Our recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses campaign finance.
The Select Committee’s investigation demonstrates that President Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud—the Big Lie—served a dual purpose, forming the foundation of his attempts to overturn the 2020 Presidential election and launching a fundraising effort to fund the former President’s other endeavors and to enrich his associates—the Big Rip-off.
The false election fraud narrative embedded in fundraising emails and text messages amplified the Big Lie by perpetuating a belief that the 2020 election was stolen from President Trump and effectuated the Big Rip-off by misleading donors into thinking their donations could alter the election results.
At the same time, the Big Lie helped President Trump and the Republican National Committee (RNC) raise more than $250 million after the election, much of it from small-dollar donors who were promised their money would “Stop the Steal.”
Despite what they told their supporters, however, most of their money was not used to stop any purported steal—it was diverted to accomplish the Big Rip-off. Millions of dollars that were raised ostensibly for “election defense” and “fighting voter fraud” were not spent that way at all.
Moreover, the Select Committee’s investigation shows that the RNC knew that President Trump’s claims about winning the election were baseless and that post-election donations would not help him secure an additional term in office. Yet, both the Trump Campaign and the RNC decided to continue fundraising after the election, a decision that would have come from President Trump himself.
In short, President Trump and his Campaign ripped off supporters by raising more than $250 million by claiming they wanted to fight fraud they knew did not exist and to challenge an election they knew he lost
RNC leadership knew that President Trump was lying to the American people. Yet, they did nothing to publicly distance themselves from his efforts to overturn the election. The RNC’s response was merely to tinker around the edges of the fundraising copy but never to fundamentally challenge the one message that remained present in TMAGAC’s post-electionfundraising copy—President Trump’s Big Lie.
In the end, multiple senior RNC staffers approved fundraising emails raising questions about the election results even though they did not know of any evidence about fraud impacting the winner of the 2020 Presidential election. For example, Cassie Docksey stated that she was not aware of any fraud that impacted the results of the Presidential election.118 Ahrens conceded that “there was not evidence that we [the RNC] had seen that he [President Trump] won the election, that Biden had not won the election.”119
Similarly, Justin Clark was “not aware of [fraudulent activity . . . to likedefraud voters] by an individual or an entity that would have [changed theoutcome of an election].”120 Alex Cannon “did not find or see, in [his] limited ability as one individual. . . evidence that would be sufficient within thetime period to change any sort of election results in any of the States.”121
Nonetheless, the RNC and the Trump Campaign continued to send out hundreds of emails, spreading the Big Lie to and fundraising off of millionsof supporters. Even though the RNC had closely held reservations about repeating the most extreme and unsupportable claims of fraud, the RNC stayed the course with a coordinated, single fundraising plan with the Trump Campaign. The RNC privately and quietly softened the most blatantly egregious claims written by its own copywriters but publicly stoodshoulder to shoulder with President Trump and his Big Lie.