CLEVELAND, Ohio — Eaton Corporation, an energy management company that moved its headquarters from Cleveland to Ireland nearly a decade ago, played a devious role in providing a $1.6 billion windfall to a new conservative non-profit group, according to a New York Times report last week.
An electronics manufacturing magnate named Barre Seid, who served as president and CEO of a Chicago electrical appliance manufacturing company called Tripp Lite, donated his shares in the company to the nonprofit Marble Freedom Trust, which is controlled by GOP activist Leonard A. Leo. Leo chairs the Conservative Federal Society.
Eaton acquired Tripp Lite a few months later, resulting in a $1.65 billion injection for the nonprofit organization which appears to have avoided tax debt, according to the New York Times report. The publication described him as one of the biggest contributions ever to a politically driven non-profit and said it would cement Leo’s status as a conservative kingmaker.
ProPublica estimated that the donation structure allowed Seid to avoid up to $400 million in taxes, maximizing the amount of money available to Leo. He said Leo had been former President Donald Trump’s adviser on judicial nominations and led multimillion-dollar media campaigns to back them up.
“To my knowledge, it is completely unprecedented for a political operative to be given control of such an astonishing amount of money,” said Brendan Fischer, campaign finance lawyer at the group of Documented non-partisan oversight. told ProPublica. “Leonard Leo is already incredibly powerful, and now he’s going to have over a billion dollars at his disposal to keep shaking up the institutions of our country.”
Katy Brasser, spokeswoman for Eaton, which is headquartered in Beachwood, released a statement to The New York Times saying, “We have no additional information to share regarding the acquisition that was announced last year. .”