Former Trump lawyer and self-proclaimed “Kraken Liberator” Sidney Powell told potential donors that his group, Defending the Republic, is a legal defense fund meant to protect the integrity of the U.S. election.
But the company suing Powell on her baseless claims of a rigged presidential election, the real beneficiary of her welfare organization is Powell herself.
Dominion Voting Systems claims that Powell raided the coffers of Defending the Republic to pay for his personal legal fees, citing his own remarks in a radio interview. The Denver-based voting technology provider has sued Powell and others for spreading false claims that the company helped steal the 2020 election from Donald Trump.
“Now, Powell seeks to abuse the forms of business she created for her law firm and fundraising website in order to hide the funds she raised as part of her slanderous campaign, protecting these funds from the very company that was harmed by the smear campaign, ”the Dominion attorneys wrote in a May 5 court filing.
The dispute highlights how Trump’s allies continue to support, spread and profit from the fraud lies in the 2020 election. Although the election is settled and all major court challenges have been dismissed , Powell’s legal defense fund continues to raise funds, with the help of conspiratorial supporters like the QAnon affiliates.
His group will receive reduced proceeds from ticket sales to a Memorial Day weekend conference in Dallas called “For God & Country Patriot Roundup,” the event’s website says. Some big far-right conspiracy theories are headlining, including pro-Trump lawyer Powell Lin wood and former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn.
The organizer of the event John Sabal, known as “QAnon John” for followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory, declined to explain the decision to financially support Powell’s nonprofit, also known as DTR, but said the money was not for his personal benefit.
“As far as I know, DTR benefits a bunch of different causes. The ones I won’t talk about, but you can talk to him about them, ”he said.
Powell did not respond to interview requests, but one of her attorneys said she denies Dominion’s accusations. Powell’s personal legal bills are covered by his malpractice carrier, and his non-profit organization has an appropriate corporate structure with a board of directors, his attorney, Howard Kleinhendler, said.
“She does not have unlimited control over her funds or over how the funds are spent,” Kleinhendler wrote in an email. “DTR intends to comply with all federal and state filing requirements when due. The world will see the necessary funding.”
Trump and his allies filed more than 50 lawsuits in multiple states during the election and lost at every turn. Powell and Rudy Giuliani were among the lawyers behind the cases alleging a Democratic conspiracy, despite Republican heads of state and Trump’s own attorney general and other administration officials publicly declaring he did not there had been no major electoral fraud. Powell appeared with Giuliani at a press conference and made several television appearances.
But after Powell threatened to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court record, Trump’s legal team distanced themselves from her, saying they were not working on their behalf. She then made the comment on how she would release “the Kraken”, an apparent reference to the movie “Clash of the Titans” in which Zeus gives the order to release the mythical sea monster.
In a November interview, Powell noted that she was not paid by the Trump campaign but “by the people of the United States of America.”
Tickets for the Dallas conference cost $ 500 for general admission and $ 1,000 for VIP passes. The event’s website does not name other beneficiaries or specify how much money is going to Powell’s non-profit organization. Much of the conference was supposed to be held at a resort called Gilley’s Dallas, but Sabal said the venue canceled her reservation after media coverage of the event’s QAnon connections.
Supporters of QAnon believe Trump secretly fought a cabal of Satan-worshiping “deep state” enemies, prominent Democrats and Hollywood elites operating a child sex trafficking ring.
Logan Strain, a conspiracy theory researcher who co-hosts the “QAnon Anonymous” podcast, said Powell has appeared on QAnon promoters’ YouTube channels and is considered a “Republic Hero” among QAnon followers. . It wouldn’t surprise Strain if Powell tried to tap the movement as a source of fundraising.
“There is a lot of money to be made in the promotion and restoration of QAnon,” he said. “That’s why a lot of people suspected it was some sort of lucrative flu, at least in part, from the start.
Defending the Republic describes itself as a 501 (c) 4 nonprofit, but it is not listed in an IRS database of tax-exempt organizations. Groups recognized by the IRS as 501 (c) (4) are exempt from income tax, including donations, but such donations are not tax deductible as charitable contributions.
Powell’s website says donors can send checks to an address in West Palm Beach, Florida that matches a UPS store. At the same address, Defending the Republic Inc. registered in February with the Florida Division of Corporations as a nonprofit formed for “social welfare purposes.”
Records link other prominent conspiracy theorists in Trump’s orbit to Powell’s nonprofit. Powell, Wood, Flynn and Flynn’s brother Joseph were named directors of Defending the Republic in documents filed in December 2020 with the Texas Secretary of State’s office.
Joseph Flynn said in a text message that he was no longer a director, but declined to explain why.
“We’re not interested in talking to the fake media,” Flynn wrote.
Wood recalls Powell asking him to become a director, but said he didn’t do any work for the nonprofit.
“She didn’t follow up with me on this,” he said,
Articles filed in Florida in February listed MyPillow founder and CEO Mike Lindell as a director. But Lindell said he asked to be removed as director of Defending the Republic after less than a week because he decided to set up his own legal defense fund. Lindell is also being sued by Dominion.
“I went there alone because I don’t have time for other people’s business. I want to focus on what I’m doing, ”Lindell said.
The President and CEO of the Republic is the former CEO of Overstock, Patrick Byrne, whose comments on “the deep state” led to his resignation from the company in 2019.
To support his claim that Powell uses nonprofit money for his personal legal defense, Dominion cited his remarks during a Dec. 29 appearance on “The Rush Limbaugh Show.” to the non-profit organization “that’s working to help defend all of these cases and defend myself now that I’m under massive attack from the attorney general of Michigan and the city of Detroit and everything in between.”
The Michigan governor, attorney general, and secretary of state – all Democrats – have urged officials at the Texas and Michigan State Bar to permanently strike Powell out for ethical violations related to election lawsuits.
Meanwhile, Eric Coomer, Dominion’s chief security officer, has filed a separate defamation lawsuit in Colorado against Powell, his law firm Defending the Republic, and others. Another voting technology company, Smartmatic USA Corp., sued Powell in New York for his bogus claims of election rigging.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, has asked a federal court to order Powell and other lawyers challenging Wisconsin’s election results to cover $ 106,000 in state legal fees. Powell called it a frivolous request. A judge has yet to resolve the dispute.
Dominion sued Powell in federal court on Jan.8, claiming more than $ 1.3 billion in damages against her, her law firm and her fundraising website. The company claimed that Powell was treating Defender the Republic “like his personal funds, redirecting them to the law firm it controls and dominates … and attacking them to pay for his personal legal defense.”
A non-profit organization organized under section 501 (c) (4) of the tax code, as claimed by Defending the Republic, may engage in certain political activities as long as it is not its main activity. . Unlike political committees, tax-exempt welfare groups do not have to disclose donors. Forms informing the IRS of a group’s intention to operate as a 501 (c) (4) are not in the public record, according to an IRS spokesperson.
Samuel Brunson, a tax law professor at Loyola University in Chicago, said the IRS prohibits 501 (c) (4) groups from spending money to benefit individuals. This could jeopardize its tax-exempt status, he added.
“In general, the IRS doesn’t monitor it very closely,” Brunson said.