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Financing of Races for Offices that Oversee Elections: August 2022

Campaigns based on election denial have racked up primary wins and financial support from outside groups and donors, but so have opponents of the Big Lie.

Published: August 1, 2022
Money and campaign ads
Daniel Cullen/Spyros Arsenis/EyeEm/Alan Schein Photography/Getty
View the entire Tracking Races for Election Administration Positions series

Across the coun­­try, states are hold­ing elec­tions for offices like secret­ary of state that will play key roles in running the 2024 elec­­tions. In many states, the parties’ nomin­ees are known, and the general elec­tion is already under­way. These races are attract­ing far more atten­­tion this year than in recent memory. Part of the reason for the increas­ing visib­il­ity of elec­­tion offi­­cials is the spread of the Big Lie that voter fraud “stole” the 2020 race from Pres­id­ent Trump. In state after state, campaigns focus on elec­­tion denial as a cent­ral issue. 

In this series, the Bren­nan Center exam­ines the finances and polit­ical messages in contests that are import­ant to the future of elec­­tion admin­is­tra­­tion. Through­out 2022, we regu­larly look at relev­ant contests in battle­­­ground states that had the closest results in the 2020 pres­id­en­­tial elec­­tion. As candid­ates file disclos­ure forms and inform­a­­tion becomes avail­­able, we exam­ine ques­­tions such as how much money is raised, who the biggest donors are, and how much outside spend­ers, like super PACs and dark money groups, spend. 

Here are some of our newest key find­ings:

  • Across six states with a secret­ary of state elec­tion this year, fundrais­ing by candid­ates has totaled $16.3 million, more than double that raised by an analog­ous point in 2018. The biggest increase is in Nevada, where candid­ates have raised $2.6 million — more than five times the last cycle.
  • Out-of-state money is rising as well, show­ing that the increase is not coming only from constitu­ents of these state offices. Arizona has seen the largest boom in money from other states, almost four times more than in 2018.
  • Across all six states, 12 elec­tion denial candid­ates have together raised $7.3 million. That’s less than the $8.1 million collec­ted alto­gether by the 10 candid­ates who have taken a stance against elec­tion denial — most of which was raised by incum­bents, who have an inher­ent fundrais­ing advant­age. Without incum­bents, the six remain­ing oppon­ents of elec­tion denial have together raised $4 million.
  • Outside spend­ers are active in secret­ary of state races, in which super PACs and dark money groups have spent at least $8.8 million, with $5.6 million in Arizona alone. While some of this spend­ing pushes elec­tion denial messages, most of what we have found opposes elec­tion denial candid­ates and appears to be funded by tradi­tional Repub­lican groups or liberal organ­izers, includ­ing labor. We have also seen outside spend­ing involving elec­tion denial in local races in Nevada and Wiscon­sin.
  • Prom­in­ent elec­tion deniers have attrac­ted large dona­tions — often the legal maximum — from donors who are active in multiple states. Several prom­in­ent donors have ties to the Janu­ary 6 insur­rec­tion and other chal­lenges to the 2020 elec­tion result, includ­ing former Over­stock CEO Patrick Byrne, construc­tion soft­ware CEO Michael Rydin, and pack­ing supplies magnate Richard Uihlein. Most of the donors we iden­ti­fied had not given to secret­ary of state candid­ates before this elec­tion.

At this point in the primary season, the Novem­ber ballot is set for races for governor or secret­ary of state in several states in our sample, and elec­tion denial candid­ates have seen mixed results. Elec­tion deniers advanced in seven of the ten contests for statewide office where parties have either held a primary or endorsed a presumptive nominee. In the coming months, there will be six more primary elec­tions in four states where elec­tion deniers are running for statewide office. 

In Geor­gia, incum­bents beat back chal­lenges from elec­tion deni­al­ists in Repub­lican primar­ies for governor and secret­ary of state. Michigan’s state Repub­lican Party has endorsed an elec­tion denier for secret­ary of state, who will face the incum­bent in Novem­ber. In Minnesota, the GOP has endorsed elec­tion deniers for both governor and secret­ary of state. Nevada’s Repub­lican gubernat­orial nominee has acknow­ledged that Biden won, although he has ques­­­tioned whether it was “fair and square,” and an elec­tion denier won the primary for Nevada secret­ary of state. Repub­lican gubernat­orial nomin­ees in Flor­ida and Pennsylvania have cast doubt on the 2020 elec­tion.

In addi­tion, a number of local races we are track­ing have seen elec­tion deniers advance to the general elec­tion. Elec­tion deniers will be on the Novem­ber ballot in multiple Nevada counties, includ­ing chal­lengers who beat their own party’s incum­bent in Storey County and Washoe County. And voters in Travis County, Texas, will see an elec­tion denier on the ballot in Novem­ber. 

These trends are not unique to our sample of battle­ground states, of course. There will be at least 120 elec­tion deniers on general elec­tion ballots in federal and state races this year. 

Some candid­ates who lost primar­ies this year have used elec­tion denial narrat­ives to claim their own losses were ille­git­im­ate. Joey Gilbert, defeated in the Repub­lican gubernat­orial primary in Nevada by approx­im­ately 26,000 votes, said after the race was called, “I will concede noth­ing.” He also claimed that there were several viol­a­tions of elec­tion law in the primary. In July, he filed a lawsuit contest­ing the result. The suit claims that the repor­ted result viol­ates math­em­at­ical laws that govern the ratio between mail, early, and Elec­tion Day vote totals — claims similar to debunked argu­ments about 2020. The suit claims votes for Gilbert in the Repub­lican primary were some­how trans­ferred to the incum­bent running in the Demo­cratic primary.

The phenomenon is not limited to the battle­ground states in our sample.Tina Peters (R) lost her primary bid for Color­ado secret­ary of state by 88,000 votes after a campaign in which she ques­tioned the 2020 results and defen­ded herself against crim­inal charges that, as clerk of Mesa County, she allowed unau­thor­ized access to elec­tion systems. When her race was called, Peters said, “We didn’t lose, we just found evid­ence of more fraud . . . they’re cheat­ing and we’ll prove it once again.”

At least one candid­ate has turned deny­ing the legit­im­acy of his loss into fundrais­ing success. Joe Dill lost the Repub­lican primary for a county coun­cil seat in Green­ville County, South Caro­lina, and sought to over­turn the result by point­ing to “irreg­u­lar­it­ies” like voters being told to vote in precincts other than where they live and prob­lems with voting machine calib­ra­tion. Dill raised 66 percent of his fund­ing for the cycle — $7,665 — after the June 14 primary. 

Even without a loss, some candid­ates are making claims of elec­tion fraud in this year’s primar­ies. The winner of the Nevada GOP primary for secret­ary of state, Jim Marchant, expressed doubts about the June elec­tion, saying there were “anom­alies — mali­cious or acci­dental,” and “I’m surprised that I won.” And in Arizona, candid­ates have sugges­ted that the upcom­ing primary will be tain­ted. Gubernat­orial candid­ate Kari Lake (R) said a primary oppon­ent “might be trying to set the stage for another steal.” Mark Finchem (R), running for secret­ary of state, said in June: “Ain’t gonna be no conces­sion speech coming from this guy. I’m going to demand a 100 percent hand count if there’s the slight­est hint that there’s an impro­pri­ety.”

This week, Arizona and Michigan hold primar­ies that will determ­ine nomin­ees for governor or secret­ary of state. Next week, on August 9, there will be primar­ies in Minnesota and Wiscon­sin. 

Fundraising Analysis

Across the six battle­ground states with secret­ary of state elec­tions this year, fundrais­ing by candid­ates contin­ues to outpace recent elec­tions. The $16.3 million flow­ing into these races so far is more than double the amount at a similar point in the 2018 cycle.

Across all six states, we have iden­ti­fied 12 elec­tion denial candid­ates, who have together raised $7.3 million. That’s less than the $8.1 million raised alto­gether by the 10 candid­ates who have taken a stance against elec­tion denial — by, for example, describ­ing oppon­ents’ embrace of the Big Lie as a threat to Amer­ican demo­cracy. However, much of that is driven by secret­ar­ies of state running for reelec­tion and defend­ing their record with the signi­fic­ant fundrais­ing advant­age of incum­bency. With incum­bents removed, six oppon­ents of elec­tion denial have together raised $4 million. The 15 remain­ing candid­ates who have not taken a stand either way on elec­tion denial have together raised approx­im­ately $900,000.

Out-of-state dona­tions are on the rise as well. These contri­bu­tions are notable because they come from people who are not constitu­ents of the secret­ary of state. In the past, secret­ary of state races have not typic­ally had a national profile.

The partisan break­down shows 14 Demo­cratic candid­ates with $6.4 million alto­gether and 22 Repub­lic­ans with $10 million. The parties’ per-candid­ate aver­ages are the same, however, with approx­im­ately $455,000 for Demo­crats and $454,000 for Repub­lic­ans.

Candid­ate fundrais­ing does not paint the whole picture, of course. We have also seen at least $8.8 million in outside spend­ing from super PACs and dark money groups target­ing secret­ary of state races, with $5.6 million in Arizona alone.

These totals reflect the most recent data avail­­able for the 2022 cycle and data reflect­ing the closest analo­g­ous date for past cycles. There are differ­­ent report­ing sched­ules in differ­­ent states and cycles. In 2022, the latest avail­­able data covers the period ending on June 30 in Arizona, Geor­gia, Nevada, and Wiscon­sin, May 31 in Minnesota, and Decem­ber 31 in Michigan. In past cycles, the closest analo­g­ous filing period ended on May 31 or July 19 in Minnesota, June 30 in Geor­­­gia and Wiscon­sin, either June 30 or mid-August in Arizona, and vary­ing dates in late May to early June in Nevada. In Michigan, the most recent data for this cycle covers a period ending on Decem­ber 31, 2021, and our compar­ison to past cycles also goes through Decem­ber 31 of the year before the elec­­tion.

Arizona

This year’s secret­ary of state race in Arizona is outpa­cing the 2018 cycle, although not by as large a margin as other states in our sample. Two Repub­lic­ans lead fundrais­ing: Mark Finchem, who said that “Demo­crats stole the elec­tion,” has raised $1.2 million, and Beau Lane has $1.1 million. 

The contest has been flooded by out-of-state money. Donors from other states have given $1.2 million, almost four times more than in 2018. Finchem has relied the most on out-of-state donors, who account for 59 percent of his item­ized contri­bu­tions. (Under state law, candid­ates must report the name and address of dona­tions of $100 or more, but smal­ler dona­tions need not be item­ized.) State Rep. Regin­ald Bold­ing (D), who has claimed if his campaign is not success­ful, “Trump’s hand­picked candid­ate will have control of our elec­tions,” has raised 50 percent of his item­ized contri­bu­tions from outside Arizona.

Inde­pend­ent spend­ing is high in the race — a total of $5.6 million so far — much of it from groups that do not disclose their donors. That is almost 12 times the prior high-water mark for outside spend­ing in recent Arizona secret­ary of state contests, which was $470,000 in 2014.

This year’s inde­pend­ent spend­ing is largely focused on two candid­ates, and in each case, it exceeds the candid­ates’ own revenue. Finchem, although he is the clear fundrais­ing lead with $1.2 million, has been opposed by $1.7 million in expendit­ures on national email commu­nic­a­tions by the liberal group MoveOn.

Bold­ing, whose own fundrais­ing is less than $500,000, has benefited from $2.5 million in inde­pend­ent expendit­ures. The lion’s share, $1.2 million, came from Arizon­ans for a Just Demo­cracy, whose website says of the secret­ary of state race that “our very demo­cracy [is] at stake” and warns that some candid­ates “will attempt to under­mine the will of the voters and over[turn] the results in 2024.” Its major donors include the national liberal dark money group 1630 Fund, Color­ado phil­an­throp­ist Merle Cham­bers, and $500,000 that churned through a series of groups via trans­ac­tions of the same amount within one day or a few days, appar­ently origin­at­ing with Arizona Wins, a dark money group repres­ent­ing labor and progress­ive interests. The network of groups spend­ing in favor of Bold­ing has ties to a nonprofit he foun­ded and directs, Our Voice Our Vote.

Another secret­ary of state candid­ate with outside spend­ing in her favor is state Rep. Shawnna Bolick (R), who has said elec­tions are “manip­u­lated” and “elec­­tion offi­­cials colluded with the judi­ciary in 2020.” A super PAC called Elec­tion Integ­rity PAC suppor­ted her with more than $147,000 in spend­ing. Elec­tion Integ­rity PAC was formed in June and is fully funded by Restor­a­tion PAC, which is in turn funded by ship­ping supplies magnate Richard Uihlein, whose support for elec­tion denial is discussed further below.

The gubernat­orial contest in Arizona has seen signi­fic­ant outside spend­ing as well, with appar­ent connec­tions to the elec­tion denier move­ment. Former news­caster Kari Lake, who has repeatedly said that Trump won in 2020, is one of the top-polling candid­ates in the Repub­lican primary despite being greatly outspent by Karrin Taylor Robson. Lake has benefited from more than $2 million in outside spend­ing by a commit­tee called Put Arizona First, although it is unclear who provided the funds. Disclos­ures by Put Arizona First list its only donor as SPH Medical LLC and report the donor’s address as the same UPS Store in Phoenix that Put Amer­ica First uses as its address. No such corpor­a­tion is registered in Arizona, and a Cali­for­nia company by that name denies making the dona­tions. The expendit­ures paid for ads and texts made by a company owned by state Rep. Jake Hoff­man (R), a state senate candid­ate who served as a false elector for Trump and reportedly still ques­tions the 2020 pres­id­en­tial result. Hoff­man has ties to Turn­ing Point USA, which was involved in the Janu­ary 6 rally and has featured Lake in events and online inter­views.

Lake’s lead­ing oppon­ent in the GOP primary, Karrin Taylor Robson, has given more than $13 million to her own campaign, making her haul larger than what the entire gubernat­orial field raised in each of the last three elec­tions. Taylor Robson has also seen support from $2.5 million in outside spend­ing from Amer­ic­ans for Prosper­ity, one of the highest-spend­ing conser­vat­ive groups in the coun­try.

Geor­gia

In Geor­gia, where incum­bent Brad Raffen­sper­ger (R) won an expens­ive primary in May, over­all fundrais­ing is more than double that of last cycle. Jody Hice, who said that “Trump won Geor­gia,” raised the most money with $2.5 million but lost in the GOP primary. Raffen­sper­ger has raised $2.1 million. In addi­tion, two outside groups — Amer­ic­ans Keep­ing Coun­try First and Conser­vat­ives for Our Future — spent $2 million to produce ads support­ing Raffen­sper­ger in the lead-up to the primary. These two groups are funded by a partially over­lap­ping set of groups whose own fund­ing sources are obscure, includ­ing the Amer­ican Jobs and Growth Fund and Defend US.

Michigan

Michigan has not released data about candid­ate fundrais­ing since the reports cover­ing 2021. At that time, Secret­ary of State Jocelyn Benson had a command­ing finan­cial lead over the party-endorsed Repub­lican, Kristina Karamo, who says elec­tions have “massive corrup­tion.” Benson is being boos­ted by digital ads from a group called Progress Michigan, which does not reveal the original sources of most of its fund­ing. In July, Progress Michigan accep­ted $1.5 million from State Victory Action, a national liberal group. A pro-Karamo group, the Karamo SOS Fund, was formed in May but has not repor­ted revenue or expendit­ures yet.

Minnesota

Minnesota will hold its primary on August 9, but the general elec­tion matchup in the secret­ary of state race is already clear since the parties made their endorse­ments. The reelec­tion campaign of Secret­ary of State Steve Simon (D) has a large fundrais­ing advant­age, with over $600,000 raised. Repub­lican Kim Crock­ett, whose campaign showed the party conven­tion a video depict­ing phil­an­throp­ist George Soros controlling Simon accom­pan­ied by text read­ing, “Let’s wreck elec­tions forever and ever,” has raised almost $127,000.

Nevada

The contest for secret­ary of state in Nevada has seen the biggest leap in dollars raised in our sample. The $2.6 million collec­ted in 2022 is more than five times the amount raised by this point in past cycles. The Demo­cratic nominee, Cisco Aguilar, faced no oppos­i­tion in his primary and has been able to raise $1.1 million. The winner in the GOP primary for secret­ary of state was Jim Marchant, who said the 2020 elec­tion was “stolen.” Marchant won despite being signi­fic­antly outraised by Jesse Haw, who collec­ted more than $762,000 — although most of that came from the candid­ate himself. Haw was also suppor­ted by $1.2 million in outside spend­ing from a Virginia group called Amer­ic­ans for Secure Elec­tions PAC, which is funded by obscure dark money groups in the Wash­ing­ton, DC, area, like Amer­ican Advance­ment and Prosper­ity Alli­ance. A Marchant-controlled group, Conser­vat­ives for Elec­tion Integ­rity PAC, boos­ted him with TV ads, although with a much smal­ler spend.

Outside groups have attemp­ted to influ­ence Washoe County Commis­sion races, includ­ing with the use of elec­tion denial messages. Crypto­cur­rency million­aire Robert Beadles of Reno funds a group called the Frank­lin Project that has endorsed state and local candid­ates across Nevada. In Washoe County, the group boos­ted primary chal­lenger Mike Clark (R), who said the 2020 result was “math­em­at­ic­ally impossible” and ousted the incum­bent. The Frank­lin Project also endorsed incum­bent Jeanne Herman (R), who voted not to certify both the 2020 elec­tion and the primary that she won this year. Beadles writes a blog called Oper­a­tion Sunlight that publishes elec­tion conspir­acy theor­ies and has attacked oppon­ents of Clark and Herman. Beadles also contrib­uted directly to Marchant and to gubernat­orial candid­ate Joey Gilbert, who called to “decer­tify” the 2020 elec­tion.

Clark and Herman’s oppon­ents in the GOP primar­ies were suppor­ted by digital ad spend­ing by Open Demo­cracy PAC. Although the ads did not mention elec­tion denial, the group’s website says: “We must keep our nation’s elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion infra­struc­ture out of the hands of elec­tion deniers.” Open Demo­cracy endorses secret­ary of state candid­ates who oppose elec­tion denial in several states, and it previ­ously made expendit­ures in local Wiscon­sin races that simil­arly sought to support candid­ates attacked by elec­tion deniers. Those ads claimed that “our demo­cracy is at stake.”

Wiscon­sin

By this point in past cycles, Wiscon­sin secret­ary of state candid­ate fundrais­ing had not yet star­ted in earn­est. This cycle’s almost $218,000 is nearly 12 times the amount raised through June 30 of past elec­tion years. Almost 80 percent of that total was raised by State Rep. Amy Louden­beck (R). Incum­bent Secret­ary of State Doug La Follette (D) has collec­ted $19,000.

Election Denialism in 2022 Campaigns

Below we high­light some of the examples of elec­tion denial that have come to light since our last report. These and other examples are also collec­ted in cumu­lat­ive state-by-state resources.

Arizona

Kari Lake (R), a front-running candid­ate for governor who has claimed “Joe Biden did not win,” pree­mpt­ively cast doubt on the outcome of the upcom­ing Arizona primary. She told her support­ers in July that her top oppon­ent “might be trying to set the stage for another steal.” Another gubernat­orial candid­ate, Scott Neely (R), writes of the 2020 elec­tion on his campaign website, “There is no deny­ing that compoun­­ded errors and omis­­sions by elec­­tion offi­­cials and care­­less, shoddy elec­­tion prac­­tices and proced­ures have caused the prob­lem.” In a Face­book post, Neely wrote, “We allowed them to steal the elec­tion,” and encour­aged people to watch the movie 2000 Mules, which offers a debunked argu­ment that large numbers of people put false ballots in drop boxes.

The movie has also influ­enced the Arizona secret­ary of state race. State Rep. Shawnna Bolick, running in the GOP primary, presided over a present­a­tion by the produ­cers of 2000 Mules to the state senate. Bolick, who has claimed the elec­tion was “rigged,” said at the event, “We do know the elec­­tion offi­­cials colluded with the judi­­ciary in 2020.” Mark Finchem (R) released a campaign ad claim­ing credit for help­ing make the Cyber Ninjas ballot review happen. On the other side, Adrian Fontes, vying for the Demo­cratic nomin­a­tion, tweeted in June, “The Big Lie is a crim­inal conspir­acy.” A Fontes campaign ad says, “We can’t let Trump loyal­ists steal our fair elec­­tions.”

Mark Finchem campaign ad
Mark Finchem campaign ad

Flor­ida

As of a June 2022 press confer­­ence, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) “still would­n’t say if he believes Pres­id­ent Joe Biden was ‘duly and legally elec­ted’ in 2020.” In May, DeSantis appoin­ted State Rep. Cord Byrd (R) as Flor­id­a’s secret­ary of state. At a press confer­­ence, Byrd “refused to answer whether the elec­­tion was stolen.” Speak­­ing about the nomin­a­­tion and elec­­tion secur­ity, DeSantis said, “We are not going to allow these external influ­ences to come in and to corrupt the oper­­a­­tions. And we’re certainly not going to allow polit­ical oper­­at­ives to harvest all these votes, and then dump them some­where.” Demo­cratic primary fron­trun­ner Charlie Crist contin­ues to push the Big Lie as a campaign issue. His campaign sent an email to support­ers saying that those who attacked the Capitol on Janu­ary 6 “were incited by false claims that the 2020 pres­id­en­­tial elec­­tion was stolen, false claims that Gov. Ron DeSantis refuses to denounce. To this day, he still won’t admit the elec­­tion was legit­­im­ate.”

Michigan

The GOP primary for Michigan governor was shaken up in late May when five candid­ates, includ­ing the widely presumed front-runner, failed to collect enough valid signa­tures to qual­ify for the ballot. In early June, one of the candid­ates, Ryan Kelley, was arres­ted for alleged involve­ment in the Janu­ary 6 attack on the Capitol, which may have boos­ted his stand­ing in the polls. At a July debate, both Kelley and Garrett Soldano expli­­citly said they thought the 2020 elec­­tion was stolen, citing 2000 Mules as evid­ence.

In late July, secret­ary of state candid­ate Kristina Karamo (R) said in an inter­view that she is running because “the people of Michigan are tired of an elec­tion system that is full of corrup­tion and error and prob­lems, and it does­n’t get resolved.”

New Hamp­shire

Incum­bent Gov. Chris Sununu is a strong favor­ite to win the Repub­lican primary, but his chal­lengers have tried to make hay of false claims about the 2020 elec­tion. Thad Riley sent a campaign email to support­ers in June saying he “will work tire­­lessly to once and for all shut down the fraud that was so rampant in 2020.” Karen Test­er­­­­­­­man shared an event on Face­­book titled “Please Join Us Commit­tee on Voter Confid­ence Meet­ing… Special Present­a­­tion of Irre­­fut­­able Evid­­ence of Voter Fraud.”

Pennsylvania

Elec­tion denial was a highly visible issue in the GOP gubernat­orial primary in Pennsylvania. The winner, state Sen. Doug Mastri­ano, has falsely claimed that there were more votes coun­­­ted in the elec­­­tion than there are registered voters. The Demo­cratic nominee, Attor­ney General Josh Shapiro, is running ads criti­ciz­ing Mastri­ano for his stance on the 2020 elec­tion.

Josh Shapiro campaign ad
Josh Shapiro campaign ad

Wiscon­sin

Construc­­­­tion exec­ut­ive Tim Michels (R) entered the Wiscon­sin Repub­lican gubernat­orial primary in late April. He reportedly has refused to “say whether he would certify the next pres­id­en­tial elec­­­tion” or “whether Wiscon­­­sin’s 2020 elec­­­tion was prop­erly called.” In July, he said if elec­ted, he is not ruling out sign­ing legis­la­­tion to over­­turn the results of the 2020 elec­tion. One of his oppon­ents, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R), says in a campaign ad, “The liberal left is still trying to rig elec­­tions and cancel out your vote.”

In the state’s secret­ary of state race, Jay Schroeder (R), a former town super­­­­­visor of Menasha, Wiscon­­­­­sin, posted in May on Face­book about his belief that the 2020 elec­­tion was “rigged.” In June, Schroeder claimed the secret­ary of state has the power to stop Wiscon­sin’s Elect­oral College votes from being cast by refus­ing to sign a certi­fic­ate required under state law. He said, “I would­n’t have signed it. Period. That means they would­n’t have been awar­ded.” The campaign Face­­book page of another GOP contender, Justin Schmidtka, shared a post that discussed elim­in­at­ing alleged voter fraud and the movie 2000 Mules. Incum­bent Secret­ary of State Doug La Follette (D), running for reelec­tion, argued against propos­als to give the secret­ary of state the power to certify elec­­tions, saying that a future governor and secret­ary of state “could throw out the elec­­tion and send their own people to Wash­ing­ton.”

National Supporters of Election Denial

As the elec­tion season progresses, we see more donors giving large contri­bu­tions —some­times the maximum legal amount — across multiple states to elec­tion deniers running for governor or secret­ary of state. Several have ties to Janu­ary 6 and other attempts to over­turn the 2020 elec­tion. Some have also given to super PACs, allow­ing them to provide more support than contri­bu­tion limits allow. But with dark money groups active in many contests, there is much we don’t know about who is support­ing elec­tion deniers.

Patrick Byrne

Former Over­stock CEO Patrick Byrne has spent millions on “elec­tion integ­rity” efforts like the Cyber Ninjas review of the Mari­copa County, Arizona, 2020 elec­tion results. He parti­cip­ated in a Decem­ber 2020 Oval Office meet­ing discuss­ing the possib­il­ity of the milit­ary seiz­ing voting machines, which is under invest­ig­a­tion by the Janu­ary 6 commit­tee. He donated directly to Marchant in Nevada, despite not having previ­ously contrib­uted to a secret­ary of state candid­ate in our sample going back through the 2010 cycle. The Amer­ica Project, a nonprofit funded by Byrne that pushes elec­tion denial narrat­ives, has donated over $155,000 to Conser­vat­ives for Elec­tion Integ­rity PAC, a group controlled by Marchant that boosts elec­tion deniers in several states. The group gave $100,000 to a Color­ado super PAC called Citizens for Elec­tion Integ­rity that suppor­ted Tina Peters’s campaign for Color­ado secret­ary of state.

Michael Rydin

Michael Rydin, the CEO of a Texas construc­tion soft­ware company, has ties with elec­tion denial groups. The Conser­vat­ive Part­ner­ship Insti­tute, where one-time Trump campaign lawyer Cleta Mitchell runs an “Elec­tion Integ­rity Project” that pushes elec­tion denial narrat­ives, calls Rydin a “part­ner since our found­ing” who “made a gener­ous gift” to help buy a build­ing. Rydin is also on the advis­ory coun­cil for Turn­ing Point USA, an affil­i­ate of one of the groups that organ­ized and reportedly paid speak­ing fees for the Janu­ary 6 rally. Rydin made contri­bu­tions to Flor­ida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Attor­ney General Ken Paxton, who led a lawsuit that attemp­ted to block other states’ Elect­oral College votes. Rydin donated $12,000 to Jody Hice’s secret­ary of state campaign. He has not given to any secret­ary of state candid­ate in our sample going back through the 2010 elec­tion. 

Richard and Eliza­beth Uihlein

As docu­mented in prior entries in this series, pack­­a­ging supplies magnate Richard Uihlein has funded several groups tied to chal­len­­ging the elec­­tion and to the Janu­ary 6 insur­rec­­tion. He is the main funder of Restor­a­tion PAC, a super PAC that provided fund­ing to boost elec­tion denial candid­ates in the Geor­gia gubernat­orial primary and local elec­tions in Wiscon­sin. Uihlein donated to Hice in Geor­gia and Marchant in Nevada; he had not previ­ously donated to secret­ary of state candid­ates in our sample going back through the 2010 cycle. He also gave more than $224,000 to the Texas gubernat­orial campaign of Allen West, who called for elec­tion audits and jail time for the Harris County Clerk. Richard Uihlein’s wife, Eliza­beth, gave $500,000 to a super PAC support­ing Rebecca Kleefis­ch’s bid for Wiscon­sin governor, as well as $20,000 directly to her campaign. Together, the couple has donated $1 million to Flor­id­a’s DeSantis.

Trump-Affil­i­ated Commit­tees

Commit­tees affil­i­ated with former Pres­id­ent Donald Trump have been active in elec­tion deni­al­ist campaigns, most notably boost­ing David Perdue’s unsuc­cess­ful primary chal­lenge to incum­bent Geor­gia Gov. Brian Kemp (R). Disclos­ures since the state’s May primary reveal a greater scale of spend­ing than was publicly known before voters went to the polls. Trump’s lead­er­ship PAC, Save Amer­ica, provided a total of $3.4 million to two pro-Perdue groups, Get Geor­gia Right PAC and Take Back Geor­gia. In addi­tion, the “Trump-approved” super PAC Make Amer­ica Great Again, Again spent $192,525 on ads support­ing Perdue. As we previ­ously repor­ted, Save Amer­ica has donated directly to elec­tion deniers running for governor or secret­ary of state in Arizona, Geor­gia, and Michigan.

Delaney Stekr provided substan­tial research for this report.