Donald Trump-loving attorney Sidney Powell raised millions from donors as she fought legal battles to overturn the 2020 election, but questions about spending isolated her from other election deniers and even her own staff.
Financial records show that Powell's nonprofit group Defending the Republic raised nearly $15 million, reported the Washington Post, but previously unreported records show the group's other leaders became suspicious about where the money was going -- and now federal prosecutors and Congress are investigating.
“Business is good and accountability is low, which means we’re just going to see continued use of this playbook,” said Matt Masterson, who tracked 2020 election integrity for the Department of Homeland Security. “Well-meaning folks that have been told that the election was stolen are giving out money that they might not otherwise be able to give.”
Financial statements show Powell's nonprofit raised $14.9 million between Dec. 1, 2020, and July 31, and it spent about $5.6 million of that on mostly legal fees and unspecified awards and grants, and it gave $550,000 to the Arizona election "audit."
Defending the Republic had nearly $5.3 million in assets and $4 million in mutual funds at the end of July, according to an audit.
It's not clear how much Powell raised before she established the organization Dec. 1, after she spent several weeks filing dubious legal challenges and appearing in conservative media to spread conspiracy theories and ask for donations, which were made payable to her law firm before Defending the Republic was set up.
Powell was listed as the group's agent, while former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and his brother Joseph Flynn were added as directors later that month.
A seemingly affiliated group was set up the same day in Delaware and applied to the IRS as a 501(c)4 social welfare organization, which may not make political activity their primary focus.
A new Defending the Republic organization was incorporated in Florida in late February, with MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell listed as its director, but he claims he asked to be removed as soon as he found out.
Powell and Michael Flynn asked former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, another Trump election conspiracist, to take over the Florida operation, and he agreed to assist until July, and he hired a small staff that included Robert Weaver, a co-founder of the pro-Trump religious group Jericho March, and Emily Newman, a former White House liaison to the Health and Human Services Department, along with the Flynns.
Powell clashed with staffers from the start, especially over her handling of the billion-dollar defamation suit filed against her by Dominion Voting Systems, and Byrne took their side -- and eventually joined them -- as they started resigning one after another in March.
Byrne and Michael Flynn soon set up a new nonprofit, the America Project, and started raising money off the Arizona ballot review, to which they contributed $3.25 million, and Byrne and Defending the Republic have spent months in a legal dispute over payments from his time with Powell's group.