GOP Donor Parted With $2.5 Million In Failed Quest For Holy Grail Of Voter Fraud
Like many Trump supporters, conservative donor Fred Eshelman awoke the day after the presidential election with the suspicion that something wasn't right. His candidate's apparent lead in key battleground states had evaporated overnight.
The twice-impeached thug never had an “apparent lead in key battleground states." There was a brief “red mirage" because of how votes were counted. We knew this going into Election Day, and the insurrectionist in chief even announced his election theft scheme well in advance. He's just the kind of asshole who would spoil a big plot twist.
Eshelman refused to accept what months of polling and the actual, comprehensive vote count revealed: Joe Biden had defeated the one-term loser. Instead, he embraced delusional conspiracy theories like a less foxy Fox Mulder.
"I thought about the range of possibilities around vote fraud," Eshelman said in an interview with The Washington Post. "There was already noise around cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, Atlanta and Philadelphia."
He added: "I wanted to determine if this was legit. Can we find a real smoking gun?"
The existence of Black people isn't much of a smoking gun. We've been here 400 years. The gun has cooled off by now. And the “noise" around cities where we live is probably just a funky jam from our boom boxes.
The day after the election, Eshelman reached out to a Texas rightwing nonprofit, True the Vote, and after a 20 minute conversation with the group's president, he was sold on their mission to expose voter fraud. We should note that Eshelman is a financier from North Carolina, which Biden lost so ipso facto there was no voter fraud, but he was eager to give away the farm to find ALL THE FRAUD in states Biden won.
"I'm in for 2," he told the president of True the Vote, according to court documents and interviews with Eshelman and others.
"$200,000?" one of his advisers on the call asked.
"$2 million," Eshelman responded.
Maybe Eshelman's adviser was new, but you think they'd have the shorthand down: “I'm in for 2" means he's parting with $2 million not $200,000. Business meetings will go on forever if Eshelman has to keep explaining what “2" is.
The story behind the Eshelman donation — detailed in previously unreported court filings and exclusive interviews with those involved — provides new insights into the frenetic days after the election, when baseless claims led donors to give hundreds of millions of dollars to reverse President Biden's victory.
Let's kick the ballistics here: Conservatives forked over “hundreds of millions of dollars" to fund an attempted coup that would later end in a violent insurrection against the US government. Sure, most of these people are white, but so was the starting lineup of the Confederacy.
The twice-impeached thug and the Republican Party collected $255 million in two months. The sedition caucus in Congress fundraised off the Big Lie, as did MAGA-aligned lawyers and even some of their “witnesses." Everybody had their hands out. Everything was for the taking, including our putative democracy.
“Election integrity" was always the soothing balm in the Big Lie. When Eshelman woke up on November 4, he was terrified that his guy was losing, and it only took him 20 minutes to sign up for a coup. We focus too much on the obvious scam, when this was both a grift and a coup, possibly even a dessert topping. The one-term loser and his Republican cronies would've happily kept him in office if they could've pulled it off. Next time, they might.
Eshelman's lawsuit against True the Vote alleges that the nonprofit didn't spend his $2 million gift and later $500,000 donation on legitimate coup-related activities. Eshelman claims that True the Vote squandered his insurrection dollars on administration costs like a respectable corrupt nonprofit that doesn't try to undermine democracy. True the Vote's president, Catherine Engelbrecht, insists that Eshelman's money was spent properly.
Asked about the shifting focus from allegation to allegation, Engelbrecht said, "A good thorough investigation takes the course it takes, and we were not going to expose whistleblowers to make a quick headline." She said that the group's investigation "is ongoing even now."
True the Vote's lawyer, James Bopp, added that Eshelman never attached any conditions to his donation, and he can't demand a refund just because he doesn't like the outcome. This was an attempted coup not a kitchen remodel.
I don't know if Bopp said, “You lose! Good day, sir," but I imagine he was thinking it.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."