It is usually images of a violent mob attacking the US Capitol that are associated with the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election. But as more and more financial records become public, another image emerges, that of of billionaires in MAGA gear writing big checks.
And one billionaire in particular.
Among the ranks of “dark money” groups and anonymous megadonors who funded the effort is a household name in GOP fundraising circles: Dick Uihlein, founder of multinational shipping company Uline.
According to unpublished information tax disclosures, Uihlein’s nonprofit — the Ed Uihlein Family Foundation — has poured millions of dollars in 2020 into a sprawling number of groups tied to efforts to challenge Joe Biden’s victory and reinvent the law. campaign, as well as other far-right organizations, including those designated as hate groups.
And the money is pure Uihlein — the foundation’s $16.8 million in donations in 2020 came exclusively from Dick Uihlein himself. And during this pivotal year, the organization gave everything.
Kyle Herrig, president of the left-wing watchdog group Accountable.US, told The Daily Beast that money from Uihlein and his wife, Elizabeth, had “fostered hatred and sedition”.
“In 2020, when workers and families struggled to cope, 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 donating over $1 million to groups that have promoted hate and sedition, Dick and Liz Uihlein have made it clear where their company values really lie.”
The scale of the Uihlein’s anti-election and extremist funding is actually much larger. According to the foundation’s latest tax return, the supply chain mogul has donated more than $4 million to groups affiliated with efforts to overturn elections and other acts of far-right extremism.
For example, between January and May 2020, Uihlein donated $1.25 million to the Conservative Partnership Institute, a right-wing think tank founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) where the Trump campaign attorney , Cleta Mitchell, served as senior legal officer.
Mitchell, a veteran GOP operative, helped build the campaign’s post-election legal strategy mostly behind the scenes. But she gained national attention in early January 2021 after featuring heavily in a taped phone call between then-President Donald Trump, his chief of staff Mark Meadows and top Georgia election officials. Trump pressured election officials in that now infamous call to “find” enough votes for him to win Georgia. (Meadows joined Mitchell at CPI after leaving the White House in January.)
This year, Uihlein stuffed into his pockets again, this time for Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), a member of the Freedom Caucus who is challenging Brad Raffensperger of Georgia — the Republican official who resisted pressure from Trump on that phone call — to oversee the election of state as secretary of state.
But CPI wasn’t the only legal architect to benefit from Uihlein’s money. The Federalist Society, arguably the most powerful collective of conservative lawyers and activists in the country, saw its already large bank account increased by $200,000. Scads members of the Federalist Society helped erode public confidence in the election results, including John Eastman, who allegedly played the January 6 White House constitutional coup.
He also pushed $50,000 to the Texas Public Policy Forum, which collaborated in October 2020 with the radical conservative think tank Claremont Institute on to research in the constitutional viability of an electoral contestation roadmap that unfolded throughout Inauguration Day.
Another group to benefit from Uihlein’s largesse: the Center for Security Policy, which the Southern Poverty Law Center means an anti-Muslim hate group, raised $750,000 from the Uihlein Foundation.
CSP was founded by anti-Muslim activist and conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney Jr, who also challenged the 2020 election results. After the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, CSP Chairman told CNBC that his group acknowledged that Biden was the president. The manager added that Gaffney was not leading the group – “He’s not the president of the organization, I am.” CNBC noted that the nonprofit’s website listed Gaffney as “executive chairman” because he always does today.
“In 2020, as workers and families struggled to get by, Dick and Liz Uihlein’s company took advantage of pandemic relief, then turned around and funded hate groups pushing theories of the COVID conspiracy, bigotry and efforts to undermine democracy.”
— Kyle Herrig, President of Accountable.US
Uihlien – whose Bloomberg net worth is around $4 billion– also funded right-wing media outlets that spread false narratives about the 2020 election. For example, he donated $750,000 to the FDRLST, which pushed misleading allegations of electoral fraud. He also slipped $25,000 to the American curator, who published a number of articles claiming the Democrats stole the election, including a demystified article on the evening of January 6 alleging widespread fraud.
Another right-wing outlet, Sons of Liberty – the outlet, not to be confused with a militia of the same name – pocketed $300,000 from the supply chain mogul. The radio show, which promoted fraud allegations after the election, is led by anti-LGBTQ pastor-activist Bradlee Dean, who has suggested that “homosexuals” are to blame for most pedophilia in the country. More recently, Sons of Liberty launched an anti-vax kick, pushing outrageous claims, like that the COVID-19 vaccine is causing AIDS.
Uihlein also threw a $25,000 bone at conservative watchdog Judicial Watch, run by conspiracy theorist Tom Fitton. This organization also disputed election results.
Some of Uihlein’s money went to groups directly involved in the January 6 events.
For example, he boosted Turning Point USA, the far-right youth organization run by social media personality Charlie Kirk. After Trump’s defeat, TPUSA pushed the big lie and supported the “Stop the Steal” movement, and later helped organize rally events on January 6, including providing transportation for attendees from across the country. Uihlein contributed $30,000 to the group.
Uihlein also provided financial support to the Tea Party Patriots, a far-right activist group that helped organize rallies on January 6. Since 2016, he has donated more than $4 million to the group’s political committee, according to the Federal Election Commission. Data—including $800,000 in September 2020.
There is also another link with the riots, although less direct. The Media Research Center, which bills itself as a liberal media watchdog, received $300,000 from Uihlein in 2020. After the riot, MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell III’s son, a media stalwart Conservatives from a very influential family, was charged with trespassing and obstruction after video of the attack showed him on the floor of the Senate Chamber.
Uihlein’s biggest donation of the year went to the Foundation for Government Accountability — a whopping $3,000,000 in January 2020. Although the nonprofit organization doesn’t appear to be participating in the Big Lie, it launched a sprawling campaign once Biden took office to overhaul local and state election funding across the country. The group cast Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as the villain, trading on a popular right-wing conspiracy theory that Zuckerberg’s $100 million in election integrity funding before the vote unfairly helped sway the race for Biden. (He does not have.)
The Uihlein family ranks among the nation’s top GOP donors, sharing a rarefied air with the Koch brothers, casino kingpin Sheldon Adelson and tech investor Peter Thiel.
In 2020, Uihlein, whose company Forbes ranks among the 75 largest private companies in the country – was the fifth largest donor to spendthrift outside political organizations, losing more than $65 million over the cycle, according to data from the Center for Responsive Policy.
He is 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 isn’t the only one funding Holocaust deniers. Since the riot, wires and tax filings have shed light on a network of wealthy people and powerful black money groups that fueled the organizations that contested the results and laid the financial foundation for the January 6 riot.
But Uihlein shares another mysterious beneficiary with one of these black money groups. His foundation and Trump’s neighboring nonprofit America First Policies have given big to a group with deep anti-LGBTQ ties: Vision America.
However, it is unclear whether the group is legally allowed to receive such donations.
The Daily Beast reported last month that the IRS database shows no recent tax returns, a shortcoming that has raised questions among nonprofit law experts.
In December, The Daily Beast contacted the group to request its documents, which must be provided within 30 days. This window went unanswered. The Daily Beast followed up again on Tuesday, but received no response.
The Uihleins and their foundation did not return a request for comment.