Chicago Reader, February 25, 2010. Archived August 31, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/CIQQj 34Shimer Trustees Honored,” Somewhat Reasonable (Heartland Institute Blog), February 3, 2011. Archived August 12, 2011. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/tUApG 35Shimer’s Board of Trustees,” Shimer Alumni Alliance, January 26, 2010. Archived August 31, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/o8uec 36Barre Seid’s Obsession,” Daily Kos, November 18, 2010. Archived August 31, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/IWRfB

Under this new management, significant changes were proposed to the Shimer mission statement including replacing references of “active citizenship” and “informed, responsible action” for references to “ordered political liberty such as we enjoy in American democracy.” These changes, among others, alarmed Shimer community and staff members.

The opposition from community members eventually became an open struggle that received national press coverage including a Wall Street Journal article37On the Barricades at Shimer,” The Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2010. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/DCPLP that Shimer College staff and students described as “a misleading, tendentious screed about the current events at Shimer.”38Shimer College Fact Check: Wall Street Journal article,” Shimer College and the Future, March 12, 2010. Archived August 31, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/KqI8h

The continued struggle led to open protest and a petition that called for Lindsay’s resignation. On April 18 the Shimer Assembly, a body giving all students, faculty and administrative staff at the college equal voting privilege, passed a unanimous resolution of no confidence for Lindsay. After successfully convincing two swing members of Shimer’s Board, they were able to vote to fire Lindsay and effectively stop the ideological takeover.39Shimer College thwarts right-wing takeover attempt,” Daily Kos, April 21, 2010. Archived August 31, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/vd0PR

2008

Shortly before the 2008 US presidential Election, an accounting error revealed that Barre Seid was likely behind the production and distribution of millions of DVDs about radical Islam. The film, titled “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War With the West,” was distributed by the nonprofit Clarion Fund to help Republican candidates who were trying to portray Democrats as weak on the issue of terrorism.40Mystery of who funded right-wing ‘radical Islam’ campaign deepens,” Salon, November 16, 2010. Archived August 27, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/pxpWq

The 28 million DVD copies arguably fuelled anti-Muslim sentiment in the country, and according to Salon the film “was widely criticized for its cartoonish portrayal of Muslims as modern-day Nazis.”41Mystery of who funded right-wing ‘radical Islam’ campaign deepens,” Salon, November 16, 2010. Archived August 27, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/pxpWq 42Rachel Slajda. “How 30 Million DVDs Sent In 2008 Election Fuel The Anti-Mosque Debate Today,” TPM, August 25, 2010. Archived July 26, 2011. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/fPtZo

While nonprofits must submit financial information including the identity of donors to the IRS, usually only the basic revenue and spending data are made available to the public. In this case, it appears an extra page detailing donor information was inadvertently included in the public filing which revealed a “Barry Seid” as donor.

According to Salon, while the spelling on the IRS form lists a “Barry Seid,” the only individual capable of a $17 million donor to the Clarion and who fit the profile was Barre Seid. The fact that Seid had used Donors Trust in the past to fund controversial causes only strengthened the case.

Seid’s representative flatly denied to Salon that he has ever given money to Clarion:

Seid assistant Joan Frontczak told Salon in an e-mail: “Mr. Seid did not make any contributions to the Clarion Fund.” And she added: “Mr. Seid is a very private person and doesn’t seek publicity of any kind.”

Furthermore, Clarion Fund spokesman Alex Traiman denied that the inadvertently released document is accurate.

“The sources of anonymous donations to the Clarion Fund in 2008 have been incorrectly identified,” Traiman said in an e-mail to Salon. “As like many other not-for-profit organizations, we respect the right of private donors to remain anonymous.”

Salon also noted that the Donors Capital Fund’s 2008 IRS filing showed that DCF gave $17.7 million to Clarion at the same time that the DVDs were sent out. Donors Capital Fund acts as a “charitable vehicle” where donors can direct where they want their money to go. Whitney Ball, president of DCF, told Salon that “One of our clients made a recommendation for Clarion and so we did it.” She did not identify the client or comment on Seid.

Seid’s private foundation, The Barbara and Barre Seid Foundation, has also made at least one donation to Donors Capital Fund in the past.43Barbara and Barre Seid Foundation: Search String: donors capital,” Conservative Transparency. Search performed February 22, 2018.

Affiliations

Publications

Barre Seid does not appear to have released any notable publications on climate change or any other subject.

Other Resources

Resources

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