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Financing of Races for Offices that Oversee Elections: May 2022

Candidates who push election denial are winning primaries and leading fundraising in races for offices that will run the 2024 elections.

Published: May 24, 2022
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Daniel Cullen/Spyros Arsenis/EyeEm/Alan Schein Photography/Getty
View the entire Tracking Races for Election Administration Positions series

Across the coun­try, races are well under­way for offices like state secret­ary of state that will play key roles in running the 2024 elec­tions. This year, these races are attract­ing far more atten­tion than in recent memory. Part of the reason for the increas­ing visib­il­ity of elec­tion offi­cials is the spread of the Big Lie that elec­tion fraud “stole” the 2020 race from Pres­id­ent Trump. In state after state, campaigns are focused 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 are taking a regu­lar 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 will exam­ine ques­tions such as how much money is raised, who the biggest donors are, how much candid­ates rely on small donors, and how much outside spend­ers like super PACs and dark money groups spend.

Since our last report in Febru­ary, nomin­ees who will stand in the general elec­tion have been decided in four of the states we’re follow­ing, teeing up elec­tion denial as an issue in key contests.

In Pennsylvania, the winner of the GOP primary was State Sen. Doug Mastri­ano, who convened public hear­ings about claims of wide­spread elec­tion fraud, talks about the power to “decer­tify” voting machines, and recently held an event with MyPil­low CEO Mike Lindell — an active spreader of false conspir­acy theor­ies — where attendees were asked to sign a peti­­tion to decer­­­tify the result of the 2020 elec­­tion. In Novem­ber’s open-seat general elec­tion, he will face Pennsylvania Attor­ney General Josh Shapiro (D), who has framed his campaign as oppos­ing “people who tried to over­turn the last elec­tion.” As Mastri­ano has emphas­ized, the governor appoints the secret­ary of the common­wealth, who over­sees Pennsylvania elec­tions, mean­ing the voters’ choice in this contest could have profound implic­a­tions for the admin­is­tra­tion of the 2024 elec­tions.

And Pennsylvania is far from the only state where it is possible an elec­tion denier will end up play­ing a key role in elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion in 2024. In its conven­tion this month, the Minnesota GOP’s endorsed gubernat­orial candid­ate Scott Jensen, who said the “elec­tion process was bastard­ized” and implied that Secret­ary of State Steve Simon (D) could go to jail for the way he ran the last elec­tion. The party also endorsed secret­ary of state candid­ate Kim Crock­ett, whose campaign showed a video to the conven­tion crowd that depic­ted Simon controlled by puppet strings in the hands of billion­aire phil­an­throp­ist George Soros with the caption, “Let’s wreck elec­tions forever and ever.”

The Michigan Repub­lican Party Conven­tion nomin­ated Kristina Karamo, who said of alleged voter fraud that there is “massive corrup­tion” and “a massive coverup.” Karamo will chal­lenge Secret­ary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), who alleged that “elec­­tion-deniers . . . want to take over statewide offices so they can poten­­tially be in a posi­­tion to block or undo or fail to certify elec­­tion results.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) decis­ively won his primary in March, defeat­ing several chal­lengers who espoused elec­tion denial claims. In Travis County, Texas, Dyana Limon-Mercado, who said, “Repub­­lic­ans spent 2021 trying to rig our elec­­tions in their favor,” won the Demo­cratic primary. She will face Susan Haynes, whose website says “our elec­tions have been manip­u­lated for quite some time” and ran unop­posed in the Repub­lican primary. Also in Texas, Hood County Clerk Katie Lang (R) defeated a primary chal­lenge from Michelle Carew, who said she ran because of partisan attempts “to control how elec­­­tions are run.”

The next primar­ies are Geor­gi­a’s on May 24 and Nevada’s on June 14. Arizona, Flor­ida, Michigan (gubernat­orial), Minnesota, and Wiscon­sin have primar­ies in August, and New Hamp­shire in Septem­ber.

Key Takeaways

Recent devel­op­ments in elec­tion offi­cial races, includ­ing an analysis of the most recent campaign finance data avail­able for secret­ary of state races in the states in our sample, reveal some key trends.

  • Money is flow­ing into secret­ary of state races at a rate not seen in recent memory. Across the six battle­ground states we are track­ing, candid­ates have collect­ively raised $13.3 million, more than two and a half times the $4.7 million raised by the analog­ous point in the 2018 cycle, and more than five times that of 2014.
  • New data in secret­ary of state contests reveals elec­tion deniers in Arizona, Geor­gia, and Nevada either in the lead or running a close second in fundrais­ing. On the other hand, candid­ates who have condemned elec­tion denial have over­whelm­ing fundrais­ing leads so far in Michigan and Minnesota.
  • Illus­trat­ing the nation­al­iz­a­tion of secret­ary of state races, national groups and donors are spend­ing to influ­ence them, includ­ing Donald Trump’s lead­er­ship PAC and others with ties to efforts to chal­lenge the 2020 result. On the other side, several national liberal groups are newly becom­ing active in secret­ary of state and local races to support oppon­ents of the Big Lie.
  • Donors who have not given to secret­ary of state candid­ates before are making major contri­bu­tions with a clear pattern of support for elec­tion denial candid­ates or for candid­ates who are running on the threat elec­tion denial poses to demo­cracy.
  • Elec­tion denial claims, as well as claims that it is an exist­en­tial threat to demo­cracy, are heat­ing up at the state level, and they are also show­ing up in more local elec­tion offi­cial contests, notably in Geor­gia and Nevada. Super PACs on both sides of the issue spent to influ­ence local races in Wiscon­sin in April. In those elec­tions, of the six candid­ates suppor­ted by outside messaging cast­ing doubt on the last elec­­tion, five won office, and three of those unseated incum­bents.

Fundraising Analysis

Across six battle­ground states with secret­ary of state elec­tions this year — Arizona, Geor­gia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, and Wiscon­sin — there has been a massive increase in campaign cash. In each of these states, 2022 candid­ates have raised more money than in any cycle since 2010.

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 March 31 in Arizona, Minnesota, and Nevada and April 30 in Geor­gia. In past cycles, the closest analog­ous filing period has ended on March 31 in Geor­gia and Minnesota, either March 31 or May 31 in Arizona, and vary­ing dates in late May in Nevada. In Michigan and Wiscon­sin, 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

Total fundrais­ing in the open-seat race for Arizon­a’s secret­ary of state has topped $3 million, almost double the amount raised by this stage of 2018 and four times that of 2014.

In the lead with more than $900,000 is State Rep. Mark Finchem (R), who has centered his campaign on calls to “decer­tify” the elec­tion that he claims “Trump won.” Advert­ising exec­ut­ive Beau Lane (R) is close behind, having raised over $860,000, followed by Demo­crats Adrian Fontes (about $480,000) and Regin­ald Bold­ing (about $380,000), who has said that Finchem “is set on dismant­ling, disrupt­ing, and destroy­ing our demo­cracy.”

National liberal group MoveOn repor­ted spend­ing $1.4 million in inde­pend­ent expendit­ures oppos­ing Finchem. MoveOn emails describe Finchem as a “supporter of the Big Lie.”

Geor­gia

Over­all, fundrais­ing in the secret­ary of state race has topped $6 million, three times more than by this point in 2018.

Rep. Jody Hice (R), who has said that “Trump won Geor­gia,” has the lead in fundrais­ing in his primary chal­lenge to Secret­ary of State Brad Raffen­sper­ger (R). Hice raised more than $620,000 in the first quarter of 2022, bring­ing his total to $2.2 million. Raffen­sper­ger, who said that Hice has been spread­ing “disin­form­a­tion,” has raised $1.8 million. The third lead­ing candid­ate, with $1.3 million in dona­tions, is state Rep. Bee Nguyen (D), who has emailed support­ers warn­ing of the possib­il­ity that “the next person to over­­see our elec­tions liter­­ally called the results of the 2024 elec­­tion into ques­­tion if the outcome didn’t suit their party.”

In the week before the primary, two outside groups aired pro-Raffen­sper­ger TV ads. A spot from one, a Geor­gia commit­tee called Conser­vat­ives for Our Future, shows foot­age of what appear to be viol­ent protests as the narrator says, “The radical left will do anything to turn our state blue.” The ad goes on to show Raffen­sper­ger saying, “Stacy Abrams is suing us so she can put non-citizens on the voter rolls, and I’m the only one stop­ping her.” The other group, a super PAC called Amer­ic­ans Keep­ing Coun­try First, was formed last year to support Repub­lic­ans who voted to impeach or convict Trump; it has not been active in Geor­gia elec­tions before. Neither group has yet filed reports with the state reveal­ing details about the amounts spent or contri­bu­tions received for this elec­tion cycle. 

Michigan

The Michigan secret­ary of state contest is now in the general elec­tion phase with Repub­lic­ans’ nomin­a­tion of Kristina Karamo, who has ques­tioned the 2020 elec­tion and run ads saying Repub­lic­ans need to “secure our elec­tions” because “the road to the White House runs directly through Michigan.” In Novem­ber, Karamo will face the incum­bent, Jocelyn Benson, who has said “elec­tion deniers . . . want to take over statewide offices so they can poten­­tially be in a posi­­tion to block or undo or fail to certify elec­­tion results.”

The latest data avail­able, through the end of Decem­ber, shows Benson with an over­whelm­ing fundrais­ing lead. Her $1.6 million has driven fund­ing in the race to three times the amount at the same point in the 2018 cycle. Donor interest has surged, with over 7,000 donors giving to secret­ary of state candid­ates this cycle, almost five times the number in the 2018 cycle. Money coming from out of state has spiked as well, and the almost $475,000 from outside Michigan is three and a half times more than 2018.

A group called Progress Michigan has been running Face­book ads prais­ing Benson, saying she is “stand­ing up against right-wing extrem­ists and their attempts to over­turn the will of voters,” and she ran “the most secure elec­tion in MI history.” The expendit­ures on these ads do not appear in state campaign finance filings, likely because they do not expli­citly call for voters to elect Benson.

Minnesota

In Minnesota, secret­ary of state candid­ate fundrais­ing through March is more than $650,000, a high since 2010. The lion’s share of this year’s amount has gone to Secret­ary of State Steve Simon (D), who has said the elec­tion “was funda­ment­ally fair, accur­ate, honest, and secure.”

Simon has been the fundrais­ing leader in every elec­tion since he first ran in 2014. His 2022 haul of $520,000 is more than all the secret­ary candid­ates put together at this point in each of the last three cycles. It gives him a command­ing fundrais­ing lead over the less than $90,000 collec­ted by his closest rival, Kim Crock­ett (R), who has ques­­­tioned the results of the 2020 elec­tion.

Nevada

Dona­tions to Nevada secret­ary of state candid­ates have exploded this cycle to $1.8 million, almost four times the amounts at analog­ous points in the past three cycles.

Two clear fundrais­ing lead­ers have emerged in Nevada’s open-seat race with almost $700,000 each: Cisco Aguilar (D), who has said “extrem­ists who allege that the 2020 elec­tions were rigged . . . are a threat to our demo­cracy,” and Jesse Haw (R), whose campaign TV ads have the tag line “It’s time to secure our elec­tions.” The fundrais­ing totals through the end of March for Aguilar and Haw each rival the record for highest fundrais­ing since 2010, which was Kate Marshall in 2014 with $718,000 for the entire cycle. The other major hauls so far this cycle are approx­im­ately $179,000 for Jim Marchant (R), who has said the 2020 elec­tion was “stolen,” and about $153,000 for Richard Scotti (R), who claims of Domin­ion voting machines: “the data they record in the even­ing is never the same in the morn­ing.”

Marchant has organ­ized the Amer­ica First Secret­ary of State Coali­tion and an affil­i­ated unlim­ited-contri­bu­tion PAC, Conser­vat­ives for Elec­tion Integ­rity (CFEI PAC). Its website describes its mission as nation­wide fundrais­ing for secret­ary of state candid­ates to pursue the coali­tion’s goals of “Voter Integ­rity” and to “Counter and Reverse elect­oral fraud.” The site also states that Marchant “is convinced he only lost because of elec­tion fraud and wide­spread elec­tion irreg­u­lar­it­ies.” The PAC has raised almost $110,000. More than 80 percent of the fund­ing for CFEI PAC came from the Amer­ica Project, an “elec­tion integ­rity” organ­iz­a­tion that helped fund the review of the 2020 vote in Mari­copa County, Arizona. (The Amer­ica Project is discussed in greater detail below.) CFEI PAC’s largest expendit­ure was a $10,000 contri­bu­tion to Marchant’s campaign. 

Wiscon­sin

In Wiscon­­sin, the secret­ary of state does not admin­is­ter elec­­tions. The Wiscon­­sin Elec­­tions Commis­­­sion, like elec­­tions admin­is­trat­ors in many states, has been attacked over the 2020 elec­­tions. There has been a push, includ­ing by several declared candid­ates for secret­ary of state or governor, to give the secret­ary of state greater power over elec­­tions.

The most recent data avail­able, through the end of Decem­ber, shows a huge spike in contri­bu­tions to secret­ary of state candid­ates, almost $76,000, compared to less than $9,000 in recent years. This is almost entirely driven by Rep. Amy Louden­beck (R), a six-term member of the state assembly who is campaign­ing on giving the secret­ary of state more power, saying that an elec­ted offi­­cial should act as a “check” on the appoin­ted Wiscon­­sin Elec­tions Commis­­­sion.

In April, local Demo­cratic Party leader Alexia Sabor announced a primary chal­lenge to 10-term incum­bent Doug La Follette (D), whose campaign announce­ment said other candid­ates “have proposed steal­ing power over elec­tions and concen­trat­ing them in the office in the hopes that they can use it to tilt the results of the next pres­id­en­tial elec­tion.”

Election Denialism in 2022 Campaigns

Campaigns for governor, secret­ary of state, and local elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion offices continue to make elec­tion denial, or the contrary stance that elec­tion denial is a major threat to demo­cracy, cent­ral to their pitch to voters.

Here we collect some of the state­ments and ads premised on the Big Lie or a repu­di­ation of it that candid­ates for governor, secret­ary of state, or local elec­tion offi­cial posts have put out since our last report. We have also collec­ted these examples and more in cumu­lat­ive trackers for each of the 10 battle­ground states.

Arizona

In the governor’s race, Kari Lake (R) has repeatedly claimed the 2020 elec­tion was stolen and has sued to ban the voting machines the state uses, alleging they are unre­li­able. Secret­ary of State Katie Hobbs (D), also running for governor, claimed that Lake “will reject the will of the people in future elec­tions.” 

In the contest for secret­ary of state, State Rep. Mark Finchem (R) emailed support­ers in May saying, “Demo­crats stole the elec­tion.” The email says that “the sanc­tity of the vote will be determ­ined 100% by who is elec­ted for Secret­ary of State. . . . When elec­tions belong to the govern­ment, you get dictat­ors in power for 30 years and rigged elec­tions.” On the other side of the issue, State Rep. Regin­ald Bold­ing (D) emailed support­ers claim­ing that Finchem “had a crit­ical role in Trump’s attempt to under­mine the results of the 2020 Pres­id­en­tial Elec­tion” and is running to “under­mine the will of Arizona voters.”

Geor­gia

Elec­tion denial was a key topic in recent debates for state offices. In the governor’s race, David Perdue (R), began his open­ing state­ment in an April debate by saying: “First off, folks, let me be very clear tonight, the elec­tion in 2020 was rigged and stolen.” As discussed below, outside spend­ers have spent millions to influ­ence the governor race, includ­ing TV ads making claims about “fraud­u­lent votes” and how large-scale “ballot harvest­ing” affected the 2020 elec­tion. 

In April’s secret­ary of state debate, Rep. Jody Hice (R) made repeated claims about fraud in 2020 and alleged that Secret­ary of State Brad Raffen­sper­ger (R) made a “deal” with Stacey Abrams that led to fraud. Raffen­sper­ger said that Hice has been spread­ing “disin­form­a­tion,” noting: “That’s what destroys voter confid­ence.”

Raffensperger campaign ad
Raffen­sper­ger campaign ad

Candid­ates chal­len­ging incum­bents on the board of elec­tions in Chatham County, where Savan­nah is located, have made claims about the integ­rity of the 2020 elec­tion. Trish Brown (D), asked why she is seek­ing a seat on the board of elec­­tions, said: “We need people that are will­ing to fight against believ­ers of the Big Lie.” Robin Greco (R) wrote: “I am running on Elec­­tion Integ­rity and One And Done, which means You only get ONE VOTE! We have got to Stop this Fraud.” Beverly Meng (R) wrote, “Elec­tion Integ­rity is the corner­stone of my campaign. Geor­gi­an’s have lost confid­ence in out elec­tion process.” Jennifer Salandi (R) has posted content on her Face­book page about “2000 Mules,” a movie claim­ing large numbers of people put false ballots in drop boxes, as well as a video claim­ing Fulton County’s elec­­tion results were “elec­tron­ic­ally manip­u­lated.”

Trish Brown Facebook post

Michigan

The elec­tion for Michigan secret­ary of state has seen new claims around elec­tion denial. Incum­bent Jocelyn Benson (D) said in March she has been “fight­­ing elec­­tion-deniers, some of whom now want to take over statewide offices so they can poten­­tially be in a posi­­tion to block or undo or fail to certify elec­­tion results.” Kristina Karamo was nomin­ated by Repub­lic­ans in April. In a May inter­view discuss­ing her claims of voter fraud, she said there is “massive corrup­tion” and “a massive coverup.” She was a featured speaker at a rally in Michigan where Donald Trump spoke about his claim the elec­­tion “was rigged and stolen.” Karamo told the audi­ence that if she is elec­ted she would make sure “your vote isn’t nulli­fied by illegal ballots.”

Kristina Karamo Facebook post

Minnesota

In remarks at a local GOP conven­tion in April, Minnesota gubernat­orial candid­ate Scott Jensen (R) implied that Secret­ary of State Steve Simon could be imprisoned for the way he has run elec­tions, saying cheat­ers are “going to jail” and Simon “better check out to see if you look good in stripes.”

Secret­ary of state candid­ate Kim Crock­ett (R) showed a video to the conven­tion crowd that depic­ted incum­bent Secret­ary of State Steve Simon (D) controlled by puppet strings in the hands of George Soros with the caption, “Let’s wreck elec­tions forever and ever.” Her campaign sent support­ers an email in May celeb­rat­ing Repub­lican efforts to recruit elec­tion judges. The email says the effort will “help flip Minnesota.” Another Crock­ett email says Repub­lic­ans need to over­come a “margin of fraud” in the upcom­ing elec­tion. Simon, for his part, said of elec­tion denial that the “cloud of disin­form­a­tion” is a prob­lem, assert­ing that people are push­ing it for polit­ical and finan­cial advant­age.

Nevada

Gubernat­orial candid­ate Fred Simon (R) claims on his campaign website: “There was massive voter fraud conduc­ted in Clark County in the Novem­ber 2020 elec­tion.” In a radio ad, Simon claimed there was a “mail in ballot voter fraud scheme signed by [Gov. Steve] Sisolak,” and said, “we cannot afford to endure any more fraud­u­lent elec­tion cycles.”

As for secret­ary of state candid­ates, the campaign of former State Sen. Jesse Haw (R) has run ads with the tagline, “It’s time to secure our elec­tions.” Former state Rep. Jim Marchant (R) said: “It’s almost stat­ist­ic­ally impossible that Joe Biden won.” Marchant supports elim­in­at­ing mail voting, early voting, and voting machines in favor of hand count­ing paper ballots. Kris­topher Dahir (R) has opposed the push for hand-coun­ted paper ballots. He said, “Nevada does­n’t have any proof” of wide­spread voter fraud and argues Marchant has made himself “ineligible for this office saying ‘I would break the law because I didn’t like the results.’”

In the local elec­tion for clerk of Nye County, three candid­ates agreed in a debate that Trump won the 2020 elec­tion. Ian Bayne’s (R) campaign website says that politi­­cians “encour­age voter fraud” and notes: “In 2020, I volun­­teered with the Trump campaign to stop voter fraud and what I saw was shock­­ing.” Andrew Cacca­­vale (R) said there was “voting fraud . . . on a grand scale” in the 2020 pres­id­en­­tial elec­­tion, and his campaign website prom­ises a vote for him “will put an end to elec­­tion tamper­­ing once and for all.” Mark Kamp­f’s (R) campaign website says he was inspired to run by “attacks on our Consti­tu­­tional Repub­­lic over the last several years.” 

Pennsylvania

Repub­lican gubernat­orial nominee Doug Mastri­ano promoted and spoke at an event with MyPil­low CEO Mike Lindell where attendees were asked to sign a peti­­tion to decer­­­tify the result of the 2020 elec­­tion in Pennsylvania. He has said that, as governor, he “can decer­tify every single [voting] machine in the state,” claim­ing that machines from certain compan­ies are “comprom­ised.” Demo­cratic nominee Josh Shapiro put out a Face­book ad about attempts to chal­lenge the 2020 vote, saying, “Demo­cracy is on the ballot.”

Josh Shapiro Facebook post

Texas

On her website, Travis County clerk candid­ate Susan Haynes (R) writes: “There are lots of alleg­a­tions, with some convin­cing data, that our elec­tions have been manip­u­lated for quite some time. . . . Voting machines are the mech­an­ism by which elec­tions are stolen. We must stop using machines and return to paper ballots, with sequen­tial serial numbers, hand coun­ted at the precinct level. Right now [there are] endless oppor­tun­it­ies for data manip­u­la­tion.”

Wiscon­sin

Gov. Tony Ever­s’s (D) reelec­tion campaign sent an email to support­ers with the subject: “They’ve openly tried to over­turn 2020 – we can’t let them do it again in 2024.” The email claims that one of Ever­s’s oppon­ents, State Rep. Timothy Ramthun (R), is “trying to take back Wiscon­sin’s elect­oral votes for Joe Biden.” Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R) said the 2020 vote in Wiscon­sin was “rigged.” Construc­tion exec­ut­ive Tim Michels entered the GOP primary in April and is expec­ted to self-fund much of his campaign. He said the elec­tion was “maybe” stolen, that there was “a lot of bad stuff” and an unknown number of “illegal ballots.”

National Supporters of Election Denial

There are indi­vidu­als and organ­iz­a­tions who have donated to candid­ates or outside groups in multiple states with a clear pattern of support for elec­tion denial. They tend to have ties to Donald Trump and involve­ment in efforts to chal­lenge the 2020 elec­tion results through lawsuits or reviews of vote tallies. The largest amounts have targeted gubernat­orial races. The money aimed at secret­ary of state contests takes the form of direct contri­bu­tions, which are typic­ally limited by law to amounts well under $10,000. 

In the hand­ful of local races where we have found evid­ence of candid­ates’ support for the Big Lie, we have not seen direct contri­bu­tions from out-of-state support­ers of elec­tion denial, although there have been inde­pend­ent expendit­ures in local races in Wiscon­sin focused on the issue. In those elec­tions, super PACs paid for TV ads, digital ads, and mail­ers that, on one side, accused offi­cials of miscon­duct in the 2020 elec­tions, and on the other, called on voters to “keep Wiscon­sin elec­tions fair,” claim­ing “our demo­cracy is at stake.”

Here we describe some key national finan­cers of elec­tion deni­al­ist candid­ates for secret­ary of state or local elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion posi­tions.

Patrick Byrne

Former Over­stock.com CEO Patrick Byrne foun­ded and funds the Amer­ica Project, a nonprofit based in Flor­ida. It is run by former Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial Emily Newman, and its website features remarks by former National Secur­ity Adviser Michael Flynn. Before the Amer­ica Project was created, Byrne, Flynn, and Newman reportedly parti­cip­ated in a heated Decem­ber 2020 meet­ing in the Oval Office trying to convince Pres­id­ent Trump to seize voting machines.

Byrne said he has spent $12 million on “elec­tion integ­rity” efforts. The Amer­ica Project contrib­uted $3.3 million to help fund the partisan review of the vote in Mari­copa County, Arizona, by the company Cyber Ninjas. The Amer­ica Project website incor­rectly claims that review “exposed severe elec­tion fraud that resul­ted in mass voter suppres­sion, and clearly shows that the Arizona elec­tion results should not have been certi­fied.” The website also asserts that elec­tion offi­cials commit­ted “crimes,” includ­ing delet­ing records.

The Amer­ica Project gave almost $88,000 to Conser­vat­ives for Elec­tion Integ­rity PAC (CFEI PAC), which was organ­ized by Marchant in Nevada and has promoted secret­ary of state candid­ates in multiple states, includ­ing candid­ates discussed above: Finchem in Arizona, Hice in Geor­gia, and Karamo in Michigan. In addi­tion, CFEI PAC promotes Cali­for­nia secret­ary of state candid­ate Rachel Hamm, who claims Trump won the state, and Tina Peters in Color­ado, the Mesa county clerk who is under indict­ment for allegedly allow­ing unau­thor­ized access to data that was later published by people connec­ted to MyPil­low CEO Mike Lindell’s elec­tion conspir­acy theor­ies.

Byrne gave $5,000 directly to Marchant in Febru­ary. Within our sample of six states’ elec­tions since the 2010 elec­tion cycle, Byrne had not previ­ously given to any secret­ary of state candid­ates.

Save Amer­ica PAC

Donald Trump’s lead­er­ship PAC, Save Amer­ica, has suppor­ted elec­tion denial candid­ates for governor or secret­ary of state in several states. The group also made contri­bu­tions of $5,000 each to Kari Lake and Mark Finchem in Arizona and Kristina Karamo in Michigan, as well as $7,000 to Jody Hice for Geor­gia secret­ary of state and $5,000 to David Perdue, who is chal­len­ging Geor­gia Gov. Brian Kemp in the Repub­lican primary.

In April, Save Amer­ica gave $2.6 million to a commit­tee called Take Back Geor­gia, which bought $2.3 million in ad time to support Perdue. Its ads feature Trump saying “every fraud­u­lent 2020 vote stole some­thing. . . . They stole your voice and they stole your free­dom.”

Save Amer­ica also gave $500,000 to Get Geor­gia Right PAC, which has aired ads attack­ing Kemp, arguing he did not do enough to stop voter fraud in 2020, “and the wide­spread illegal ballot harvest­ing contin­ued, elect­ing two Demo­crat senat­ors.”

TV ad from Get Georgia Right PAC opposing Brian Kemp
TV ad from Get Geor­gia Right PAC oppos­ing Brian Kemp

Richard Uihlein

Pack­aging supplies magnate Richard Uihlein has funded several groups tied to chal­len­ging the elec­tion and the Janu­ary 6 insur­rec­tion. In 2021, he gave $7,000 to Jody Hice in Geor­­­gia and $5,000 to Jim Marchant in Nevada. Within our sample of six states’ elec­tions since the 2010 elec­tion cycle, Uihlein had not previ­ously given to any secret­ary of state candid­ates.

Uihlein funds a super PAC called Restor­a­tion PAC, provid­ing $7.5 million of the commit­tee’s $10.7 million revenue. Restor­a­tion PAC spent on local races for posi­tions to admin­is­ter elec­tions in Wiscon­sin in April, using messages that cast doubt on the 2020 elec­tion. Restor­a­tion PAC is also a major funder of the Amer­ican Prin­ciples Project, giving its PAC $1.7 million between 2021 and 2022. The Amer­ican Prin­ciples Project gave $500,000 to Geor­gia Action Fund, which has repor­ted $1.8 million worth of pro-Perdue ads featur­ing Trump, who says that Kemp has been “a complete disaster on elec­tion integ­rity. We can’t let it happen again.” 

National Opponents of Election Denial

Several donors and outside groups are active in multiple races where elec­tion denial is a cent­ral issue. National liberal groups have announced multi­mil­lion dollar campaigns to oppose elec­tion deniers in governor, secret­ary of state, and local elec­tions, although very little of this spend­ing appears in campaign finance data so far. These groups are largely estab­lished left-lean­ing spend­ers on federal and gubernat­orial races who are begin­ning to shift some of their spend­ing to focus on elec­tions for secret­ary of state and local elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion.

We have also noted a hand­ful of major donors giving at or close to the maximum amount to candid­ates running in oppos­i­tion to elec­tion denial in multiple states. Although the largest amounts are going to gubernat­orial candid­ates, these donors have also made signi­fic­ant contri­bu­tions to secret­ary of state candid­ates. As with support­ers of elec­tion denial, we have not observed direct contri­bu­tions from out of state oppon­ents of the Big Lie to candid­ates for local offices.

Amer­ican Bridge 21st Century

A group dedic­ated to support­ing Demo­cratic candid­ates with oppos­i­tion research on their oppon­ents, Amer­ican Bridge 21st Century, has launched a $10 million project called Bridge to Demo­cracy to influ­ence state and local elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion races in 12 states. An Amer­ican Bridge vice pres­id­ent, Pat Dennis, said the group’s “plan is to target extrem­ist Repub­lic­ans who want to over­turn our demo­cracy.” Amer­ican Bridge has inter­vened in secret­ary of state races nation­wide where it claims that “Trump’s allies are seek­ing to rig future elec­tions.”

Demo­cratic Asso­ci­ation of Secret­ar­ies of State

The Demo­cratic Asso­ci­ation of Secret­ar­ies of State (DASS) raised $2.6 million in the first three months of this year. That is more than for all of 2021, which was itself the organ­iz­a­tion’s biggest fundrais­ing year in its history. This historic revenue comes amid a fundrais­ing strategy high­light­ing elec­tion denial. Of 64 emails DASS sent to support­ers to soli­cit dona­tions in April, 33 used the term “big lie.” One email said if Karamo, Hice, or Finchem win, “they’ll be in a posi­tion to over­turn or dele­git­im­ize the 2024 elec­tion results.” Face­book ads by the group criti­cize “Big Lie” candid­ates and claim that Trump is provid­ing “elec­tion-deny­ing candid­ates like Kristina Karamo and Jody Hice with endorse­ments so he can replace top elec­tion offi­cials with his crooked cronies.” DASS also sent support­ers an email in which Cisco Aguilar says if his oppon­ent Jim Marchant wins, “we can kiss demo­cracy good­bye in Nevada.”

End Citizens United / Let Amer­ica Vote

End Citizens United / Let Amer­ica Vote has announced a $7 million “demo­cracy defender” plan to support Demo­cratic candid­ates for secret­ary of state and state attor­ney general in battle­ground states. The group has endorsed Cisco Aguilar in Nevada and Bee Nguyen in Geor­gia and donated $5,000 to Michigan’s Jocelyn Benson. 

MoveOn

The advocacy group MoveOn has been send­ing members fundrais­ing emails announ­cing plans “for the first time in its 23-year history, to invest millions in an effort to defeat Trump’s chosen candid­ates for secret­ary of state.” Its emails claim the “far right are hell-bent on ending U.S. demo­cracy” and that “Trump’s prepar­a­tions for being able to steal the pres­id­ency in 2024 are well under­way and include work­ing to replace top elec­tion offi­cials in battle­ground states with his own loyal­ists.” The group has repor­ted spend­ing $1.4 million in oppos­i­tion to Arizona secret­ary of state candid­ate Mark Finchem, whom MoveOn emails describe as a “lawmaker who contin­ues to work to over­turn the results of the 2020 elec­tion in Arizona.” MoveOn has also attacked Geor­gia secret­ary of state candid­ate Jody Hice for his support for “over­tur­ing the elec­tion.”

Run for Some­thing

Run for Some­thing, a Demo­cratic candid­ate recruit­ment group, has announced plans to spend $80 million over three years to find and support candid­ates for local elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion offices in 35 states. The group’s co-founder, Amanda Litman, described the effort as “long-term demo­cracy protec­tion . . . by elect­ing people who will defend demo­cracy.” She said: “Elec­tion subver­sion in 2024 is . . . going to be a county clerk in Michigan or a super­visor of elec­tions in Flor­ida.” The effort is coordin­ated with Amer­ican Bridge and Open Demo­cracy PAC, which made inde­pend­ent expendit­ures on ads saying “our demo­cracy is at stake” in local Wiscon­sin elec­tions in April.

John Pritzker

Investor John Pritzker of San Fran­cisco gave the Demo­cratic Asso­ci­ation of Secret­ar­ies of State $100,000 in Febru­ary. He contrib­uted $7,150 — the legal limit — to Michigan Secret­ary of State Jocelyn Benson. In gubernat­orial races where elec­tion denial is at play, Pritzker gave $25,000 to Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania and the maximum amount of $20,000 to Tony Evers in Wiscon­sin. 

Lynn and Stacy Schuster­man

Billion­aire phil­an­throp­ist Lynn Schuster­man and her daugh­ter Stacey Schuster­man of Tulsa, Oklahoma, have each donated the maximum allowed to secret­ary of state candid­ates Cisco Aguilar in Nevada, Jocelyn Benson in Michigan, and Regin­ald Bold­ing in Arizona, as well as Wiscon­sin Gov. Tony Evers, all of whom have criti­cized elec­tion denial. Within our sample of six states’ elec­tions since the 2010 elec­tion cycle, neither has previ­ously given to any secret­ary of state candid­ates. These contri­bu­tions add up to a total of $84,900. Stacy Schuster­man also gave $100,000 to Pennsylvani­a’s Josh Shapiro.