Exclusive: Christian nationalist group financed recall effort that resulted in harassment of Rusty Bowers
Russell "Rusty" Bowers speaking with attendees at the 2022 Legislative Forecast Luncheon. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

During his testimony before the January 6th Committee on Tuesday, Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, recounted how his family faced harassment after he resisted repeated requests by President Trump and his allies to decertify Arizona’s electors for Joe Biden.

“At home, up ’til even recently, it is the new pattern, or a pattern in our lives to worry what will happen on Saturdays because we have various groups come by, and they have had video panel trucks with videos of me proclaiming me to be a pedophile and a pervert and a corrupt politician,” Bowers testified. “And blaring loudspeakers in my neighborhood. And leaving literature both on my property — arguing with and threatening neighbors and with myself.”

During one of the forays, Bowers testified that an armed man wearing a patch consistent with the Three Percenters movement threatened one of his neighbors.

The organized incursions into Bowers’ neighborhood in Mesa, east of Phoenix, began as part of a recall campaign designed to punish the conservative Republican House speaker for refusing to cooperate with Trump’s effort to overturn the election. Raw Story has learned that the recall campaign benefited during its final push from an infusion of cash and organizational coaching by a little-known conservative operative with ties to the Christian nationalist movement. Some of the information for this story was originally uncovered by a group known as the "Citizen Patriot OSINT Researchers."

America Restored, an entity that describes itself as “an action-driven conglomeration of patriots,” contributed a total of $113,066 to the Patriot Party of Arizona, according to records on file with the Arizona Secretary of State. The contributions from America Restored accounted for more than 90 percent of revenue for the second quarter of 2021 that was received by the Patriot Party of Arizona, which initiated the recall campaign. America Restored’s executive director is Tomi Collins, a conservative activist with a long history of heralding dubious claims of election fraud who promoted state capitol rallies to support Trump after the 2020 election.

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Following the recall campaign in June 2021, Bowers gave an account of the harassment to the Arizona Republic that closely matched his testimony before the January 6th Committee earlier this week. Back in June 2021, he told the newspaper that recall supporters had “been coming to my house and intimidating our family and our neighborhood,” adding that there were “vile” mobile trucks coming through the neighborhood that used loudspeakers to call him a pedophile. Although the campaign collected a sufficient number of signatures, the recall ultimately failed when the Secretary of State found that the campaign failed to attach a date-stamped application to each of the petitions, as required by state law.

Following Trump’s failed effort to cling to power in early 2021, Collins said she came to Arizona at the request of Mike Lindell, the My Pillow CEO who has spent millions fueling conspiracies to try to overturn the 2020 election. Collins also boasts close ties to Sidney Powell, the attorney responsible for failed lawsuits in Arizona and other battleground states seeking to overturn the election, calling her one of “dear friends” in a Facebook post last August. In a June 2021 interview on Lindell’s Frank Speech TV network, Collins said, “We identified this one as the most important [recall campaign] in the state, so we’ve jumped on board. Mike’s on board. Sidney Powell’s on board.”

During an interview with far-right podcaster Michele Swinnick around the same time, Collins said her group was “intricately involved in the audit” — the pro-Trump effort to review Arizona’s election results that eventually confirmed that Biden was the winner — and was “working on that with key folks.”

Tomi Collins references her friendship with attorney Sidney Powell in an August 2021 Facebook post.Screengrab

Collins told Swinnick that America Restored “came down and started evaluating what was going on on the ground in Arizona” and had been “separating the wheat from the chaff.” She, her team looked at a number of proposed recalls, and determined that the one “that we felt was viable and was very, very important was the Rusty Bowers.”

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Explaining the rationale for backing the recall, Collins said her “team began to look at Rusty’s action during the presidential election and the fact that he did not advocate for the people of Arizona. He did not advocate to get the House back in session. He came out with some crazy statements that he made that basically allowed the fraudulent electors to stand.”

Bowers testified before the January 6th Committee that he asked Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, Trump’s personal attorneys, multiple times for evidence to back up their claims that 200,000 undocumented people and 500-600 dead people voted in the Arizona election, and despite promises they never delivered any evidence. During one conversation, Bowers said, Giuliani admitted that they didn’t have evidence.

“My recollection: He said, ‘We got lots of theories; we just don’t have the evidence,’” Bowers testified. “And I don’t know if that was a gaffe or maybe he didn’t think through what he said. But both myself and others in my group — the three in my group and my counsel, both — remembered that specifically, and afterwards we kind of laughed about it.”

Bowers testified that he told Trump that although he had voted for him and supported him, he “wouldn’t do anything illegal for him.” The committee also presented video testimony earlier this week by Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Hutchinson confirmed to the committee that during a meeting that included Meadows and Giuliani, White House lawyers advised that a plan to have alternate electors meet and cast votes for Trump in states that he lost was not legally sound.

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Despite that warning, John Eastman, a lawyer working on behalf of Trump, called Bowers on Jan. 4, 2021 and asked him to decertify the Biden electors, the state lawmaker testified.

“You’re asking me to do something that’s never been done in the history of the United States,” Bowers said he told Eastman. “And I’m going to put my state through that without sufficient proof? And that’s gonna be good enough with me — that I would put us through that, my state, that I swore to uphold both the Constitution and in law? No, sir.”

During the efforts to help Trump cling to power, Collins and America Restored framed the fight over the 2020 election as a battle to preserve a Christian nation.

“Please understand, if Trump loses we will no longer have a Christian Nation or society,” a tweet by America Restored from Nov. 29, 2020 reads. “There will be no future elections. Now is the time to stand our ground for the Truth! We must put on the Armor of God and fight! Stay off the television and increase your prayers for Trump’s legal team to win. Our Christian future depends on this!”

America Restored explicitly endorses Christian dominionism, also known as “Seven Mountains” ideology, which holds that Christians must take control of seven spheres of influence: family, religion, media, entertainment, business and government. The America Restored website prominently declares on its website that the entity is “‘We The People’ building a powerful, action-driven infrastructure by organizing and mobilizing existing, effective patriot groups and freedom-loving Americans in all major areas of influence: Education, Family, Faith, Business, Government, Entertainment, and Media.”

Ironically, while Collins and her cohorts at America Restored were drawing battle lines in defense of a Christian nation, Bowers turned to his faith as he saw former friends abandon him because he had taken a stand on principle in defiance of Trump’s pressure campaign.

Bowers, who testified that he believes the Constitution is divinely inspired, read from a journal entry made in December 2020 during his testimony before the January 6th Committee.

“It is painful to have friends that have been such a help to me turn on me with such rancor,” he wrote at the time. “I may in the eyes of men not hold correct opinions or act according to their vision or convictions. But I do not take this current situation in a light manner, a fearful manner, or a vengeful manner. I do not want to win by cheating. I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to with any contrived desire towards reflection of my deep foundational desire to follow God’s will as He led my conscience to embrace. How else will I ever approach Him in the wilderness of life, knowing that I ask this guidance only to show myself a coward in defending the course He led me to take?”

As part of the election deniers’ attack on Bowers following the 2020 election, recall supporters attempted to tie him to pedophilia by citing his efforts to pass legislation that would make it easier for people to remove their names in limited circumstances from Arizona’s sex offender registry. Collins insinuated without evidence that Bowers was motivated by a desire to protect powerful allies.

“When you start looking at some of the high-profile people in Arizona that are actually convicted pedophiles, you can probably see high-profile folks from families with money, you can probably see why this is being pushed,” Collins told Swinnick. “I don’t know any other reason it would be, but it’s disgusting.”

During her interview with Frank Speech TV in June 2021, Collins urged Trump supporters from across the country to come to Bowers’ district in Arizona.

“We’re going to have a series of Trump trains and it’s going — just like we had on the interstates before — I think they said there was 90 miles of trains in Arizona,” she said. “They started short, so we’re looking for that again. This weekend is Round 1. We’re gonna go down and we’re gonna fight Round 1 for a knockout punch. If we don’t get Round 1, we’re gonna do it again next weekend for Round 2 — Trump trains down there for signing rally campaigns.”

Collins told Swinnick that she found “a lot of infighting” among different factions of the election denier movement when she came to Arizona, suggesting that she views America Restored as a mediator as well as a benefactor.

“So, whether they’re part of the Patriot Party or don’t like them or whatever, it doesn’t matter,” Collins said. “Because now America Restored has stepped in, and we’re saying, ‘Hey, is this a win that we need?’”

Discussing America Restored’s ability to fund smaller conservative groups, Collins said, “And then, of course, we have these amazing — I don’t know if you’d call them mega-donors or whatever…. Because we’ve ran — a lot of what this infrastructure is built on is pure grit of the volunteer groups that we have in all 50 states. Now, we’ve caught the attention of the donor class.”

America Restored’s finances, including the identity of its donors, remain opaque. A woman who answered her phone on Wednesday promised to forward an interview request to her assistant, but Collins did not return messages for this story.

America Restored is registered in the state of Virginia as a nonstock corporation and in Florida as foreign profit corporation. The registered agent for America Restored’s most recent annual report on file with the Florida Secretary of State is listed as the National Center for Life & Liberty, a self-described “nonprofit legal ministry” that “serves to protect and defend the Bible-based values upon which our nation was founded.” A request for comment to David Gibbs III, the nonprofit’s president and general counsel, was not immediately returned for this story.