Company: Ex-Trump lawyer raiding nonprofit for personal use

·5 min read

Former Trump attorney and self-proclaimed “Kraken releaser” Sidney Powell has told prospective donors that her group, Defending the Republic, is a legal defense fund to protect the integrity of U.S. elections.

But the company suing Powell over her baseless claims of a rigged presidential election says the true beneficiary of her social welfare organization is Powell herself.

Dominion Voting Systems claims Powell has raided Defending the Republic’s coffers to pay for personal legal expenses, citing her own remarks from a radio interview. The Denver-based voting technology vendor sued Powell and others who spread false claims that the company helped steal the 2020 election from Donald Trump.

“Now, Powell seeks to abuse the corporate forms she created for her law firm and fundraising website to hide funds that she raised through her defamatory campaign, shielding those funds from the very company that was harmed by the defamatory campaign,” Dominion lawyers wrote in a May 5 court filing.

The dispute shines a light on how Trump allies continue to support, spread and allegedly profit from lies about fraud in the 2020 election. Although the election is settled, and all major court challenges have been dismissed, Powell’s legal defense fund continues to raise money, with help from conspiracy-minded supporters like QAnon adherents.

Her group will receive a cut of proceeds from ticket sales for a Memorial Day weekend conference in Dallas called the “For God & Country Patriot Roundup,” the event’s website says. Some leading purveyors of far-right conspiracy theories are headliners, including Powell, pro-Trump attorney Lin Wood and former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn.

Event organizer John Sabal, known as “QAnon John” to followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory, declined to explain the decision to financially support Powell’s nonprofit, also known as DTR, but said the money isn’t for her personal benefit.

Powell didn’t respond to interview requests. One of her attorneys, Howard Kleinhendler, said a malpractice carrier covers Powell's personal legal bills and her nonprofit has a proper corporate structure.

“She does not have unfettered control over its funds or how the funds are spent,” Kleinhendler wrote in an email.

Trump and his allies filed more than 50 lawsuits in multiple states over the election and lost at every turn. Powell and Rudy Giuliani were among the lawyers behind the cases claiming a conspiracy by Democrats, despite Republican state leaders, and Trump’s own attorney general and other administration officials, publicly stating there was no major election fraud. Powell appeared with Giuliani at a press conference and made multiple TV appearances.

But after Powell threatened to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing, the Trump legal team distanced itself from her, saying she was not working on their behalf. She later made the comment on how she would release “the Kraken,” an apparent reference to the film “Clash of the Titans” in which Zeus gives the order to release the mythical sea monster.

Tickets for the Dallas conference cost $500 for general admission and $1,000 for VIP passes. The event’s website doesn’t name other beneficiaries or specify how much money goes to Powell’s nonprofit.

Logan Strain, who co-hosts a podcast about QAnon and other conspiracy theories, said Powell has appeared on QAnon promoters’ YouTube channels and is viewed as a “hero of the republic” among QAnon followers. QAnon adherents believe Trump has been secretly fighting a cabal of “deep state” enemies, prominent Democrats and Hollywood elites.

It wouldn’t surprise Strain if Powell is trying to harness the movement as a fundraising source.

“There is a great deal of money to be made in promoting and catering to QAnon,” he said.

Records link other leading conspiracy theorists from Trump’s orbit to Powell’s nonprofit.

Defending the Republic’s chairman and CEO for a time was former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, whose comments about the “deep state” led to his resignation from Overstock in 2019. Byrne says he resigned as Defending the Republic’s chairman and CEO in April after less than one month in the positions.

Corporate filings in Florida and Texas have listed MyPillow founder and CEO Mike Lindell, Powell, Wood, Flynn and Flynn’s brother, Joseph, as the nonprofit's directors.

To support its claim that Powell is using nonprofit money for her personal legal defense, Dominion cited her remarks during a Dec. 29 appearance on “The Rush Limbaugh Show.” Powell told the radio show’s guest host that listeners could go to her website to donate to the nonprofit “that is working to help defend all these cases and to defend me now that I’m under a massive attack from the attorney general of Michigan and the city of Detroit and everything else.”

Michigan’s governor, attorney general and secretary of state — all Democrats — have urged state bar officials in Texas and Michigan to permanently disbar Powell for ethical violations over election lawsuits.

Meanwhile, Eric Coomer, Dominion’s security director, has filed a separate defamation suit in Colorado against Powell, her law firm, Defending the Republic and others. Another voting technology firm, Smartmatic USA Corp., sued Powell in New York over her bogus election-fixing claims.

Dominion sued Powell in federal court on Jan. 8, seeking over $1.3 billion in damages against her, her law firm and her fundraising website. The company claimed Powell treated Defending the Republic “as her personal funds, redirecting them to the law firm she controls and dominates ... and raiding them to pay for her personal legal defense.”

Defending the Republic describes itself as a 501(c)4 nonprofit, but it isn’t listed in an IRS database of tax-exempt organizations. It registered in February with Florida’s Division of Corporations as a nonprofit formed for “social welfare purposes.”

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This story was first published on May 13, 2021. It was updated on May 15, 2021, to correct a reference to former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne. While Byrne had been chairman and CEO of Defending the Republic, a nonprofit formed by Sidney Powell, formerly an attorney for ex-President Donald Trump, Byrne says he resigned as Defending the Republic’s chairman and CEO in April.

Michael Kunzelman, The Associated Press

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