This voter suppression group raised millions — but exactly how the money was spent remains a mystery: report

This voter suppression group raised millions — but exactly how the money was spent remains a mystery: report

Long before the rise of Donald Trump’s MAGA movement — long before the Big Lie and the January 6, 2021 insurrection — True the Vote made voter suppression its top priority. Founded in Houston in 2009 by far-right Tea Party activist Catherine Engelbrecht, True the Vote has spent 13 years pushing the false narrative that voter fraud is widespread in Democratic areas. And True the Vote has raised millions of dollars with that narrative. But exactly how that money has been spent, according to Mother Jones reporter Cassandra Jaramillo, remains a mystery.

“A review of thousands of pages of documents from state filings, tax returns, and court records…. paints the picture of an organization that enriches Engelbrecht and partner Gregg Phillips rather than actually rooting out any fraud,” Jaramillo reports in an article published on June 8. “According to the documents, True the Vote has given questionable loans to Engelbrecht and has a history of awarding contracts to companies run by Engelbrecht and Phillips. Within days of receiving $2.5 million from a donor to stop the certification of the 2020 election, True the Vote distributed much of the money to a company owned by Phillips, (attorney James) Bopp’s law firm, and Engelbrecht directly for a campaign that quickly fizzled out.”

True the Vote, according to Jaramillo, has “engaged in a series of questionable transactions that sent more than $1 million combined to its founder, a longtime board member romantically linked to the founder, and the group’s general counsel, an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.”

True the Vote has a shameful history. The group claims that its mission is to “prevent voter fraud,” but its real mission is making it more difficult to vote — especially if one is African-American. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California has been a vehement critic of True the Vote’s efforts to discourage African-Americans and Latinos from voting, saying that a more accurate name for the group would be “Stop the Vote.”

Nonetheless, True the Vote’s voter suppression efforts have made Engelbrecht a star in the MAGA movement and the right-wing media.

“A former PTA mom-turned-Tea Party activist, True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht has played a pivotal role in helping drive the voter fraud movement from the political fringes to a central pillar in the Republican Party’s ideology,” Jaramillo observes. “Casting herself as a God-fearing, small-town Texan, she’s spread the voter-fraud gospel by commanding airtime on cable television, space on the pages of Breitbart News, and even theater seats, as a new feature film dramatizing her organization’s exploits, ‘2000 Mules,’ plays in cinemas across the country.”

“2000 Mules,” a documentary by far-right conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza, claims to offer proof that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump. But the documentary proves nothing, and D’Souza’s slopping reporting has drawn widespread criticism. Never Trump conservative Amanda Carpenter, for example, has slammed “2000 Mules” as a badly done, embarrassing cash grab on D’Souza’s part.

According to Jaramillo, Reveal’s findings don’t look good for True the Vote.

“The records show: True the Vote regularly reported loans to Engelbrecht, including more than $113,000 in 2019, according to a tax filing,” Jaramillo notes. “Texas law bans nonprofits from loaning money to directors; Engelbrecht is both a director and an employee.”

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