Cleta Mitchell
Cleta Mitchell speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore, CC)

GOP Recruits Trump Conspiracy Theorists to Fight the ‘For the People Act’

in Sludge
on March 25, 2021

As the Democrats’ big campaign finance reform and voting rights bill moves to the Senate after passing the House earlier this month, Republicans are organizing to stop it. Several GOP-aligned groups have launched misinformation campaigns that attempt to weaponize the public’s general dislike of politicians to discredit the bill’s public campaign financing proposal. 

Now they are employing several backers of Trump’s election fraud conspiracy theories to discredit the bill. 

At yesterday’s Senate hearing, Republicans called upon Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita and West Virginia Secretary of State Andrew “Mac” Warner to testify against the bill. Both men supported their states backing a lawsuit from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that called on the Supreme Court to block electors from Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania and push Biden below the 270 electoral votes he needed. 

Paxton argued that the states had illegally created vote-by-mail systems, using Covid as a false justification, allowing for millions of ballots to be placed in drop boxes without a strong chain of custody. The suit was unanimously rejected by the Supreme Court in December, writing that “Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections.”

Rokita, Paxton and other Republican attorneys general wrote a letter to congressional leaders earlier this month arguing that the For the People Act would illegally federalize elections and undermine election integrity. A nonprofit offshoot of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) was among the organizations that was named as a participant of the January 6 “March to Save America,” which preceded the Capitol Building invasion. The group also sent robocalls to promote the event. Paxton and Rokita are represented by the group. 

 “Great choice of advocates by the Rs,” tweeted former Federal Election Commissioner Ann Ravel. “It makes their purpose transparent.”

Another backer of Trump’s election conspiracy theory that is leading the GOP efforts against the For the People Act is Republican lawyer Cleta Mitchell, who was one of the earliest supporters of Trump’s baseless election claims. On Nov. 7,  the day the election was called for Biden by news organizations, Mitchell said on Fox News, “We’re already double checking and finding dead people having voted. We’re going to be finding people have voted across state lines, voted in two states, illegal voting, noncitizens and that sort of thing.”

Mitchell participated in the Jan. 2 calls with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger during which Trump begged him to “find” thousands of ballots with his name checked off for president. She also signed a Dec. 30 letter to the Senate that claimed that “In several states, there are more illegal votes included in the certified numbers than the margin of victory for the certified winner from the state.”

Last week, it was announced that Mitchell is leading an anti-For the People Act campaign by the Conservative Partnership Institute, a nonprofit group run by former Sen. Jim DeMint and former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows. The group recently flew many of the Trump’s closest allies in Congress down to Miami for a meeting, according to documents published by the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. Andy Biggs, Mo Brooks, Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar, Louie Gohmert, Marjorie Taylor Greene and about a dozen other Republicans attended the February event at the Biltmore Hotel Coral Gables where they held strategy sessions and heard messaging guidance from people like Newt Gingrich and Ron DeSantis. 

Mitchell used to be a board member for the National Rifle Association and is currently a board member of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, both groups that are involved in dark money political spending. The For the People Act could require them to disclose donors who fund their political spending efforts. 

The For the People Act would make many changes to voting procedures that would likely boost overall voting numbers, including a universal vote-by-mail option, early voting in all states, and automatic voter registration programs with an “opt-out” option. Trump said last March that he believed the Democrats’ proposals to expand voting access in the CARES Act would have led to “levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

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