New Filings Reveal Another Billionaire Behind the Big Lie

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·8 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

It’s usually the images of a violent mob attacking the U.S. Capitol that are associated with the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election. But as more financial records become public, another image is emerging—of billionaires in MAGA gear writing large checks.

And one billionaire in particular.

Among the ranks of “dark money” groups and anonymous megadonors who bankrolled the effort is a familiar name in GOP fundraising circles: Dick Uihlein, founder of the multinational Uline shipping company.

According to tax disclosures first published online by the Center for Media and Democracy, Uihlein’s nonprofit—the Ed Uihlein Family Foundation—poured millions of dollars in 2020 into a sprawling number of groups connected to efforts to challenge Joe Biden’s victory and reimagine election law, as well as other right-wing extremist organizations, including ones designated as hate groups.

Northwestern University Won’t Dump Billionaires Who Bankrolled Jan. 6 Group

And the money is pure Uihlein—the foundation’s $16.8 million in 2020 donations came exclusively from Dick Uihlein himself. And over the course of that pivotal year, the organization gave it all away.

Kyle Herrig, president of left-leaning watchdog group Accountable.US, told The Daily Beast that money from Uihlein and his wife, Elizabeth, has “promoted hate and sedition.”

“In 2020, as workers and families struggled to get by, Dick and Liz Uihlein’s company cashed in on pandemic aid—then turned around and funded hate groups pushing COVID conspiracy theories, bigotry, and efforts to undermine democracy,” Herrig said. “By signing away more than $1 million to groups that have promoted hate and sedition, Dick and Liz Uihlein have made it clear where their company’s values truly lie.”

The full scope of the Uihlein’s anti-election and extremist funding is actually far more sweeping. According to the foundation’s latest tax filing, the supply chain mogul contributed more than $4 million to groups affiliated with efforts to overturn the election and other acts of far-right extremism.

For instance, between January and May 2020, Uihlein contributed $1.25 million to the Conservative Partnership Institute, a right-wing think tank founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) where Trump campaign attorney Cleta Mitchell was serving as senior legal fellow.

Meet the Illinoisan Trying to Buy a Wisconsin Senate Seat

Mitchell, a veteran GOP operative, helped construct the campaign’s post-election legal strategy mostly behind the scenes. But she drew national attention in early January 2021 after she featured heavily in a taped phone call between then-President Donald Trump, his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and Georgia’s top election officials. Trump pressured the election officials in that now infamous call to “find” enough votes for him to win Georgia. (Meadows joined Mitchell at CPI after he left the White House in January.)

This year, Uihlein dipped into his pockets again, this time for Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), a Freedom Caucus member who is challenging Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger—the Republican official who resisted Trump’s pressure on that phone call—to oversee the state’s elections as secretary of state.

But CPI was not the only legal architect to benefit from Uihlein money. The Federalist Society, arguably the country’s most powerful collective of conservative legal scholars and activists, saw its already ample bank account increase by $200,000. Scads of Federalist Society members pitched in to help corrode public trust in the election results—including John Eastman, who reportedly gamed out the White House’s constitutional putsch on Jan. 6.

He also pushed $50,000 to the Texas Public Policy Forum, which in October 2020 collaborated with radical conservative think-tank the Claremont Institute on research into the constitutional viability of an election challenge road map that ran all the way through Inauguration Day.

Another group to benefit from Uihlein’s largesse: the Center for Security Policy, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designates an anti-Muslim hate group, collected $750,000 from Uihlein’s foundation.

The CSP was founded by anti-Muslim activist and conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney Jr, who also disputed the results of the 2020 election. After the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the CSP president told CNBC that his group acknowledged Biden was the president. The official added that Gaffney did not lead the group—“He’s not the president of the organization, I am.” CNBC noted that the nonprofit’s website listed Gaffney as “executive chairman,” as it still does today.

Uihlien—whose net worth Bloomberg pegs at about $4 billion—also funded right-wing media outlets that pushed false narratives about the 2020 election. For instance, he donated $750,000 to the FDRLST, which pushed misleading claims of voter fraud. He also slipped $25,000 to the American Conservative, which published a number of articles claiming that Democrats had stolen the election, including a debunked article the evening of Jan. 6 alleging widespread fraud.

Another right-wing outlet, Sons of Liberty—the media outfit, not to be confused with a militia group of the same name—pocketed $300,000 from the supply chain magnate. The radio broadcast, which promoted claims of fraud after the election, is run by anti-LGBTQ activist-pastor Bradlee Dean, who has suggested that “homosexuals” are to blame for most child molestations in the country. Most recently, Sons of Liberty has been on an anti-vax kick, pushing outrageous claims, like that the COVID-19 vaccine is causing AIDS.

Uihlein also threw a $25,000 bone to conservative watchdog Judicial Watch, run by conspiracy theorist Tom Fitton. That organization also challenged the election results.

Some Uihlein money made it to groups directly involved with events on Jan. 6.

For example, he boosted Turning Point USA, the far-right youth organization helmed by social media personality Charlie Kirk. After Trump’s defeat, TPUSA pushed the Big Lie and backed the “Stop the Steal” movement, and later helped organize Jan. 6 rally events, including providing transportation for attendees from across the country. Uihlein contributed $30,000 to the group.

Uihlein also provided a pillar of financial support for the Tea Party Patriots, a far-right activist group which helped organize rally events on Jan. 6. Since 2016, he has gifted the group’s political committee more than $4 million, according to Federal Election Commission data—including $800,000 in September 2020.

There’s another riot connection, too—albeit less direct. The Media Research Center, which styles itself as a watchdog of liberal press outlets, received $300,000 from Uihlein in 2020. After the riot, the son of MRC president L. Brent Bozell III—a conservative media kingpin from a highly influential family—was charged with trespassing and obstruction after video from the attack showed him on the Senate chamber floor.

Trump’s Dark-Money Machine Gets a Makeover—and New Owners

Uihlein’s largest gift of the year went to the Foundation for Government Accountability—a whopping $3,000,000 in January 2020. While the nonprofit did not appear to participate in the Big Lie, it launched a sprawling campaign once Biden took office to revise local and state election funding across the country. The group has framed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as the villain, trading on a popular right-wing conspiracy theory that Zuckerberg’s $100 million in election integrity funding ahead of the vote unfairly helped swing the race for Biden. (It didn’t.)

The Uihlein family ranks among the top GOP donors in the country, sharing rarefied air with the likes of the Koch brothers, casino kingpin Sheldon Adelson, and tech investor Peter Thiel.

In 2020, Uihlein—whose business Forbes ranks in the 75 largest private companies in the country—was the fifth-largest donor to political outside spending organizations, dropping over $65 million over the cycle, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

He’s currently second behind Thiel for the 2022 cycle. In 2018, The New York Times called Uihlein and his wife Elizabeth “The Most Powerful Conservative Couple You’ve Never Heard Of.”

And Uihlein is hardly alone in funding election deniers. Since the riot, news reports and tax filings have shined light on a network of wealthy individuals and powerful dark money groups who fueled organizations that challenged the results, and laid the financial stonework for the Jan. 6 riot.

But Uihlein shares another mysterious beneficiary with one of those dark money groups. Both his foundation and the Trump-adjacent nonprofit America First Policies gave big to a group with deep anti-LGBTQ ties: Vision America.

That group’s founder, Texas-based pastor Rick Scarborough, has a long history of bigoted anti-LGBTQ statements—such as considering suing the LGBTQ community for “subjecting people to becoming AIDS sufferers.”

However, it’s unclear whether the group is legally authorized to receive such donations.

The Daily Beast reported last month that the IRS database does not show any recent tax filings, a gap that raised questions among experts in nonprofit law.

In December, The Daily Beast reached out to the group to request its filings, which must be provided within 30 days. That window has passed without response. The Daily Beast followed up again on Tuesday, but did not receive a reply.

The Uihleins and their foundation did not return a request for comment.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the Uihlein tax disclosures were previously pubished by the Center for Media and Democracy in November 2021.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get the Daily Beast's biggest scoops and scandals delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now.

Stay informed and gain unlimited access to the Daily Beast's unmatched reporting. Subscribe now.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting