Tax documents detail how election deniers profit from group founded by conspiracy theorists Patrick Byrne and Michael Flynn

A new tax filing reviewed by Issue One shows that several prominent election deniers have been profiting from The America Project, a nonprofit founded in 2021 by former CEO Patrick Byrne and President Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who each have spent the past several years peddling falsehoods about the 2020 election.

In July 2022, Byrne told the bipartisan congressional select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection that he wasn’t receiving a salary from The America Project, but by the end of the year, he had, in fact, collected a salary of $95,000, and The America Project paid a real estate company linked to him — known as Black Manatee Investment LLC — another $192,000. That money came on top of the $65,000 salary Byrne collected from The America Project in 2021.

Byrne isn’t the only one who has been reaping financial benefits from The America Project.

Joe Flynn — brother of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — was paid a salary of $263,000 in 2022 for serving as one of the directors of The America Project, or about $169 per hour.

Carl Johnson, a conservative activist who serves as The America Project’s chief operating officer, was paid a salary of $237,500 in 2022, or about $114 per hour.

And Mark Lloyd, a former chairman of the Virginia Tea Party Patriot Federation who, in 2022, served as the director of “Operation Eagles Wings,” which trains conservative activists in poll-watching tactics, was paid roughly $169,000. Lloyd is also the treasurer of Americans for Limited Government, a nonprofit that has falsely claimed that China interfered with the 2020 election and whose president, the day after the January 6 insurrection, said that Trump was “right not to concede.”

Additionally, the tax records reviewed by Issue One show The America Project paid one of its directors $3,500 per month for rent associated with “unrelated individuals relocating to Florida [who] were housed in a home owned by a director.” The tax filing does not specify which individual received these payments.

The America Project also footed the bill for charter travel for its officers on an “as needed basis.” Overall, The America Project spent roughly $799,000 on travel in 2022, according to its tax filing, up from about $202,000 on travel the year earlier.

“Peddling false information that erodes people’s faith in our elections is bad for the country, but unfortunately, there’s money to be made in it,” said Issue One Founder and CEO Nick Penniman. “It’s a sad state of affairs that election officials from across the political spectrum are working tirelessly to restore people’s faith in the integrity of our elections while grifters continue to push, and profit from, election lies.”

Added former Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), a co-chair of Issue One’s National Council on Election Integrity: “People with concerns about the integrity of our elections should be calling on Congress to provide additional funding to fortify our elections processes, not helping line the pockets of those who were at the center of promoting misinformation and conspiracy theories in the lead up to the January 6 attack on the Capitol.”

Raising big bucks

The new tax filing shows The America Project raised about $14.3 million in 2022, up from $7.7 million in 2021.

As a nonprofit registered with the IRS under Sec. 501(c)(4) of the tax code, The America Project is not required to disclose the names of its donors. However, Byrne has publicly said that most of the money comes from his own funds.

As recently as October 2023, Byrne said The America Project had raised about $30 million since its founding, with about $3 million coming from “the public” and the rest — $27 million — coming from him.

Along with Michael Flynn and attorney Sidney Powell, Byrne infamously met with Trump in the Oval Office in December 2020, just days after the electors met to affirm Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election. They reportedly encouraged Trump to overturn the election and pushed outlandish conspiracy theories, including that Venezuela had meddled with the election and that Nest brand thermostats were changing votes. Several hours after this meeting, Trump encouraged his supporters to come to Washington, D.C., on January 6, tweeting: “Be there, will be wild!”

“I don’t think any of these people were providing the president with good advice,” then-White House Counsel Pat Cipollone later told the bipartisan congressional select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection.

Fanning the flames of election lies 

Since its founding in April 2021, The America Project has been fanning the flames of election lies. That year, it helped bankroll the Cyber Ninjas’s conspiracy-fueled partisan review of the ballots in Arizona, and it doled out grants to other conservative groups, including many that have spread false information related to the security and integrity of our elections.

The new tax filing shows The America Project continued to financially support other groups that have spread lies about the integrity of our elections as well as helped underwrite conspiracy-fueled legal battles, all told giving to more than two dozen organizations in 2022.

The largest payment The America Project made in 2022 to another group was $700,000 to Michigan-based United States Election Investigation and Lawsuits Inc., as the Detroit News reported earlier this year.

United States Election Investigation and Lawsuits Inc. was founded in 2021 by election denier Stefanie Lambert and her former law school classmate, Jason Rybak. Lambert is representing Byrne in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Byrne.

The America Project also directly paid Lambert’s law firm another $430,000.

Another law firm The America Project paid in 2022 was Pennsylvania-based OGC Law LLC, which it paid roughly $229,000 on top of the $100,000 the firm received from The America Project in 2021. Gregory Teufel, a lawyer at OGC Law, was involved in unsuccessfully attempting to overturn a 2019 Pennsylvania law that allowed all Pennsylvanians to request no-excuse mail-in ballots.

For the second year in a row, The America Project paid $200,000 to a group called 423 Catkins Maize LLC, a business connected to election conspiracy theorist Jovan Pulitzer.

It also paid $150,000 in 2022 to Brian Della Rocca, a Maryland-based lawyer who has been representing the Delaware computer repair shop owner at the center of the controversy about Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Additionally, The America Project gave $75,000 in 2022 to VoterGA, a nonprofit that has filed several legal challenges against Georgia’s voting procedures and the state’s handling of the 2020 election. The America Project’s contributions made up about 37% of VoterGA’s total revenue in 2022, documents show.

And The America Project paid $20,000 to Michigan-based lawyer Ann Howard, who has been accused by the attorney general in Michigan of coordinating the printing of fake ballots for tests on ballot tabulation machines that conspiracy theorists improperly obtained.

Supporting conspiracy-fueled political efforts

Some of The America Project’s spending in 2022 helped power political candidates and groups.

For instance, it contributed roughly $255,000 to a PAC connected to failed Nevada Secretary of State candidate Jim Marchant called Conservatives for Election Integrity, which backed multiple election deniers running to oversee the elections. As Issue One previously reported, contributions from The America Project accounted for approximately 55% of the money Marchant’s PAC raised during the 2021-2022 election cycle, and it pumped another $29,000 into the PAC in early 2023.

The America Project also gave $100,000 to a PAC called Citizens for Election Integrity, which supported election denier Tina Peters’ unsuccessful GOP primary campaign for secretary of state in Colorado. While serving as the county clerk and recorder in Mesa County, in western Colorado, Peters allegedly assisted with a security breach of the county’s voting machines as she unsuccessfully sought to substantiate claims of fraud in the 2020 election. The contribution from The America Project made up 100% of the money the PAC raised.

And it gave $100,000 to Secure MI Vote, an unsuccessful ballot measure campaign that sought to implement new identification requirements for Michigan voters and ban the mass distribution of absentee ballot applications.

Other beneficiaries of The America Project’s financial largess in 2022 included:

  • Truth for Health Foundation ($120,000)
  • American Voters Alliance ($100,000)
  • Florida Citizens Alliance ($50,000)
  • Frederick Douglass Foundation ($50,000)
  • Renz Law LLC ($50,000)
  • Latinos for America First ($25,000)
  • GOPAC ($25,000)
  • Hope Carolina ($21,000)
  • Moms for America ($20,000)
  • Every Citizen’s Vote ($15,000)
  • New Era Medical Generations Tour ($15,000)
  • Faith 2 Direct Action Inc. ($15,000)
  • We The People AZ Alliance ($15,000)
  • Wisconsin Center for Election Justice ($12,500)
  • Operation Freedom of Choice ($11,000)
  • Women Fighting For America LLC ($10,000)
  • Code of Vets ($10,000)
  • National Election Integrity Association ($10,000)
  • Election Integrity Fund ($10,000)

The America Project’s next tax filing, which will detail all of its spending and fundraising during 2023, is not expected to be filed with the IRS until mid-November 2024.