Nonprofit headed by former Gen. Michael Flynn spends large sums on Flynn family, promoting election-related lies, new documents show

Since being taken over by prominent election deniers, one of the country’s oldest conservative nonprofit groups has been bleeding cash, while paying its leaders hefty sums, an Issue One review of federal tax filings reveals.

In April 2021, America’s Future — a nonprofit founded in 1946 and previously led by high-profile conservatives such as Phyllis Schlafly and retired Maj. Gen. John Singlaub — named retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as the chairman of its board of directors. It proceeded to hire Flynn’s brother Joe as one of its directors and Flynn’s sister Mary O’Neill as its executive director.

Tax documents reviewed by Issue One show that America’s Future raised a combined $3.7 million in 2021 and 2022 but spent roughly $4.4 million during the same time. That is to say, under the leadership of the Flynn family, America’s Future has spent roughly 20% more than it’s raised.

Of its spending during this two-year period, about 30% — and roughly 43% in 2022 — has gone toward salaries, compensation, and other benefits for its leaders and staff.

Money Flows to Flynn Family

Tax filings show America’s Future paid members of the Flynn family more than $510,000 combined in 2021 and 2022.

  • Mary O’Neill was paid $200,300 during this period, including $148,300 in 2022.
  • Michael Flynn was paid $100,000 during this period, including $60,000 in 2022 for an average of two hours per week of work — the equivalent of about $575 per hour.
  • Joe Flynn was paid $85,000 during this period, including $35,000 in 2022 for an average of two hours per week of work — the equivalent of about $335 per hour.
  • And Flynn Consulting LLC — a company whose registered agent is Flynn’s sister Clare Eckert — was paid $128,200 in 2022 for “public relations” work, ranking the company as America’s Future’s top contractor.

Michael Flynn famously briefly served as national security advisor to President Donald Trump and later received a presidential pardon from Trump for lying to the FBI about his conversations with a Russian diplomat ahead of the 2016 election, reportedly suggesting that Trump would take a less harsh position on Russia than President Barack Obama had. After the 2020 presidential election, Flynn has been at the center of the election denialism movement, repeatedly spreading the falsehood that Trump won the election and rallying activists to the cause.

Before the Flynn family took over America’s Future, tax records show the group ended 2020 with about $3.1 million in the bank. By the end of 2022, that amount had dropped to approximately $2.2 million.

Spending To Push Election-Related Lies

In 2021, America’s Future contributed nearly $1 million to the Cyber Ninjas, a company hired by pro-Trump Republicans in the Arizona Senate that conducted a partisan review of Maricopa County’s election results after the 2020 election.

Additionally, it has contributed funds to other groups that push election-related lies, including:

  • $125,000 to the Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund, including $90,000 in 2022, a nonprofit that runs a project called “Expose the Steal” that aims to reveal purported “deep corruption in counting the vote” in the United States.
  • $10,000 in 2022 to the Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit based in Orlando, Florida, that engages in litigation to advance evangelical Christian values, has peddled lies related to the 2020 presidential election, and has supported in court some of the individuals involved in the January 6th insurrection, including one who allegedly attacked a police officer and another who allegedly threatened to hang the Capitol Police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt during the attack on the Capitol.

Over the past two years, America’s Future has also weighed in on legal cases concerning the 2020 presidential election and the January 6th insurrection.

In September 2022, the group filed an amicus brief in Moore v. Harper in support of the widely debunked independent legislature theory that would have allowed state legislators to overrule the voters of their states in presidential elections. And twice since October 2023, the group submitted amicus briefs in support of a man accused of assaulting a police officer, disorderly conduct in the Capitol, and obstruction of a congressional proceeding during the January 6th insurrection.

Who’s Funding America’s Future?

As a nonprofit registered with the IRS under Sec. 501(c)(4) of the tax code, America’s Future is not required to disclose the names of its donors.

Tax records show that in both 2021 and 2022 two anonymous donors accounted for 60% or more of its funding, with the top donor giving $1 million in 2021 and $500,000 in 2022.

An Issue One review of nonprofit tax filings in ProPublica’s Nonprofit Explorer database shows that this $1 million gift in 2021 came from a conservative-aligned donor-advised fund known as Donors Trust and this $500,000 gift in 2022 came from the Bradley Impact Fund, a donor-advised fund associated with the conservative Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

Donor-advised funds like Donors Trust and the Bradley Impact Fund serve as intermediaries for wealthy donors. Individuals who contribute to donor-advised funds retain the ability to recommend which charities will benefit from their giving, but their identities are not typically disclosed in public records.

Tax filings show that America’s Future also received $100,000 in 2021 from the Bradley Impact Fund, $100,000 in 2021 from the National Christian Charitable Foundation, $100,000 in 2022 from Thrivent Charitable Impact and Investing, and $10,000 in 2022 from the Club For Growth Foundation — though, strangely, America’s Future’s tax filings show it receiving only one $100,000 contribution in 2021.

“It’s sad but true that election denialism is a business opportunity for some,” said Issue One Founder and CEO Nick Penniman. “Grifters will continue to debase and denigrate the integrity of American elections unless more conservatives speak up and defend what they know to be true: We run elections well in the United States, and the outcomes can be trusted.”