As the January 6 committee hearings continue, many see the panel’s work as an investigation of an event that happened on a single day. To be sure, reconstructing the attack on the Capitol is crucial to the committee’s efforts. But it’s important to understand that the story of the attempt to overturn the will of the voters is still unfolding.
The narrative that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, which fueled the violence on that day, is playing a central role in key elections this year, including some that will decide who runs the 2024 elections. And some of those behind the rally that preceded the Capitol attack are spending tens of millions of dollars to influence 2022 federal, state, and local elections.
Several nonprofits organized the rally on January 6 where Trump’s speech culminated in him claiming the elections were “corrupt,” saying “we fight like hell,” and calling on people to march to the Capitol. The funding behind these groups has not been publicly disclosed, so it’s unknown how much the people who paid for it are spending on this year’s elections. There is, however, some limited information available.
Packaging supplies magnate Richard Uihlein was reportedly one of the biggest financial supporters of the rally. He contributed $4 million in recent years to the Tea Party Patriots, one of the partners in organizing the rally. Uihlein’s foundation has also supported Turning Point Action, whose leader, Charlie Kirk, claimed to have sent “80+ buses” to the rally.
The foundation has also given $1.8 million since 2018 to the Conservative Partnership Institute, which has promoted the Big Lie. The institute holds “election integrity” summits to recruit poll workers with “false allegations of fraud in 2020 as a call to action to rally support for vigilant engagement this year in the election process.”
Uihlein is one of the biggest election donors in the country. He has donated $38 million to federal political committees — candidates, parties, and super PACs — since January 2021. He has also given tens of thousands of dollars to candidates for statewide and legislative offices across several states. Uihlein’s donations have supported election denial candidates for governor or secretary of state in Georgia, Nevada, and Texas. Donations from Uihlein comprise virtually all the funding for Restoration PAC, a super PAC that has been active in state races this year in Georgia and Virginia, in addition to spreading election denial with attack ads targeting local elections in Wisconsin.
Others have shown support for the “stop the steal” movement’s attempt to discredit the 2020 result and gone on to plow millions into the 2022 election.
Tech billionaire Peter Thiel, while hosting a political fundraiser earlier this year, reportedly commented that he wants to replace “the traitorous 10” — the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over his role in January 6. Thiel has donated more than $20 million to political committees this cycle.
Larry Ellison, founder and chairman of Oracle, reportedly joined a November 2020 call to discuss strategies for contesting the election result with Trump attorney Jay Sekulow, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), and others who promoted election fraud narratives. Ellison has donated $20 million to a super PAC called the Opportunity Matters Fund, making him one of the most prolific election donors this cycle.
Trump’s own role in the insurrection has of course been a key focus of the inquiry. In this election cycle, Trump’s leadership PAC, Save America, has spent more than $9 million on federal and state candidates and other political groups. This includes $1 million to Conservative Partnership Institute, the group recruiting poll workers with election denial, which employs Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer involved in Trump’s election challenges, and Mark Meadows, Trump’s White House chief of staff. The millions Save America has expended so far are only a small fraction of the group’s reported $107 million in cash on hand at the beginning of May.
The January 6 committee is also investigating the Republican National Committee, which last month had a judge reject its attempt to block the panel from acquiring email fundraising records from the RNC’s vendor, Salesforce. The court said, “Claims that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent or stolen motivated some who participated in the attack, and emails sent by the RNC and the Trump campaign using Salesforce’s platform spread those claims.” This year, the RNC is recruiting and training “an army” of poll workers in Democratic-leaning communities who would be in contact with party attorneys and looking for ways to challenge voters.
The false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen was a rallying cry for those who attacked the Capitol on January 6. Unfortunately, it has not faded away since then. The wealthy interests spending big on upcoming elections either still believe it or are cynically manipulating it for political ends. With the support of megadonors, the Big Lie behind the insurrection continues to threaten to wreak havoc on our elections.