OP-ED: DARK MONEY AND THE ELECTION PROCESS

Whitehouse Illuminates Dark-Money Network’s Project to Undermine Democracy

 

SENATOR SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, RHODE ISLAND

 

Washington, DC – In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday on the intensifying harassment of election workers, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) shone a floodlight on the right-wing dark-money network seeking to undermine the future of democratic elections in the United States.

 

“There is nothing about this, Mr. Chairman, that is random,” said Whitehouse.  “I hope that there will be investigations that are done, either civilly or otherwise, to connect these obvious dots: that there is a fraudulent lie, that it is deliberately propagated, that the propagation of that lie is intended to cause harassment and threats to election officials, which in turn is designed to cause vacancies in the legitimate election official ranks that can then be filled with election denier cohorts.”

 

Whitehouse described how interconnected organizations in a dark-money network appear to be fraudulently sowing doubt about the integrity of elections in order to whip up anger towards honest, hardworking election officials. 

 

The network employs many of the same associates of former President Trump who attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 election.  Across the country, many election officials have stepped down from their posts since the election due to harassment, leaving key vacancies that can be filled by extremist election deniers.

 

Video of Whitehouse’s remarks is here and a full transcript is below.

 

Thanks, Chairman.  Those of you who have election integrity responsibilities in your testimony that I related to Mr. Polite have made the case that there is a link between the large and fraudulent scheme to spread lies about the election, and the threats and harassment that you and your colleagues have experienced.  I think that’s a very important point that you made.  I want to highlight it, and I want to thank you for it.

 

I also want to flag that this appears to be happening, not just at random – there seems to be organizational support for this.  I’ll bring up a group called the Conservative Partnership Institute that has been described as a “dark-money MAGA hub” and a “full-service shop for pro-Trump Republicans.” 

 

This group is part of a network of, at this point it’s been determined, eleven other groups that all are closely associated with one another – sharing addresses, sharing staff, on each other’s incorporation papers, and also, it involves a lot of the refugees from the Trump election insurrection effort.

 

So you have Jeffrey Clark at one of these groups, the Center for Preserving America.  As we all know, his role was bad enough that the FBI did a raid at his home to seize his electronics. 

 

Kash Patel was at the Department of Defense, and we just know that on its way out, the Trump Defense Department wiped the phones of individuals who might have been texting about the January 6th insurrection effort. 

 

You’ve got Mark Meadows, who participated in the pressuring of Georgia officials and has now ceased cooperation with the January 6 panel.

 

You’ve got Stephen Miller, who likely wrote President Trump’s speech January 6th, inciting the mob to go to the Capitol and attack their nation’s Capital

 

And you have the lawyer Cleta Mitchell, who was on the phone with Trump for the Georgia call to the Secretary of State, where Trump pressured the Georgia Secretary of State to go out and find the right number of votes to flip the election.  And the likely coordination of that effort with Jeffrey Clark’s effort out of the Department of Justice is pretty obvious.

 

So, this is not happening in a vacuum.  In fact, it’s not even happening.  It’s being done.  The sooner we can draw attention to those who are doing it and why it’s being done, the better.

 

In essence, this is a giant pea and shell game with a dozen shells that can be pushed out to engage with the media or to engage politically, but all, it would appear, commonly controlled.  All with funders who are kept secret, and all with murky relationships with one another and with the efforts to lead an insurrection against the popular vote in the last election.

 

And where it comes to bear in this hearing is particularly with respect to Cleta Mitchell, and her Election Integrity Network.  Because if what we are seeing is a deliberate strategy of fraudulent lying, designed to whip up earnest and sincere popular antagonism – and by the way, if you’re an American, and you think that your American democracy has been stolen from you, that is something to get mad about. 

 

So, if that’s the lie that you’re propagating, you’ve got a vulnerable population of people who don’t want to believe that that happened and who would be angry if you can convince them that that happened, and then you turn them loose on the election officials.

 

And guess what?  If you can drive election officials out of their jobs, if you can drive election volunteers away from the polls, you then have vacancies.  Vacancies that Cleta Mitchell is training to fill right now to pursue the interference with American elections that the January 6th riot kicked off.

 

There is nothing about this, Mr. Chairman, that is random.  I hope that there will be investigations that are done, either civilly or otherwise, to connect these obvious dots: that there is a fraudulent lie, that it is deliberately propagated, that the propagation of that lie is intended to cause harassment and threats to election officials, which in turn is designed to cause vacancies in the legitimate election official ranks that can then be filled with election denier cohorts.