Sidney Powell, a former Trump attorney has told potential donors that her organization, Defending the Republic, is a legal defense fund dedicated to preserving the legitimacy of American elections.
However, the corporation suing Powell for making false statements about voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election alleges that the real beneficiary of her social welfare organization is Powell herself.
Powell allegedly raided Defending the Republic’s treasury to pay for personal legal costs, according to Dominion Voting Systems, citing her own remarks from a radio interview. The Denver-based voting technology corporation sued Powell and others for spreading misleading allegations that the company was involved in stealing Donald Trump’s 2020 election.
“Now, Powell seeks to abuse the corporate forms she created for her law firm and fundraising website to hide funds that she raised through her defamatory campaign, shielding those funds from the very company that was harmed by the defamatory campaign,” Dominion lawyers wrote in a May 5 court filing.
The conflict sheds light on how Trump’s supporters plan to promote, propagate, and benefit from allegations of election fraud in 2020. Despite the fact that the election is over and all major court appeals have been dropped, Powell’s legal defense fund continues to collect funds, with the aid of conspiracy theorists such as QAnon members.
According to the event’s website, her organization will receive a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales for a Memorial Day weekend conference in Dallas called the “For God & Country Patriot Roundup.” Powell, pro-Trump attorney Lin Wood, and former national security advisor Michael T. Flynn are among the prominent proponents of far-right conspiracy theories.
Following the QAnon conspiracy theory, event organizer John Sabal, also known as “QAnon John,” refused to clarify why he chose to financially help Powell’s nonprofit, also known as DTR but claimed the money isn’t for her personal gain.
“As far as I know, DTR is benefiting a bunch of different causes. Those I will not speak on, but you can talk to her about that,” he said.
One of Powell’s lawyers said that she disputes Dominion’s allegations. Powell’s malpractice insurance covers her legal fees, and her nonprofit has a proper organizational structure with a board of trustees, according to her counsel, Howard Kleinhendler.
“She does not have unfettered control over its funds or how the funds are spent,” Kleinhendler wrote in an email. “DTR intends to comply with all federal and state filing requirements when they are due. At that time, you as well as the rest of the world will see the necessary financials.”
Over the course of his presidency, Trump and his allies filed more than 50 lawsuits in various states, losing at every turn. Despite Republican state leaders, Trump’s own attorney general, and other administration officials openly saying there was no significant election fraud, Powell and Rudy Giuliani were among the lawyers behind the cases alleging a Democratic conspiracy. Powell attended a news conference with Giuliani and made many television appearances.
The Trump legal team distanced itself from Powell after she threatened to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing, claiming she was not acting on their behalf. Later, she made a remark on how she would unleash “the Kraken,” an apparent reference to the film “Clash of the Titans,” in which Zeus orders the legendary sea monster to be released.
Powell said in a November interview that she was paying “by the people of the United States of America,” not the Trump campaign.
General admission tickets for the Dallas conference cost $500, while VIP passes cost $1,000. The event’s website doesn’t mention any other recipients or how much money goes to Powell’s charity. The conference was expected to be held in part at Gilley’s Dallas, but Sabal said the venue canceled his reservation after reports of the event’s QAnon links surfaced.
According to QAnon, Trump has been secretly battling a cabal of Satan-worshiping “deep state” rivals, influential Democrats, and Hollywood elites who are running a child sex trafficking racket.
Powell has appeared on QAnon promoters’ YouTube channels and is viewed as a “hero of the republic” by QAnon supporters, according to Logan Strain, a conspiracy theory researcher and co-host of the “QAnon Anonymous” podcast. It wouldn’t surprise Strain if Powell were attempting to harness the movement as a major fundraising source.
“There is a great deal of money to be made in promoting and catering to QAnon,” he said. “This is why a lot of people suspected it was sort of a money-making grift, at least in part, from the beginning.”
Defending the Republic claims to be a 501(c)4 charitable group, but it isn’t classified in the IRS’s database of tax-exempt organizations. 501(c)(4) organizations are exempt from paying income taxes, including gifts, but such donations are not tax-deductible as charitable contributions.
Donors may send checks to an address in West Palm Beach, Florida, that corresponds to a UPS Store, according to Powell’s website. Defending the Republic Inc. registered as a charity founded for “social welfare purposes” with Florida’s Division of Corporations in February at the same address.
Other prominent conspiracy theorists in Trump’s circle are linked to Powell’s nonprofit, according to records. In December 2020 filings with the Texas secretary of state’s office, Powell, Wood, Flynn, and Flynn’s brother, Joseph, were appointed as directors of Defending the Republic.
In a text message, Joseph Flynn mentioned that he is no longer a director, but he did not elaborate on why.
“We are not interested in talking to the fake news media,” Flynn wrote.
Powell asked Wood to join the board of directors, but Wood said he hasn’t done much work for the organization.
“She didn’t follow up with me about it,” he said,
Mike Lindell, the founder, and CEO of MyPillow was listed as a director in articles of incorporation filed in Florida in February. Lindell, on the other hand, said he requested to be suspended from Defending the Republic’s board of directors after less than a week because he wanted to start his own legal defense fund. Dominion has also filed a lawsuit against Lindell.
“I went on my own because I don’t have time for other people’s stuff. I want to focus on what I’m doing,” Lindell said.
Former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, whose remarks about the “deep state” contributed to his resignation from the corporation in 2019, is defending the Republic’s chairman and CEO.
Dominion cited Powell’s comments on “The Rush Limbaugh Show” on Dec. 29 to support its argument that she is using nonprofit funds for her personal legal protection.” Listeners can donate to the nonprofit “that is working to help prosecute all of these lawsuits and to defend me now that I’m under a massive attack from the attorney general of Michigan and the city of Detroit and everything else” by going to Powell’s website.”
Democrats in Michigan’s governor, attorney general, and secretary of state have asked state bar officials in Texas and Michigan to permanently disbar Powell for ethical breaches related to election litigation.
Meanwhile, Dominion’s security chief, Eric Coomer, has sued Powell, her law firm, Defending the Republic, and others in Colorado for defamation. Smartmatic USA Corp., a voting technology company, sued Powell in New York for her false election-fixing charges.
Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has asked a federal court to order Powell and other attorneys who contested the election results to pay $106,000 in state legal fees. It was a frivolous order, according to Powell. The case is yet to be settled by a judge.
Dominion filed a federal lawsuit against Powell, her law firm, and her fundraising website on Jan. 8, seeking over $1.3 billion in damages. Powell allegedly used Defending the Republic funds “as her personal funds, redirecting them to the law firm she owns and dominates… and raiding them to pay for her personal legal defense,” according to the company.
A nonprofit organization incorporated under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, such as Defending the Republic, will participate in certain political activities as long as it is not its primary activity. Tax-exempt social welfare organizations, unlike political committees, are not required to report their donors. According to an IRS spokesperson, forms notifying the IRS of a group’s plan to act as a 501(c)(4) are not public records.
The IRS prohibits 501(c)(4) organizations from raising money for the benefit of private people, according to Samuel Brunson, a tax law professor at Loyola University in Chicago. He added that doing so could jeopardize the organization’s tax-exempt status.
“In general, the IRS doesn’t police it very closely,” Brunson said.