There are 2 really good reasons. The first is that it looks better if its being investigated by both parties, it looks less like a partisan witch hunt and more like everyone is trying to get to the bottom of things. Keep in mind that is just about optics and the democrats really like to be seen as the adults in the room who will work together.Republicans should not have been offered a place on the Committee in the first place, considering the fact that they actively participated in the attempted coup. Anyone arguing that the Commission is partisan is either miscaracterizing it on purpose or is a literal fuckin' idiot, i.e. a person with a serious IQ deficiency.
Republicans have demonstrated time and time again that they are literally willing to destroy democracy and commit acts of terrorism to hold on to power. Last time they invaded a country, which resulted in AT LEAST half a million dead people (excluding American soldiers).
Why the fuck would you let ANY OF THEM investigate themselves? The entire party needs to be shut down for being essentially a crime syndicate, and everyone involved in January 6 should be sent to Guantanamo for some water boarding fun. Fuck these fuckin' psychopathic terrorists and fuck anyone who's still willing to vote for them for whatever bullshit reason they can think of. There are no more reasons to vote for them other than racism and bigotry and you fuckin' know it.
To such a degree that it has become a pathology. Or perhaps a convenient excuse for letting Republicans do what Democrats want to publicly oppose but privately enable.Keep in mind that is just about optics and the democrats really like to be seen as the adults in the room who will work together.
This accomplishes nothing. You can't work with Republicans. They don't want the investigation to happen, and if it does they want to ensure that it doesn't go anywhere. And they would never extend such courtesy to Democrats. It's about time for Democrats to realize that they'll be better of ignoring the Republicans and every one of their demands.Keep in mind that is just about optics and the democrats really like to be seen as the adults in the room who will work together.
The RNC won't split. Any Republican worth the air that they're breathing has left that party during Trump's presidency. All that is left are psychos.The better reason is that this could tear apart the republican party. Right now it seems like there are 2 major camps in the republican party, the trumples and the not trumples and the two sides are fighting each other pretty hard as we have seen by them pull anyone seen as helping investigate this pulled from committee assignments. If the trumples win the heart of the republican party then the more reasonable conservatives either have to deal with it or split to create their own conservative party, which splits the conservative vote.
Pretty much this.To such a degree that it has become a pathology. Or perhaps a convenient excuse for letting Republicans do what Democrats want to publicly oppose but privately enable.
A vast majority of Democrats of today are essentially Reagan era Republicans. The political landscape in the US has shifted to the right to a ridiculous degree.Pretty much this.
Pro-business democrats are just Republicans in disguise who pay lip-service to left wing ideals, but only as long as they don't hurt anyone's bottom line.
Can I use that if I'm being investigated for a crime?There are 2 really good reasons. The first is that it looks better if its being investigated by both parties, it looks less like a partisan witch hunt and more like everyone is trying to get to the bottom of things.
And yet Republicans continue to see socialists lurking in every shadow. Its the greatest triumph of the American right that they managed to sweep the left off the board completely, while still keeping their base fiercely motivated by the fears of left wing takeover. Its actually really impressive they manage to both claim complete victory while also convincing their base that the left is still all powerful and must be opposed.A vast majority of Democrats of today are essentially Reagan era Republicans. The political landscape in the US has shifted to the right to a ridiculous degree.
That and that the Dems are using Manchin and Sinema the same way the GOP used McConnell - as a way to not have to vote on things they really don't want to vote for but also want to say they support. They don't want to end the filibuster because that removes a way that a minority of Republicans can stop them from getting anything done without it being heir fault, and they can blame Manchin and Sinema for not ending the filibuster, thus leaving most of them safe to not have to vote for things they claim to publicly support but would be less than ideal for the donor class.To such a degree that it has become a pathology. Or perhaps a convenient excuse for letting Republicans do what Democrats want to publicly oppose but privately enable.
Damn it! Whatever offices that were involved in defending the capitol need to talk to someone now. I don't care how minute or small it seems. I knew this event would hurt many of them mentally, but I hope it did not come to suicide.Two DC police officers who responded to the US Capitol insurrection have died by suicide, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.www.cnn.com
Specifically this brings the total to 4 as 2 of these are new news.
If a vote happens, what will it be a vote for? To declare that the great trespass was an insurrection?That and that the Dems are using Manchin and Sinema the same way the GOP used McConnell - as a way to not have to vote on things they really don't want to vote for but also want to say they support. They don't want to end the filibuster because that removes a way that a minority of Republicans can stop them from getting anything done without it being heir fault, and they can blame Manchin and Sinema for not ending the filibuster, thus leaving most of them safe to not have to vote for things they claim to publicly support but would be less than ideal for the donor class.
It was tempting to dismiss the show unfolding inside the Dream City Church in Phoenix, Arizona, as an unintended comedy. One night in June, a few hundred people gathered for the première of “The Deep Rig,” a film financed by the multimillionaire founder of Overstock.com, Patrick Byrne, who is a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump. Styled as a documentary, the movie asserts that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen by supporters of Joe Biden, including by Antifa members who chatted about their sinister plot on a conference call. The evening’s program featured live appearances by Byrne and a local QAnon conspiracist, BabyQ, who claimed to be receiving messages from his future self. They were joined by the film’s director, who had previously made an exposé contending that the real perpetrators of 9/11 were space aliens.
But the event, for all its absurdities, had a dark surprise: “The Deep Rig” repeatedly quotes Doug Logan, the C.E.O. of Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based company that consults with clients on software security. In a voice-over, Logan warns, “If we don’t fix our election integrity now, we may no longer have a democracy.” He also suggests, without evidence, that members of the “deep state,” such as C.I.A. agents, have intentionally spread disinformation about the election. Although it wasn’t the first time that Logan had promoted what has come to be known as the Big Lie about the 2020 election—he had tweeted unsubstantiated claims that Trump had been victimized by voter fraud—the film offered stark confirmation of Logan’s entanglement in fringe conspiracies. Nevertheless, the president of the Arizona State Senate, Karen Fann, has put Logan’s company in charge of a “forensic audit”—an ongoing review of the state’s 2020 Presidential vote. It’s an unprecedented undertaking, with potentially explosive consequences for American democracy.
Approximately 2.1 million Presidential votes were cast in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and accounts for most of the state’s population. In recent years, younger voters and people of color have turned the county’s electorate increasingly Democratic—a shift that helped Biden win the traditionally conservative state, by 10,457 votes. Since the election, the county has become a focus of ire for Trump and his supporters. By March, when Logan’s company was hired, the county had already undergone four election audits, all of which upheld the outcome. Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican and a former Trump ally, had certified Biden’s victory. But Trump’s core supporters were not assuaged.
As soon as the Fox News Decision Desk called the state for Biden, at 11:20 p.m. on November 3rd, Trump demanded that the network “reverse this!” When Fox held firm, he declared, “This is a major fraud.” By the time of the “Deep Rig” première, the standoff had dragged on for more than half a year. The Cyber Ninjas audit was supposed to conclude in May, but at the company’s request Fann has repeatedly extended it. On July 28th, the auditors completed a hand recount, but they are still demanding access to the computer routers used by Maricopa County and also want to scrutinize images of mail-in-ballot envelopes. The U.S. Department of Justice has warned that “private actors who have neither experience nor expertise in handling” ballots could face prosecution for failing to follow federal audit rules.
Trump, meanwhile, has fixated on Arizona’s audit, describing it as a step toward his “reinstatement.” On July 24th, he appeared in Phoenix for a “Rally to Protect Our Elections,” and said, “I am not the one trying to undermine American democracy—I’m the one trying to save American democracy.” Predicting that the audit would vindicate him, he rambled angrily for nearly two hours about having been cheated, calling the election “a scam—the greatest crime in history.”
In June, I stood in the bleachers at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, where the audit was taking place, and witnessed people examining carton after carton of paper ballots cast by Arizonans last fall. Some inspectors used microscopes to investigate surreal allegations: that some ballots had been filled out by machines or were Asian counterfeits with telltale bamboo fibres. Other inspectors looked for creases in mail-in ballots, to determine whether they had been legitimately sent in envelopes or—as Trump has alleged—dumped in bulk.
As the audit has unfolded, various violations of professional norms have been observed, including inspectors caught with pens whose ink matched what was used on ballots. One auditor turned out to have been an unsuccessful Republican candidate during the election. As I watched the proceedings, black-vested paid supervisors monitored the process, but their role was cloaked in secrecy. The audit is almost entirely privately funded, and a county judge in Arizona recently ordered the State Senate to disclose who is paying for it. Last week, Cyber Ninjas acknowledged having received $5.7 million in private donations, most of it from nonprofit groups led by Trump allies who live outside Arizona, including Byrne.
I was joined in the bleachers by Ken Bennett, a former Arizona secretary of state and a Republican, whom the State Senate had designated its liaison to the audit. He acknowledged that, if the auditors end up claiming to have found large discrepancies, “that will of course be very inflammatory.” Indeed, a recent incendiary claim by the auditors—that the vote had tallied about seventy thousand more mail-in ballots than had been postmarked—prompted one Republican state senator to propose a recall of Arizona’s electoral votes for Biden. (In fact, the auditors misunderstood what they were counting.)
Nevertheless, Bennett defended the audit process: “It’s important to prove to both sides that the election was done accurately and fairly. If we lurch from one election to another with almost half the electorate thinking the election was a fraud, it’s going to rip our country apart.”
Many experts on democratic governance, however, believe that efforts to upend long-settled election practices are what truly threaten to rip the country apart. Chad Campbell, a Democrat who was the minority leader in the Arizona House of Representatives until 2014, when he left to become a consultant in Phoenix, has been shocked by the state’s anti-democratic turn.
For several years, he sat next to Karen Fann when she was a member of the House, and in his view she’s gone from being a traditional Republican lawmaker to being a member of “Trump’s cult of personality.” He said, “I don’t know if she believes it or not, or which would be worse.” Arizona, he added, is in the midst of a “nonviolent overthrow in some ways—it’s subtle, and not in people’s face because it’s not happening with weapons. But it’s still a complete overthrow of democracy. They’re trying to disenfranchise everyone who is not older white guys.”
Arizona is hardly the only place where attacks on the electoral process are under way: a well-funded national movement has been exploiting Trump’s claims of fraud in order to promote alterations to the way that ballots are cast and counted in forty-nine states, eighteen of which have passed new voting laws in the past six months. Republican-dominated legislatures have also stripped secretaries of state and other independent election officials of their power. The chair of Arizona’s Republican Party, Kelli Ward, has referred to the state’s audit as a “domino,” and has expressed hope that it will inspire similar challenges elsewhere.
Ralph Neas has been involved in voting-rights battles since the nineteen-eighties, when, as a Republican, he served as the executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. He has overseen a study of the Arizona audit for the nonpartisan Century Foundation, and he told me that, though the audit is a “farce,” it may nonetheless have “extraordinary consequences.” He said, “The Maricopa County audit exposes exactly what the Big Lie is all about. If they come up with an analysis that discredits the 2020 election results in Arizona, it will be replicated in other states, furthering more chaos. That will enable new legislation. Millions of Americans could be disenfranchised, helping Donald Trump to be elected again in 2024. That’s the bottom line. Maricopa County is the prism through which to view everything. It’s not so much about 2020—it’s about 2022 and 2024. This is a coördinated national effort to distort not just what happened in 2020 but to regain the House of Representatives and the Presidency.”
Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and one of the country’s foremost election-law experts, told me, “I’m scared shitless.” Referring to the array of new laws passed by Republican state legislatures since the 2020 election, he said, “It’s not just about voter suppression. What I’m really worried about is election subversion. Election officials are being put in place who will mess with the count.”
Arizona’s secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, whose office has authority over the administration of elections, told me that the conspiracy-driven audit “looks so comical you have to laugh at it sometimes.” But Hobbs, a Democrat, who is running for governor, warned, “It’s dangerous. It’s feeding the kind of misinformation that led to the January 6th insurrection.” QAnon followers have been celebrating the audit as the beginning of a “Great Awakening” that will eject Biden from the White House.
She noted, “I’ve gotten death threats. I’ve had armed protestors outside my house. Every day, there is a total barrage of social media to our office. We’ve had to route our phones to voice mail so that no one has to listen to it. It can be really traumatizing. I feel beaten up.” She added, “But I’m not going to cave to their tactics—because I think they’re laying the groundwork to steal the 2024 elections.”
Although the Arizona audit may appear to be the product of local extremists, it has been fed by sophisticated, well-funded national organizations whose boards of directors include some of the country’s wealthiest and highest-profile conservatives. Dark-money organizations, sustained by undisclosed donors, have relentlessly promoted the myth that American elections are rife with fraud, and, according to leaked records of their internal deliberations, they have drafted, supported, and in some cases taken credit for state laws that make it harder to vote.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island who has tracked the flow of dark money in American politics, told me that a “flotilla of front groups” once focussed on advancing such conservative causes as capturing the courts and opposing abortion have now “more or less shifted to work on the voter-suppression thing.” These groups have cast their campaigns as high-minded attempts to maintain “election integrity,” but Whitehouse believes that they are in fact tampering with the guardrails of democracy.
One of the movement’s leaders is the Heritage Foundation, the prominent conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. It has been working with the American Legislative Exchange Council (alec)—a corporate-funded nonprofit that generates model laws for state legislators—on ways to impose new voting restrictions. Among those deep in the fight is Leonard Leo, a chairman of the Federalist Society, the legal organization known for its decades-long campaign to fill the courts with conservative judges. In February, 2020, the Judicial Education Project, a group tied to Leo, quietly rebranded itself as the Honest Elections Project, which subsequently filed briefs at the Supreme Court, and in numerous states, opposing mail-in ballots and other reforms that have made it easier for people to vote.
Another newcomer to the cause is the Election Integrity Project California. And a group called FreedomWorks, which once concentrated on opposing government regulation, is now demanding expanded government regulation of voters, with a project called the National Election Protection Initiative.
These disparate nonprofits have one thing in common: they have all received funding from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Based in Milwaukee, the private, tax-exempt organization has become an extraordinary force in persuading mainstream Republicans to support radical challenges to election rules—a tactic once relegated to the far right. With an endowment of some eight hundred and fifty million dollars, the foundation funds a network of groups that have been stoking fear about election fraud, in some cases for years. Public records show that, since 2012, the foundation has spent some eighteen million dollars supporting eleven conservative groups involved in election issues.
It might seem improbable that a low-profile family foundation in Wisconsin has assumed a central role in current struggles over American democracy. But the modern conservative movement has depended on leveraging the fortunes of wealthy reactionaries. In 1903, Lynde Bradley, a high-school dropout in Milwaukee, founded what would become the Allen-Bradley company. He was soon joined by his brother Harry, and they got rich by selling electronic instruments such as rheostats.
Harry, a John Birch Society founding member, started a small family foundation that initially devoted much of its giving to needy employees and to civic causes in Milwaukee. In 1985, after the brothers’ death, their heirs sold the company to the defense contractor Rockwell International, for $1.65 billion, generating an enormous windfall for the foundation. The Bradley Foundation remains small in comparison with such liberal behemoths as the Ford Foundation, but it has become singularly preoccupied with wielding national political influence. It has funded conservative projects ranging from school-choice initiatives to the controversial scholarship of Charles Murray, the co-author of the 1994 book “The Bell Curve,” which argues that Blacks are less likely than whites to join the “cognitive elite.” And, at least as far back as 2012, it has funded groups challenging voting rights in the name of fighting fraud.
Since the 2020 election, this movement has evolved into a broader and more aggressive assault on democracy. According to some surveys, a third of Americans now believe that Biden was illegitimately elected, and nearly half of Trump supporters agree that Republican legislators should overturn the results in some states that Biden won.
Jonathan Rauch, of the Brookings Institution, recently told The Economist, “We need to regard what’s happening now as epistemic warfare by some Americans on other Americans.” Pillars of the conservative establishment, faced with a changing U.S. voter population that threatens their agenda, are exploiting Trump’s contempt for norms to devise ways to hold on to power. Senator Whitehouse said of the campaign, “It’s a massive covert operation run by a small group of billionaire élites.These are powerful interests with practically unlimited resources who have moved on to manipulating that most precious of American gifts—the vote.”
An animating force behind the Bradley Foundation’s war on “election fraud” is Cleta Mitchell, a fiercely partisan Republican election lawyer, who joined the organization’s board of directors in 2012. Until recently, she was virtually unknown to most Americans. But, on January 3rd, the Washington Post exposed the contents of a private phone call, recorded the previous day, during which Trump threatened election officials in Georgia with a “criminal offense” unless they could “find” 11,780 more votes for him—just enough to alter the results. Also on the call was Mitchell, who challenged the officials to provide records proving that dead people hadn’t cast votes. The call was widely criticized as a rogue effort to overturn the election, and Foley & Lardner, the Milwaukee-based law firm where Mitchell was a partner, announced that it was “concerned” about her role, and then parted ways with her. Trump’s call prompted the district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, to begin a criminal investigation.
In a series of e-mails and phone calls with me, Mitchell adamantly defended her work with the Trump campaign, and said that in Georgia, where she has centered her efforts, “I don’t think we can say with certainty who won.” She told me that there were countless election “irregularities,” such as voters using post-office boxes as their residences, in violation of state law. “I believe there were more illegal votes cast than the margin of victory,” she said. “The only remedy is a new election.” Georgia’s secretary of state rejected her claims, but Mitchell insists that the decision lacked a rigorous evaluation of the evidence. With her support, diehard conspiracy theorists are still litigating the matter in Fulton County, which includes most of Atlanta.
Because they keep demanding that election officials prove a negative—that corruption didn’t happen—their requests to keep interrogating the results can be repeated almost indefinitely. Despite three independent counts of Georgia’s vote, including a hand recount, all of which confirmed Biden’s victory, Mitchell argues that “Trump never got his day in court,” adding, “There are a lot of miscarriages of justice I’ve seen and experienced in my life, and this was one of them.”
Mitchell, who is seventy, has warm friendships with people in both parties, and she often appears grandmotherly, in pastel knit suits and reading glasses. But, like Angela Lansbury in “The Manchurian Candidate,” to whom she bears a striking resemblance, she should not be underestimated. She began her political career in Oklahoma, as an outspoken Democrat and a champion of the Equal Rights Amendment. She was elected to the state legislature in her twenties, but then lost a bid for lieutenant governor, in 1986. She told me that she subsequently underwent a political conversion: when her stepson squandered the college tuition that she was paying, she turned against the idea of welfare in favor of personal responsibility, and began reading conservative critiques of liberalism. When I first interviewed her for this magazine, in 1996, she told me that “overreaching government regulation is one of the great scandals of our times.”
On behalf of Republican candidates and groups, she began to fight limits on campaign spending. She also represented numerous right-wing nonprofits, including the National Rifle Association, whose board she joined in the early two-thousands. A former N.R.A. official recently told the Guardian that Mitchell was the “fringe of the fringe,” and a Republican voting-rights lawyer said that “she tells clients what they want to hear, regardless of the law or reality.”
In our conversations, Mitchell mocked what she called the mainstream media’s “narrative” of a “vast right-wing conspiracy to suppress the vote of Black people,” and insisted that the fraud problem was significant. “I actually think your readers need to hear from people like me—believe it or not, there are tens of millions of us,” she wrote. “We are not crazy. At least not to us. We are intelligent and educated people who are very concerned about the future of America. And we are among the vast majority of Americans who support election-integrity measures.” Echoing what has become the right’s standard talking point, she declared that her agenda for elections is “to make it harder to cheat.”
Mitchell told me that the Democrats used the pandemic as a “great pretext” to “be able to cheat”: they caused “administrative chaos” by changing rules about early and absentee voting, and they didn’t adequately police fraud. She denied that race had motivated her actions in Georgia. Yet, in an e-mail to me, she said that Democrats are “using black voters as a prop to accomplish their political objectives.”
Few experts have found Mitchell’s evidence convincing. On November 12, 2020, the Trump Administration’s own election authorities declared the Presidential vote to be “the most secure in American history.” It is true that in many American elections there are small numbers of questionable ballots. An Associated Press investigation found that, in 2020, a hundred and eighty-two of the 3.4 million ballots cast in Arizona were problematic. Four of the ballots have led to criminal charges. But the consensus among nonpartisan experts is that the amount of fraud, particularly in major races, is negligible. As Phil Keisling, a former secretary of state in Oregon, who pioneered universal voting by mail, has said, “Voters don’t cast fraudulent ballots for the same reason counterfeiters don’t manufacture pennies—it doesn’t pay.”
What explains, then, the hardening conviction among Republicans that the 2020 race was stolen? Michael Podhorzer, a senior adviser to the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., which invested deeply in expanding Democratic turnout in 2020, suggests that the two parties now have irreconcilable beliefs about whose votes are legitimate. “What blue-state people don’t understand about why the Big Lie works,” he said, is that it doesn’t actually require proof of fraud. “What animates it is the belief that Biden won because votes were cast by some people in this country who others think are not ‘real’ Americans.” This anti-democratic belief has been bolstered by a constellation of established institutions on the right: “white evangelical churches, legislators, media companies, nonprofits, and even now paramilitary groups.” Podhorzer noted, “Trump won white America by eight points. He won non-urban areas by over twenty points. He is the democratically elected President of white America. It’s almost like he represents a nation within a nation.”
Alarmism about election fraud in America extends at least as far back as Reconstruction, when white Southerners disenfranchised newly empowered Black voters and politicians by accusing them of corruption. After the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, some white conservatives were frank about their hostility to democracy. Forty years ago, Paul Weyrich, who helped establish the Heritage Foundation and other conservative groups, admitted, “I don’t want everybody to vote. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
Like many conservatives of her generation, Cleta Mitchell was galvanized by the disputed 2000 election, in which George W. Bush and Al Gore battled for weeks over the outcome in Florida. She repeatedly spoke out on behalf of Bush, who won the state by only five hundred and thirty-seven votes. A dispute over recounts ended up at the Supreme Court.
Few people noticed at the time, but in that case, Bush v. Gore, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, along with Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, hinted at a radical reading of the Constitution that, two decades later, undergirds many of the court challenges on behalf of Trump. In a concurring opinion, the Justices argued that state legislatures have the plenary power to run elections and can even pass laws giving themselves the right to appoint electors. Today, the so-called Independent Legislature Doctrine has informed Trump and the right’s attempts to use Republican-dominated state legislatures to overrule the popular will. Nathaniel Persily, an election-law expert at Stanford, told me, “It’s giving intellectual respectability to an otherwise insane, anti-democratic argument.”
Barack Obama’s election in 2008 made plain that the voting-rights wars were fuelled, in no small part, by racial animus. Bigoted conspiracists, including Trump, spent years trying to undermine the result by falsely claiming that Obama wasn’t born in America. Birtherism, which attempted to undercut a landmark election in which the turnout rate among Black voters nearly matched that of whites, was a progenitor of the Big Lie. As Penda Hair, a founder of the Advancement Project, a progressive voting-rights advocacy group, told me, conservatives were looking at Obama’s victory “and saying, ‘We’ve got to clamp things down’—they’d always tried to suppress the Black vote, but it was then that they came up with new schemes.”
Mitchell was at the forefront of the right’s offensive. In 2010, she accused the Majority Leader of the Senate, the Democrat Harry Reid, who was running for reëlection in Nevada, of planning “to steal this election if he can’t win it outright.” Her evidence was that Democrats in the state had provided “clearly illegal” free food at voter-turnout events—a negligible infraction, given that Reid won by more than forty thousand votes.
A year later, Mitchell successfully defended Trump, who had been exploring a Presidential bid, against charges that he had taken illegal campaign contributions. She had been recommended to Trump by Chris Ruddy, the founder of the conservative media company Newsmax, which was also a Mitchell client. Later, Ruddy introduced the future President to Mitchell over dinner at Mar-a-Lago. (She told me that she found Trump “gracious,” and noted that, since the 2020 election, she has talked with him “pretty often.”)
In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act, eliminating the Justice Department’s power to screen proposed changes to election procedures in states with discriminatory histories, one of which was Arizona. Terry Goddard, a former Arizona attorney general and a Democrat, told me that “the state has a history of voter suppression, especially against Native Americans.” Before Rehnquist became a Supreme Court Justice, in 1971, he lived in Arizona, where he was accused of administering literacy tests to voters of color. In the mid-two-thousands, Goddard recalled, Republican leaders erected many barriers aimed at deterring Latino voters, some of which the courts struck down. But the 2013 Supreme Court ruling initiated a new era of election manipulation.
Around this time, Mitchell became a director at the Bradley Foundation. Among the board members were George F. Will, the syndicated columnist, and Robert George, a Princeton political philosopher known for his defense of traditional Catholic values. By 2017, Will, who has been a critic of Trump, had stepped down from the Bradley board. But George has continued to serve as a director, even as the foundation has heavily funded groups promulgating the falsehood that election fraud is widespread in America, particularly in minority communities, and sowing doubt about the legitimacy of Biden’s win. The foundation, meanwhile, has given nearly three million dollars to programs that George established at Princeton. He has written in praise of Pence’s refusal to decertify Biden’s election, and has lamented that so many Americans believe, “wrongly,” that “the election was ‘stolen.’ ” But he declined to discuss with me why, then, he serves on the Bradley Foundation’s board.
The board includes Art Pope, the libertarian discount-store magnate, who serves on the board of governors at the University of North Carolina. Pope, who has also acknowledged the legitimacy of Biden’s victory, declined to discuss his role at the foundation. Another board member is Paul Clement, a partner at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, who is one of the country’s most distinguished Supreme Court litigators. He could not be reached for comment.
Mitchell argues that the right spends “a pittance” on election issues compared with the left. “Have you looked at the Democracy Alliance?” she asked me. The Alliance, whose membership is secret, distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in dark money to many left-leaning causes. But, when it comes to influencing elections, the contrast with the Bradley Foundation is clear. Whereas the Alliance’s efforts have centered on increasing voter participation, the Bradley Foundation has focussed on disqualifying ostensibly illegitimate voters.
Like most private nonprofits, the Bradley Foundation doesn’t disclose much about its inner workings. But in 2016 hackers posted online some of the group’s confidential documents, which showed that, once Mitchell became a director, she began urging the foundation to support nonprofit organizations policing election fraud. Mitchell has professional ties to several of the groups that received money, although she says that she has abstained from voting on grants to any of those organizations.
One recipient of Bradley money is True the Vote, a Texas-based group that, among other things, trains people to monitor polling sites. Mitchell has served as its legal counsel, and hacked documents show that she advocated to the I.R.S. that the group deserved tax-exempt status as a charity. To earn such a designation, a group must file federal tax forms promising not to engage in electoral politics. In a letter of support, she asserted that “fraudulent voting occurs in the United States,” citing a 2010 case in which the F.B.I. arrested nine Floridians for election violations. But, as with many voter-fraud allegations, the details of the case were less than advertised. The accusation involved a school-board election in a rural Black community in which a campaign had collected dozens of absentee ballots, in violation of the law. The charges were eventually dismissed. The judge found “no intent to cast a false or fraudulent ballot.” True the Vote, which was granted tax-exempt status, has since been the subject of numerous complaints from voters, who have accused it of intimidation and racism.
Last year, a Reuters report characterized Mitchell as one of four lawyers leading the conservative war on “election fraud,” and described True the Vote as one of the movement’s hubs. The story linked the group and three other conservative nonprofits to at least sixty-one election lawsuits since 2012. Reuters noted that, during the same period, the four groups, along with two others devoted to election-integrity issues, have received more than three and a half million dollars from the Bradley Foundation.
It’s a surprisingly short leap from making accusations of voter fraud to calling for the nullification of a supposedly tainted election. The Public Interest Legal Foundation, a group funded by the Bradley Foundation, is leading the way. Based in Indiana, it has become a prolific source of litigation; in the past year alone, it has brought nine election-law cases in eight states. It has amassed some of the most visible lawyers obsessed with election fraud, including Mitchell, who is its chair and sits on its board.
One of the group’s directors is John Eastman, a former law professor at Chapman University, in California. On January 4, 2021, he visited the White House, where he spoke with Trump about ways to void the election. In a nod to the Independent Legislature Doctrine, Eastman and Trump tried to persuade Vice-President Mike Pence to halt the certification of the Electoral College vote, instead throwing the election to the state legislatures. Pence was not persuaded.
Two days later, Eastman spoke at Trump’s “Save America” rally in Washington, hours before the crowds ransacked the Capitol in an effort to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s win. “This is bigger than President Trump!” Eastman declared. “It is the very essence of our republican form of government, and it has to be done!” He thundered that election officials had robbed Trump by illegally casting ballots in the name of non-voters whose records they had extracted, after the polls had closed, from a “secret folder” in electronic voting machines. He told the crowd that the scandal was visible in “the data.” There is no evidence of such malfeasance, however. Eastman, who recently retired, under pressure, from Chapman University, and was stripped of his public duties at another post that he held, at the University of Colorado Boulder, told me he still believes that the election was stolen, and thinks that the audits in Arizona and other states will help prove it. The Bradley Foundation declined to comment on him, or on Mitchell, when asked about its role in funding their activities.