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Trump points at rally

Donald J. Trump delivers remarks at a rally hosted by the Alabama Republican Party in Cullman, Alabama on August 21, 2021. (Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Jan. 6 Committee Confirms 'Big Lie' Was Also a 'Big Ripoff' of Trump Donors

"Trump is a con man and a grifter," said one watchdog group. "He wasn't just selling the Big Lie, he was making sure to fundraise off of it."

Julia Conley

The House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection on Monday detailed how the Trump campaign blatantly deceived the former president's supporters by using the "Big Lie" of a stolen election to bilk hundreds of millions out of them in massive fundraising blitz.

"Not only was there that big lie, there was the big rip-off."

Amanda Wick, senior investigative counsel for the committee, said in a video presented on the second day of hearings that the campaign sent millions of fundraising emails to supporters in the weeks after the election, "sometimes as many as 25 a day."

Those emails, imploring voters to "step up" and help protect election integrity and to "fight back" against the "left wing mob," garnered $250 million before the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, including nearly $100 million in the first week after the election.

"The Trump campaign knew these claims of voter fraud were false," said Wick, "yet they continued to barrage small-dollar donors with emails encouraging them to donate to something called the Official Election Defense Fund."

The committee played testimony from Trump campaign officials including Gary Coby, former digital campaign director, admitting that there was no fund devoted to defending Trump's claim that he had won the election.

"Is it fair to say the Official Election Defense Fund was a marketing tactic?" Coby was asked by an investigator, to which he replied, "Yes."

Instead of funding the former president's legal battle, Wick explained, millions of dollars went to benefit Trump's allies and associates, including:

  • $1 million to a charitable foundation run by then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows;
  • $1 million to the America First Policy Institute, which employs seven former Trumo administration officials;
  • $5 million to Event Strategies, Inc., which organized the January 6 rally that devolved into the violent riot later that day; and
  • More than 200,000 to the Trump Hotel Collection.

The money was funneled to those organizations through the Save America PAC, a political action committee that Trump established on November 9, 2020—two days after President Joe Biden was announced the winner of the election.

"Most of the money raised went to this newly created PAC, not to election litigation," said Wick.

The hearing showed, said Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, that "Trump is a con man and a grifter."

As Common Dreams reported at the time, "fine print" on the Trump campaign's donation forms suggested money contributed to help fight the election results could also go to helping the former president pay off pre-existing campaign debt.

Politico reported in November 2020 that the Republican National Committee "already had money set aside for recounts and other post-election legal proceedings" like those Trump was calling on his supporters to help pay for.

"Throughout the committee's investigation," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), "we found evidence that the Trump campaign and its surrogates misled donors as to where their funds would go and what they would be used for. So not only was there that big lie, there was the big rip-off."

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