Since former President Donald Trump began his campaign against America’s elections in 2020, a whole new industry devoted to undermining faith in key democratic institutions, particularly voting, has emerged. A range of far-right and extremist organizations and individuals have become explicitly anti-democracy, rejecting the legitimacy of America’s elections regardless of a lack of proof of fraud or other electoral manipulation. Among these activists are members of militias and the white supremacist Proud Boys, often working hand-in-hand with far-right organizations to delegitimize election results and election infrastructure. Particularly worrying are antigovernment organizations representing so-called “constitutional sheriffs” who falsely believe the federal government has no power over them. Major organizations representing hundreds of these antigovernment sheriffs are now involved in election denial and have pledged to investigate and oversee election processes.
But the most important actors in this space are Trump former staffers, lawyers, and allies who have taken up the cause of election denialism and are planning to affect in a partisan manner the election infrastructure that undergirds our free and fair elections. They are already warning that the upcoming midterms will likely be rigged. “I just know that they’re [read Democrats] going to engage in massive election fraud,” conspiracy theorist and Trump ally Alex Jones said on an episode of his Infowars show this week. Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, who has been sentenced to four months in prison for contempt of Congress related to the January 6 hearings, is also stoking rage on the right, describing on his podcast the upcoming election as the “most important midterm election since 1862,” meaning during the Civil War. In the past year, Bannon has been advocating a “precinct strategy,” and far-right activists have inundated local precincts, signing up in large numbers to be poll workers and engaging in harassment of election management officials and volunteers, up to and including death threats.
As a result of these efforts, the 2022 midterm elections are shaping up to be the most dangerous and volatile of any in recent memory. In the last several months, we’ve seen white supremacists disrupting campaign events and armed activists showing up at election-related public events. Election workers are facing unprecedented threats and the Arizona secretary of state’s office referred a case of voter intimidation to the DOJ in October. An unidentified voter reported that they were approached and followed by a group of individuals while trying to drop off their ballot at an official drop box. The situation is so serious the FBI issued a warning in October about the threats to voters and election workers in the upcoming midterms. A Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE) survey this past August found that Americans’ fears are suppressing participation in the democratic process. Most troubling, GPAHE’s survey found Black, Hispanic and young people fear violence at the polls, and that Black voters are more likely to leave without voting if intimidated at the polls, effectively suppressing the vote of a historically marginalized community.
The Trump-inspired election denial movement has already had great impact. In 2021, at least 19 states passed 34 laws restricting access to voting. According to the Brennan Center, state legislatures enacted far more restrictive voting laws in 2021 than in any year since the organization began tracking voting legislation in 2011. Even more troubling, legislators in multiple states introduced bills to allow partisan actors to interfere with election processes or even reject election results entirely. This effort has gone far beyond measures such as harmful voter identification laws and into more fulsome attacks on how elections work and on election workers themselves. And election deniers are dominating GOP tickets across the country. An analysis by FiveThirtyEight found that 60 percent of Americans will have an election denier on the ballot this November, and more than 100 election deniers will likely be elected to the House of Representatives. Some election deniers have made it clear that if they win, they will introduce partisanship into how elections are decided.
Here GPAHE profiles the most active national election denial organizations (GPAHE also wrote briefs on state-level denial groups in battleground states). They spread outright lies about the 2020 election, are major proponents for election deniers running for office, and many work directly with GOP institutions. Some of the organizations are part of hate and extremist movements or have worked with them in their efforts. If these organizations are successful in achieving their aims, our democratic system will be severely damaged.
America First Secretary of State Coalition
Las Vegas, Nevada
The idea for the America First Secretary of State Coalition came about the day after Trump’s 2020 defeat. The Guardian reported on a plan that was conceived by a group of QAnon conspiracy adherents, an antisemitic movement the FBI has said is connected to violence and who absurdly believe Democrats and Hollywood celebrities are engaged in a global child trafficking scheme and want to drink the blood of children, to help elect Trump allies into secretary of state offices. Its founder, Jim Marchant, served a single term in the Nevada legislature and lost a race for Congress where he claimed he’d been a victim of voter fraud. Marchant was an advocate of sending an alternate slate of Trump electors to Congress in blatant contravention of the official vote count. Asked by The Guardian in January whether he would do the same in 2024, he said: “That is very possible, yes.” Marchant met with QAnon booster Juan O. Savin who, along with others, urged him to run for secretary of state given that office’s key role in election administration. The two men created the America First Secretary of State Coalition, which says it is dedicated to “declaring ourselves to stand and fight in the public arena for conservative principles and solutions to the corrupt election process nationwide.” There are now more than a dozen candidates for office in various states involved in the group. The America First coalition held its inaugural meeting on May 1, 2021, at the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas. Participants in that meeting included prominent election deniers MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and Overstock.com founder Patrick Byrne, as well as other prominent conservatives. The coalition has endorsed more than a dozen candidates for secretary of state, all of whom have refused to accept the legitimacy of Biden’s victory in 2020 and have promised to dramatically restrict voting rights if elected. The coalition has raised more than $300,000 through a Nevada-based PAC called Conservatives for Election Integrity. If it is successful, the coalition will be positioned to influence future elections, most importantly the 2024 presidential race. In October, Marchant touted the coalition at a Trump rally in Minden, Nevada, telling the crowd, “When my coalition of secretary of state candidates around the country get elected, we’re gonna fix the whole country, and President Trump is gonna be president again in 2024.” The America First coalition advocates several electoral reforms, including stricter voter ID requirements, replacing electronic voting machines with hand-counted paper ballots, ending early voting, ending mail-in voting, and carrying out “aggressive voter roll clean-up.” Marchant continues to court QAnon groups, telling the QAnon-affiliated Patriot Double Down conference in Las Vegas, last October, “we need to take back the secretaries-of-state offices around the country.” According to the coalition’s website, its mission is to “promote and establish messaging that Secretary of State elections all across the country are a priority and are currently our most important elections because they are predominantly responsible for the election process in each state.” Marchant has said that the coalition is working “behind the scenes to try to fix 2020 like President Trump said.” On a podcast hosted by Steve Bannon, he said, “If we get just a few of the candidates that we have in our coalition, we save our country.” In June, Marchant won the Republican primary for Nevada secretary of state. Other candidates affiliated with the group include Arizona’s Mark Finchem, who is the coalition’s candidate for secretary of state there. Finchem, who has identified as an Oath Keeper in the past, was part of a group that tried to advance a false slate of Presidential electors in 2020, and has said that, if he had been secretary of state then, “we would have won.” In January, he co-sponsored a bill in the Arizona House that would give the state legislature the power to reject the results of an election. Other candidates with extremist connections are also part of the group.
The America Project
Created by Overstock.com founder Patrick Byrne and disgraced former Trump advisor Michael Flynn, The American Project is involved in several different election denying efforts. Both Byrne and Flynn had already been involved in a plan to seize voting machines across the country in an effort to dig up enough evidence of fraud to persuade state lawmakers, Congress, or the vice president to overturn the election results. Byrne describes himself on the group’s website as, “a Libertarian who believes Election 2020 was rigged.” Most recently, The America Project launched a new initiative, called One More Mission, to recruit veterans, police officers, and other first responders to be poll monitors for the upcoming midterms. They’ve engaged with QAnon conspiracy theorists to help with recruiting. Also in recent months, Michael Flynn has waded into the culture wars and pushed Christian nationalism in a series of speaking events. He has specifically taken on Florida elected school officials he considers overly “woke” with comments about school board members like these: “These ‘woke’ members need to be defeated in detail this upcoming election…Our children’s lives and futures are at risk when our school boards here in Florida and around the nation shove [critical race theory] and transgender nonsense down their throats.” Flynn has also been seen hanging out with members of the white supremacist Proud Boys in Florida, several of whose members have been indicted for seditious conspiracy in the January 6 Capitol attack, as has been reported in a PBS documentary, “Michael Flynn’s Holy War.” Another staffer is Joseph Flynn, Michael Flynn’s brother, who says on the website he ran Flynn’s legal defense fund. The group holds or co-sponsors “election integrity” summits across the country. An October 29 event in Orlando is slated to feature Byrne, and other prominent election deniers including Mark Finchem of Nevada, Jim Marchant of Arizona, and Kristina Karamo of Michigan. Also on the bill is Seth Keshel, a former Army captain and election denier who advocates for surveilling voting drop boxes, and Laura Loomer of Florida, who has been banned from most mainstream social media for engaging in hate speech. One of the group’s efforts has been described as “a coordinated, multistate effort to probe local election officials in battlegrounds such as Texas, Michigan and Arizona ahead of the November election.” The group has so far interviewed or attempted to interview officials in nearly 200 counties across eight swing states, according to copies of notes, recordings of the interviews and other documents Votebeat found on web pages associated with the organization. The survey questions are filled with debunked conspiracies and misleading information about elections, and appear intended to detect potential weaknesses in local election systems and gather detailed information about how elections are run. Election experts told the Texas Tribune that the information could easily be used to fuel misinformation campaigns, disrupt voting, or challenge results. In Texas, volunteers have so far interviewed election officials in 18 counties, including Cameron, Collin, Denton, and Fort Bend, according to the copies of the documents and recordings. Officials in 11 other counties in the state, including Bexar, Dallas, and Harris, declined to be interviewed. “It seems consistent with their efforts to really understand how to manipulate the machinery of election administration in this country,” said Ben Berwick, counsel at the national nonprofit Protect Democracy. Key to the effort is building relationships with local election officials, according to two manuals for local volunteers on the organization’s websites. The officials are asked their opinions on debunked conspiracy theories, perhaps to determine whether they are like-minded individuals. Interviewers are also marking down which clerks are particularly helpful. The group helps other organizations, such as Voter GA, which is attempting to purge voter rolls in various counties. Byrne and Lindell have been active in other election denying organizations, for example attending the America First Secretary of State Coalition’s inaugural meeting on May 1, 2021, at the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas. The America Project also helped fund Republican lawmakers’ widely-criticized election review in Maricopa County, Ariz., last year.
Conservative Partnership Institute
The Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI) is chaired by former South Carolina U.S. Senator Jim DeMint and has on its staff former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Ironically, Meadows is now under scrutiny for alleged voter fraud in 2020. North Carolina officials announced in April that the four-term congressman had been removed from voter rolls pending the outcome of an investigation prompted by a New Yorker report that in 2020 he registered to vote using an address he never lived at. Meadows faced a criminal contempt of Congress referral to the DOJ for his refusal to comply fully with requests from the January 6 Congressional Select Committee, but the DOJ declined to prosecute. The network has published materials and hosted summits across the country with the aim of coordinating a nationwide effort to staff election offices, recruit poll watchers and poll workers, and build teams of local citizens to challenge voter rolls, question postal workers, be “ever-present” in local election offices, and inundate election officials with document requests. The effort is an extraordinary investment in sustaining and bolstering the false narrative of widespread voter fraud. CPI’s key “election integrity” staffer is Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who played a central role in Trump’s legal strategy to overturn the 2020 election. Mitchell is currently under subpoena in a Fulton County, Georgia, criminal investigation. She participated in Trump’s infamous January 2, 2021, phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, where the president attempted to coerce Raffensperger him to “find” the extra 11,780 votes Trump needed to win the state. A special grand jury was impaneled in early May 2022 and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is currently conducting a wide-ranging probe into that call, and examining whether Trump and the other participants broke state laws. Mitchell has also been subpoenaed by the House select committee probing the January 6 insurrection, as she was in contact with Trump that day. Mitchell filed a lawsuit to block the subpoena. When reports of her role on Trump’s call with Raffensperger surfaced in 2021, Mitchell resigned from her two-decade long career with the law firm Foley & Lardner and joined CPI two months later. Mitchell leads CPI’s “Election Integrity Network.” She has held a series of summits this past year in battleground states. Mitchell sells the network as a way to create state and local election “infrastructure,” which includes advocating for unorthodox surveillance tactics of election officials and operations to ferret out any hints of fraud, of which there have been few documented in elections in recent years. The summits feature recruiting and training sessions for poll watchers and election officers, as well as panels hosted by Mitchell and others speaking on topics ranging from “The Left’s Plans to Corrupt the 2022 Election” to “Voting Systems and Machines” and “Building the Election Integrity Infrastructure.” An institute guide published and shared at summits and elsewhere encourages individuals to create their own local task forces in order to be “ever-present at the election office and board meetings, to hear and see and learn things that are only learned by being there.” The “Citizens Guide to Building an Election Integrity Infrastructure” also advises task force members to become election officials and workers but fails to describe critical differences between partisan monitoring efforts and official roles that must serve all voters. It instructs citizens to get exhaustive information to locate “bad addresses” and challenge voter eligibility, without explaining common missteps that other organized efforts to challenge voters have previously made, such as failing to account for the ways election officials record the addresses of student voters, unhoused voters, and military voters. And it encourages state-level activists to identify whether officials in attorney general offices are “friend or foe.” A participant at a CPI Arizona event earlier this year told The Guardian falsehoods about voter fraud in 2020 were voiced to increase support for more aggressive election monitoring in 2022. “The event definitely used the false allegations of fraud in 2020 as a call to action to rally support for vigilant engagement this year in the election process,” the participant said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There was a large focus on recruiting precinct officials to watch the polls and all of the other processes associated with elections.” Powerful groups on the right such as Heritage Action and Tea Party Patriots Action have participated in previous summits. Some groups at the summits have been bankrolled by donors including the oil and gas billionaire Charles Koch, billionaire businessman Richard Uihlein, and the conservative Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, where Mitchell is a board member. CPI gatherings have regularly been attended by GOP figures including candidates running for governor in Pennsylvania and the sitting Florida governor, Ron DeSantis. Melanie Sloan of American Oversight has said that the CPI agenda had echoes of “Jim Crow-style voter suppression techniques, and a recipe for more verbal and physical threats against election administration officials,” similar to ones that occurred in Georgia and other states after the 2020 elections. Mitchell’s comments about the need to challenge efforts by nonprofit groups aligned with democrats to create a “new American majority” of young voters, people of color and unmarried women have fed into criticisms CPI is driven by racial concerns.
Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association
The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) was founded in 2011 by Richard Mack, a former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona. Mack gained notoriety in the 1990s after successfully suing to overturn a prominent gun control measure, known as the Brady Law. CSPOA has arguably had more success infiltrating law enforcement than any other anti-government group. The constitutional sheriff movement’s ideology is rooted in the anti-government movement’s false concept of county supremacy, but in the last year CSPOA has become active in election denial. The movement believes that the county, and not the state or federal governments, should control all land within its borders, and the county sheriff is the ultimate law enforcement authority in the U.S. This idea was pioneered by William Potter Gale in the 1970s, a minister in the Christian identity movement, which is rabidly antisemitic and racist. It is expressed on CSPOA’s website this way: “The law enforcement powers held by the sheriff supersede those of any agent, officer, elected official or employee from any level of government when in the jurisdiction of the county. The vertical separation of powers in the Constitution makes it clear that the power of the sheriff even supersedes the powers of the President.” CSPOA claims this is because county sheriffs are the only elected law enforcement officers and therefore only accountable to their constituents. Mack is a former Oath Keepers board member who has said that the “greatest threat we face today is not terrorists; it is our own federal government.” In a May 2020 interview posted to YouTube, Mack described this view, saying: “Let me make this real clear: The President of the United States cannot tell your sheriff what to do. I don’t care if it’s George Washington himself, they cannot tell us what to do.” Mack crisscrosses the country for speaking engagements where he promotes himself, CSPOA, and his county sheriff theories. In 2021, in a disturbing development, Mack was able to win official state approval for his “trainings” in Montana and Texas, thereby allowing attendees to receive continuing education credits for his events. Mack was prominent in the anti-lockdown movements that sprang up in response to pandemic health measures. Mack went on a speaking junket in 2021, promoting the organization at a series of events alongside a long list of extremists. This included Red Pill Expo, a who’s who of antigovernment figures hosted by well-known conspiracy theorist G. Edward Griffin, a QAnon sovereign citizen rally in Hawaii, the Rod of Iron Ministries Freedom Festival, and the Arise USA tour, hosted by the late antisemitic conspiracy theorist Robert David Steele where CSPOA’s name was emblazoned on the side of the tour bus. Since 2020, CSPOA has latched on to election denialism. During a July event held by True the Vote, a major election denier organization, Mack said the event provided “more evidence of quite extensive election fraud.” “There’s no way anyone in this country should be trusting computers to tabulate votes.” True the Vote is working directly with CSPOA, which now has a whole section on its website about law enforcement’s role in rooting out voting fraud. Sheriffs affiliated with CSPOA have promised to monitor future elections and hunt down remaining claims of fraud from the 2020 presidential election. Besides membership dues, CSPOA sells a wide range of natural supplements. In July, Mack declared that investigating voting fraud is now his group’s top priority, calling it a “holy cause.”
Founded in June 2022, ProtectAmerica.Vote (PAV) is a joint effort by Mark Lamb, the sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, and the Texas-based, but national election denial group, True the Vote. Lamb runs another project, Protect America Now, which claims about 70 law enforcement members in 30 states and is an official partner of PAV according to the website. Protect America Now focuses mostly on immigration and law enforcement issues and holds to many of the same values as CSPOA, arguing that sheriffs are the top law enforcement officials in their counties.
The website for ProtectAmerica.Vote states its mission is to “empower sheriffs” and “connect citizens and sheriffs” as part of a wide-ranging drive to ferret out potential voting fraud and criminal activity related to voting and elections. In a video on its website, Lamb says, “We will engage voters, we’ll help clear up confusion through education, and where necessary, sheriffs can and will investigate where laws are being broken.” According to the PAV website, sheriffs will be trained in “election laws specific to their state, developing a grants function to provide technology and support for visibility into allegations of violations as reported throughout their county and in best practices to support citizens and uphold election integrity.” The site has a tool to connect citizens through email directly with their local sheriff. PAV was made public in July at a conference in Las Vegas, and the project is underwritten by True the Vote according to the website. The gathering lasted about seven and a half hours and featured talks by Catherine Engelbrecht, co-founder of True the Vote, and Lamb. PAV will promote a larger role for sheriffs in election monitoring and help build ties with other law enforcement agencies and organizations, including CSPOA, to bolster the hunt for voting fraud. The joint effort features an “election integrity hotline” that True the Vote has deployed in past elections that can connect citizens with tips to their local sheriffs. Engelbrecht has said that the group will also run ads in a “handful of states.” PAV may give grants to some sheriffs in key states where county sheriffs have launched investigations into alleged election fraud and provide surveillance equipment to monitor drop boxes and other voting sites. It also plans to hold press conferences with county sheriffs, according to the PAN website. CSPOA leader Richard Mack was at the unveiling conference and said his group would also work on the new effort to provide more muscle to investigate charges of current and past voting fraud, regardless of the fact that there is no evidence to support that such a problem exists.
Tea Party Patriots
The Tea Party Patriots (TPP) got its start in 2009, as Tea Parties were popping up nationwide, organizing against the Affordable Care Act and other aspects of Barack Obama’s presidency. It received considerable help from FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group once funded by the Koch brothers. It has now taken up issues around election infrastructure, recruiting poll workers, promoting propaganda like the film “2,000 Mules,” that allege the 2020 election was rigged, and supporting so-called “election integrity” efforts. Tea Party Patriots was founded by Jenny Beth Martin, Mark Meckler, and Amy Kremer. Kremer has since left TPP to work for Trump. She was part of his legal team in Georgia, where there is a criminal investigation into Trump and his top legal advisers’ efforts to change the outcome of the vote. Over the years, the group has picked up on various other conservative issues, including taxes, debt, and immigration. In 2020, Tea Party Patriots waded into debates over the pandemic. TPP hosted and funded an “America’s Frontline Doctors” event promoting use, contrary to all legitimate medical advice, of the drug hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID. Video of the press conference, published by far-right Breitbart News, was promoted by Trump and viewed millions of times before it was removed by mainstream social media sites for spreading misinformation. TPP became closely aligned with Trump when he ran for office and was involved in Stop the Steal events in 2020. In 2021, TPP began to pivot in its focus, with Martin saying that the group’s “animating issue” had become “faith in the elections” following the 2020 vote. Martin described the shift as part of TPP’s work against government overreach, alleging that the local management of elections represented such an overreach. Martin was a key point person at the far-right powerhouse Council for National Policy (CNP) during Trump’s reelection campaign. In April 2020, she organized “100 Business Executives” in support of Trump, along with fellow CNP members Adam Brandon of FreedomWorks and Lisa Nelson of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Trump acknowledged Martin by name in his speech before the CNP on the eve of the 2020 GOP convention. On November 4, 2020, Martin announced that her organization was going to hold “Protect the Vote” rallies in swing states. Tea Party Patriots were among about a dozen groups that included Stop the Steal and Turning Point Action listed on the website of the “March to Save America,” the pro-Trump rally that took place before the January 6 storming of the Capitol. In a statement, Martin said her group did not fund the rally and denounced the violence that followed it. “Neither Tea Party Patriots Foundation, Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, nor Tea Party Patriots Action spent any money on the rally,” Martin said. “We condemn the violence. We are shocked, outraged, and saddened at the turn of events on January 6. One of the reasons we revere our Constitution is that it created a framework that allows for the resolution of political conflict in a peaceful manner.” Yet Martin had promoted the rally, tweeting that she would be speaking at the “Stop the Steal” rally and promoted the event in the weeks leading up to it. She tweeted, “We will not allow them to steal this election.” Martin did call for “peaceful” protest as the rally became violent. TPP leaders were outspoken after the election, claiming without evidence that there had been widespread fraud and that the election results should be overturned in favor of Trump. In March 2021, TPP joined a coalition of far-right organizations, including Heritage Action for America and FreedomWorks, to provide financial backing legislation that would make it harder to vote. Members of TPP have spoken at Cleta Mitchell’s election integrity events.
True The Vote
Catherine Engelbrecht founded the Texas-based True the Vote (TTV) in 2008 and the organization has raised millions in donations by claiming, falsely, that it has uncovered voter fraud. Though Texas-based and active in the state, TTV is also engaged in “election integrity” activities in other states, this past summer holding events in Arizona prior to their primaries. TTV’s work was featured in the widely debunked film,“2,000 Mules,” produced by conservative activist Dinesh D’Souza. TTV features a glowing piece from the far-right Epoch Times on its website about their work in “2,000 Mules.” The story says TTV, “has, for the past year and a half now, been investigating the illegal ballot harvesting that took place around the entire country during the 2020 election. And after painstakingly tracking 10 trillion cell phone pings, after looking at millions of minutes of surveillance footage, and after actually being able to speak with some of the whistleblowers who acted as ballot mules in 2020, they were able to conclude that around 5 million ballots were trafficked during the 2020 election, and very likely swung the results.” These claims are unsubstantiated, as is another of TTV’s claims, that they solved a young Atlanta girl’s murder leading to arrests. In response to NPR’s inquiries, TTV acknowledged it had contacted law enforcement more than two months after the arrests, meaning it played no role in those arrests or indictments. D’Souza himself has acknowledged that “2,000 Mules” does not show any person on camera going to multiple ballot drop boxes. Rather, the film primarily relies on TTV’s claims about its geo-tracking data, which D’Souza has argued is “more reliable than video footage.” In Georgia, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said his office had already examined one instance flagged by TTV, in which a man delivered multiple ballots to a drop box. Raffensberger said they found no wrongdoing: “We investigated, and the five ballots that he turned in were all for himself and his family members.” Separately, TTV was sued in September for defamation and computer fraud in a lawsuit that asks a judge to essentially determine whether TTV’s campaign against a small election vendor constitutes slanderous lies or a participation in criminal acts. The suit was brought by Konnech Inc., a small elections logistics company based in Michigan. It alleges that TTV and its followers launched a stream of false and racist accusations against the company’s founder, forcing him and his family to flee their home in fear for their lives and damaging the company’s business. The suit cites True the Votes’ public claims that it hacked the company’s servers and accessed the personal information of nearly 2 million U.S. poll workers. In a rare move, the judge granted Konnech’s request for a temporary restraining order against Engelbrecht and another TTV leader, Gregg Phillips. Englebrecht has a long history of claiming election fraud. Barack Obama’s election as president in 2008 concerned her enough that she got active in local Tea Party efforts, attending rallies and meetings. Along with her then-husband, Bryan Engelbrecht, she created a nonprofit called King Street Patriots, which trained volunteers to poll watch in mostly Black and Latino neighborhoods in Harris County. A judge later ruled in a lawsuit brought by the local Democratic party that King Street Patriots was actually an unregistered political action committee, leading the Engelbrechts to formally create TTV. Over the last two presidential election cycles, TTV has raised millions in donations with claims that it discovered election-altering voter fraud. According to The Texas Tribune, TTV has promised to release its evidence, but never has. The paper also reports that TTV engaged in a series of questionable transactions that sent more than one million dollars to its founder, a longtime board member romantically linked to the founder, and the group’s general counsel. Despite these disclosures, TTV has gained key allies across the conservative movement. Trump calls Engelbrecht out by name during rallies and held a private screening for “2,000 Mules” at his Mar-a-Lago resort. He also pointed to TTV’s claims as proof that he won the popular vote in 2016. Another close ally is Texas Attorney General Ken Paxon. He’s been a guest on Engelbrecht’s podcast, talking about voter fraud. He’s also helped her in other ways. Most recently, a state judge sided with Engelbrecht’s argument that it should be Paxton’s office — not a court — that should probe allegations made by a True the Vote donor who says he was swindled out of $2.5 million. But more than a year after the case was dismissed, Paxton’s office has been silent about whether it investigated the donor dispute. And it has refused to disclose financial documents and email communications to Reveal, which has been investigating TTV, and issued contradictory and inaccurate statements about the nonprofit. Engelbrecht is represented by conservative legal heavyweight James Bopp Jr., who helped dismantle abortion rights, crafted many of the arguments in the Citizens United case that demolished campaign finance regulations, and was part of the legal team that prevailed in Bush v. Gore. A review of thousands of pages of documents from state filings, tax returns, and court records by Reveal and accounting experts, however, paints a picture of an organization that enriches Engelbrecht and her partner Gregg Phillips rather than actually rooting out any fraud. According to financial documents, TTV has given questionable loans to Engelbrecht and has a history of awarding contracts to companies run by Engelbrecht and Phillips. Within days of receiving $2.5 million from a donor to help stop the certification of the 2020 election, TTV distributed much of the money to a company owned by Phillips, Bopp’s law firm, and Engelbrecht herself. TTV had another embarrassing episode in August. According to the Daily Beast, Phillips was holding a gathering in Scottsdale called “The Pit,” where he vowed to finally release information about the “2,000 Mules” geolocation data TTV supposedly says proves vote fraud in front of a crowd of more than 100 conservative conspiracy theorists and influencers. But what was meant to be Phillips’s moment of triumph ended in disaster, as police ushered Phillips from his own afterparty for bringing a gun and warned him not to return. The big reveal also turned out to be a massive flop, with Phillips revealing nothing, rather directing his fans to a partially built website that appears to offer supporters a chance to pay money to see proof of election fraud. TTV has been sued by one of its own donors and by Stacey Abrams’s voting rights organization, Fair Fight.
Turning Point Action/Turning Point USA
Turning Point Action (TPA) is a 501(c)(4) organization (meaning that donations to it are not tax-deductible) founded in 2019 out of the 2020 Students for Trump campaign. It was established by Charlie Kirk, who founded its non-profit sister organization, Turning Point USA, in 2012. Turning Point USA has been described as the “MAGA youth wing” of the conservative movement. Kirk perennially stokes racial resentments and uses divisiveness to build his youth movement. Typical was Kirk’s calling George Floyd a “scumbag” after his murder at the hands of police ignited racial justice rallies across the country in 2020. Parroting the white supremacist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, Kirk also said “Biden intentionally let Afghanistan fall because he ‘wants a couple hundred thousand more Ilhan Omars to come into America to change the body politic permanently.” Kirk has toured college campuses raging at schools that teach about racism. A TPA spokesman said the new group was founded as a 501(c)(4) so that it would allow Kirk and his allies to be more active in directly taking on candidates they oppose. In Arizona, the Republican party is partnering with TPA in its “election integrity” trainings. The group describes itself as “America’s largest youth activist organization” and it has close ties to Trump officials, saying on its website that “Don Jr. is helping Charlie Kirk recruit more MAGA conservatives to run for Congress.” According to CNN, TPA paid Kimberly Guilfoyle $60,000 to introduce her fiancé, Donald Trump Jr., in a speech lasting less than three minutes at the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C. TPA recruits candidates for precinct committees and holds get-out-the-vote activities in Arizona and elsewhere across the country. TPA’s activities in its home state are typical of its election denialism. For example, in July 2021, Turning Point Action hosted a “Rally to Save our Elections” in Phoenix where Trump spoke for almost two hours, repeating his false allegations of voter fraud. Arizona’s fake slate of electors included Tyler Bowyer, COO of Turning Point USA. Turning Point Action has a sordid history in terms of its online activism. In September 2020, it was reported that Turning Point Action had paid young people in Arizona, some of them minors, to post Turning Point content on their social media accounts without disclosing their affiliation with Turning Point, and that Turning Point had given them specific instructions on how to make minor alterations to the content to prevent detection that it came from the same source. The posts cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process and made light of the pandemic. For example, on Facebook, a comment casted doubt on mail-in ballots because of the potential of mail fraud. An Instagram comment claimed that 28 million ballots went missing in the past four elections, implying voter fraud. A former Turning Point USA employee, Arizona state Rep. Jake Hoffman, a member of Arizona’s false slate of electors, was banned from Facebook in 2020 for his role in essentially creating a troll farm and because of work his previous firm, Rally Forge, did on behalf of TPA, posting comments in support of Trump and other conservative causes across hundreds of Facebook and Instagram accounts and pages. Facebook described its investigation into these activities in a post on its website, sharing that the Turning Point-related activity was just part of what Rally Forge was doing on the platform. Facebook said the company would create accounts to comment on topics like trophy hunting, elections, COVID-19, and candidates. The platform said the accounts were “thinly veiled personas,” using slight variations of the names of the actual people behind the accounts. In total, Facebook’s investigation tied 200 accounts, 55 Pages, and 76 Instagram accounts to these activities by Rally Forge. About 373,000 accounts followed one or more of the pages and 22,000 people followed at least one of the Instagram accounts. Nearly one million dollars was spent for Facebook advertising by the network.