Jane Mayer has once again ripped the veneer off Republican efforts to buy our elections and install their dictators in a new article at The New Yorker where she outlines in fine detail who is paying for the election subversion and voter suppression efforts in the states.
It won't surprise anyone who has followed my work here at Crooks and Liars to know the key players are people and organizations we feature here all the time: Cleta Mitchell, True The Vote, Freedomworks, Charlie Kirk, Turning Point USA, and more. On the funding side, Leonard Leo, The Bradley Foundation, Overstock.com founder Patrick Byrne, and a whole bunch of dark, undisclosed money.
Take Italygate, for example. Italygate was the insane conspiracy theory being spread that Trump votes were erased by Italian military satellites. It wasn't something hatched out of the corners of 4Chan, but was instead intentionally spread by Nations In Action, a group founded by Maria Zack, a relative unknown in the universe of right-wing nonprofits.
When Talking Points Memo contacted von Spakovsky, he said that he had resigned from the board on January 8th. But the money trail remains. Crooks and Liars, a progressive investigative-reporting site, dug up tax filings showing that the group’s 501(c)(3) sibling, the Nations in Action Globally Lifting Up Fund, had received thousands of dollars from the Judicial Crisis Network—a nonprofit enterprise, closely tied to Leonard Leo, that also funds Turning Point Action.
Yes, that's a shoutout to us from Jane Mayer, so I couldn't resist putting it in here. But there is more. So very much more. All roads lead back to the same players funding the same goals the Groundswell group had in 2013: To crush voters who did not support their "conservative" candidates.
As further evidence, watch the video at the top where Cleta Mitchell and Ginni Thomas announce their intention to team up and round up a whole plethora of organizations to "fight the enemy," where the enemy is defined as any of their fellow citizens who do not share their conservative values. Their presentation was given at a May, 2019 meeting of the Council for National Policy, the hard-right secretive organization originally founded by evangelicals which is now the organizing hub for everything to do with Trump and the hard right.
Figuring out who the actual people behind the donations are? That's a real challenge in today's SCOTUS-driven darkness shrouding this radical and undemocratic "speech." Take, for example, the Arizona "fraudit."
$5.7 Million to subvert Arizona's Elections
Just last week, CyberNinjas, the conspiracy-driven "audit firm," was ordered by the court to disclose their donors. Here is the list they supplied:
New tonight: Here’s who Cyber Ninjas says is paying for the audit.
Stop the Steal groups - including Patrick Byrne, OAN’s Christina Bobb, Sidney Powell, Attorney Matt DePerno - have contributed $5.7 million, according to Ninjas pic.twitter.com/v0x8lOqWwa
— Jen Fifield (@JenAFifield) July 29, 2021
A visit to each organization's website reveals nothing about who actually funded the effort. Every one of them asks for donations, presumably so they can claim it's being funded by small donors, a claim I dismiss out of hand. That's how they build their mailing lists to share around the universe of conservative organizations and little more.
Because disclosure will be delayed for 20 months or more, there is no way to know with 100 percent certainty which organizations granted funds to these organizations to do the work of corrupting Arizona's future elections while destroying all faith in their past elections. This is because the right wing has developed a highly sophisticated and effective money-laundering scheme to move money from one non-profit to another via the "grant" system without ever revealing which individual made the donations. In some cases, as Mayer documents, the donations can be traced back to a family foundation, like the Bradley Foundation. In others, it's far more opaque.
Each "fraudit" organization is connected to fringe right groups led by or related to Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell.
The America Project, is reported to have been funded by Patrick Byrne, the rich conspiracy theorist and founder of Overstock.com.
America's Future is the place where the Flynn family has put down roots. Mike Flynn is the chair (can anyone say "wingnut welfare"?) and his youngest brother is on the board. No word on where the nearly $1 million came from. None at all, and none required. It is, by the way, a 501(c)(3) organization, so all donations are tax-deductible.
Voices and Votes is staffed by OANN's White House Correspondent Chanel Rion, who serves as Chief Marketing Officer. Fellow OANN correspondent and former Trump official Christina Bobb also serves in the leadership of that organization, and is reported to have put some of her own money into the organization while "reporting" on it for OANN. There is, however, no detailed accounting of where the $605,000 originated. One might infer that it was a gift from OANN owner Robert Herring, given the associations, but without official disclosure, it's just an educated guess.
Defending the Republic is the front group funding Sidney Powell's "Kraken" lawsuits, all of which have failed. There is no information behind who donated the $550,000 to her cause. The address listed on the website points to a Regus Shared Office site in Dallas, TX. On their website, they encourage visitors to "take action," which reads just like a John Birch flyer or Tea Party site back in the last decade. Based upon the recommendations, the funding could be from the Chinese billionaire who hangs with Steve Bannon, Falun Gong, or Mike Lindell. Without disclosure, any or all of them could be right.
The last organization listed on that CyberNinjas list is LDFFTAR/EIFFTAR (Legal Defense Fund For The Republic/Election Integrity For The Republic), a group funding Sidney Powell's efforts in Arizona. There is no information about who is funding it, only a donation link. The address for donations is the same address as Robert Matheson, "brand marketer".
Matheson, according to his Forbes bio, specializes in branding and is admittedly "Randian" in his business philosophy.
I specialize in niche marketing and brand development. I travel extensively around the world and live in Charlottesville, Virginia. My passion is branding, I live to build, I love creating and I have had this love all my life… I do what I do for pleasure and to some extent for my own self-satisfaction. It is Randian to be sure. However, I strive to align the pleasure of producing and bringing profits with benefiting others in my sphere of influence.
That occupation seems handy in the world of the Big Lie, where up is down, right is left, and legitimate votes in a democracy are delegitimized with lies. For his part, Matheson denies any current involvement with these orgs, and yet seems willing to receive donations for them at the same address as his business. Twitter has banned him for his hateful conduct, but he soldiers on.
It isn't as though Matheson doesn't have mad money to toss at subverting democracy, either. As The Daily Beast reports:
An obituary published in The New York Times in June identifies Matheson as the grandson of late, legendary Washington socialite Ruth Buchanan, herself the granddaughter of Herbert Henry Dow, the founder of Dow Chemical. A sprawling multinational, Dow has historically produced everything from breast implants to Agent Orange to polystyrene to pesticides to nuclear bombs.
Wiley T. Buchanan, Matheson’s grandfather, was a relative of James Buchanan, the 15th president of the United States. The latter-day Buchanan served as an ambassador and chief of protocol at the State Department during the Eisenhower administration.
$5.7 million given to subvert future elections and voting rights in Arizona at great cost to Maricopa County, who will now have to replace all of the voting machines, and we cannot say who gave all of that money. Let's not pretend it was small donors. It clearly was not.
The road ahead
As you can see from the list of donors to CyberNinjas, there is not one individual in the bunch. No one "person" is speaking, just front groups handing out wingnut welfare to Sidney Powell, Mike Flynn and other grifters. In Mayer's article, the same is true. No one can say with 100 percent certainty that one or the other person is the speaker. Is it Charlie Koch or Paul Singer? Peter Thiel or a Russian oligarch? There's no way to know because SCOTUS has limited disclosure and the reporting process is so utterly corrupt that the only thing we can do is make some solid inferences from personnel, or associations.
And, as Mayer tells us, the road ahead will be littered with the same opaque attempts to destroy our democracy. I added the emphases in the quote below:
For now, though, conservative groups seem to be doubling down on their investments in election-fraud alarmism. In the next two years, Heritage Action plans to spend twenty-four million dollars mobilizing supporters and lobbyists who will promote “election integrity,” starting in eight battleground states, including Arizona. It is coördinating its effort with the Election Transparency Initiative, a joint venture of two anti-abortion groups, the Susan B. Anthony List and the American Principles Project. The Election Transparency Initiative has set a fund-raising goal of five million dollars. Cleta Mitchell, having left her law firm, has joined FreedomWorks, the free-market group, where she plans to lead a ten-million-dollar project on voting issues. She will also head the Election Integrity Network at the Conservative Partnership Institute, another Washington-based nonprofit. As a senior legal fellow there, she told the Washington Examiner, she will “help bring all these strings” of conservative election-law activism together, and she added, “I’ve had my finger in so many different pieces of the election-integrity pie for so long.”
The only answer to this is a legal requirement to disclose political funding in real time in a publicly accessible, FREE database.
As Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in a case concerning petition signatures, "Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed."
He went on to say: "For my part, I do not look forward to a society which, thanks to the Supreme Court, campaigns anonymously . . . hidden from public scrutiny and protected from the accountability of criticism. This does not resemble the Home of the Brave."
If money is speech then the speaker should be identified. Not 20 months or more from now and not hiding behind the facade of a front organization, but instead in real time to anyone who cares to find out.