The US Midtermsand theLucrative Business of Election Denial
Matt Bernardini inspects the funding sources of those backing Trump’s ‘stolen election’ theory
Yes, Tuesday night’s midterm elections went better than expected for the Democrats. However, more than 220 Republicans who questioned the results of the 2020 Presidential Election won seats in Congress, and in state elections.
Many of them were bankrolled by donations from prominent American oligarchs, who have largely overlooked Donald Trump’s attempted coup in 2020.
The most prominent election denier who won on Tuesday night was Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who barely squeaked past his challenger, Mandela Barnes. The January 6 committee – tasked with investigating the attack on the United States Capitol – revealed that Johnson attempted to deliver a slate of fake electors, those willing to say that Trump had won in their state, to then-Vice President Mike Pence, but was rebuffed by a Pence aide.
Nevertheless, Johnson’s super PAC – Wisconsin Truth PAC – raised nearly $30 million from just a few donors. PACs (political action committees) are pools of political campaign contributions that allow big donors to funnel millions of dollars to their favoured candidates.
Subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive editorial emails from the Byline Times Team.
Diane Hendricks, a businesswoman who chairs ABC Supply, one of the largest wholesale distributors of roofing, siding and windows in America, gave Johnson’s PAC $6.5 million. That money helped to bankroll $9.2 million in advert buys. The PAC also received $3.5 million from Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, founders of the Uline shipping company.
Johnson was not the only prominent election-denying candidate to receive money from the Uihlein’s. The shipping magnates gave $26.5 million to Club for Growth Action, a conservative super PAC that spent nearly $6.9 million to support Ted Budd, a Republican Senate candidate from North Carolina who narrowly won his race. As a congressman, Budd voted against certifying the 2020 election.
Johnson and Budd also each received more than $1 million in support from the Opportunity Matters Fund, a super PAC that says it supports school choice and economic freedom. The largest funder of Opportunity Matters is Lawrence Ellison, the billionaire co-founder of Oracle, the computer technology firm. Ellison gave the PAC $20 million this past election cycle.
Club for Growth also spent $648,000 to support new representative Anna Paulina Luna, who won her inaugural race in Florida. Paulina Luna has been likened to pro-Trump diehard Marjorie Taylor Greene for her outrageous statements. In an interview in June with MSNBC, Paulina Luna said that she believes voter fraud occurred and that President Trump won the 2020 election.
Paulina Luna also received support from the Gun Owners of America (GOA), a group that has even criticised the National Rifle Association for allegedly ‘compromising’ on gun rights. GOA also gave $30,000 to representative Paul Gosar, who was in contact with Ali Alexander, the organiser of the Stop the Steal rallies on January 6.
Perhaps one of the most noteworthy Trump-backed candidates is JD Vance, who won his Ohio Senate race against Democrat Tim Ryan. Vance is notable for his changing stance on Trump. In 2016, he repeatedly criticised Trump but has since lauded him and repeated his claims about the 2020 election being stolen.
Vance’s main source of support was tech billionaire and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who pumped $15 million into the Protect Ohio Values PAC. PayPal’s former Chief Operating Officer, David O. Sacks, also gave $900,000 to the PAC.
The Crypto Craze
One new source of support this cycle was from pro-cryptocurrency PACs that supported candidates that favoured controversial projects like Bitcoin. The Crypto Freedom PAC spent more than $2 million to support Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters, who appears on track to lose his race to incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly.
The Crypto Freedom PAC raised more than $1 million from Club for Growth Action and received $1.9 million from Philadelphia-based trader Jeffrey Yass. Yass, who has donated to several election-deniers, has managed to avoid $1 billion in taxes according to ProPublica.
Another PAC, called Crypto Innovation, is tied to former Trump White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. Crypto Innovation gave $400,000 in support of Budd.
These results make it clear that Congress is still filled with representatives who are willing to question the results of an election their man lost. And as long as there remains a large pool of money available to those who do so, it’s likely that the assault on American democracy isn’t over yet.
None of the donors mentioned in this story responded to Byline Times’ requests for comment.