Election-denying secretary of state candidates have raised more than $12 million, Issue One analysis finds
Financial support has come from the former CEO of Overstock.com, Wendy’s largest franchisee, and others
Senior Communications Manager
As a record amount of money flows into races for states’ top election officials across the country, a new Issue One analysis shows that election-denying secretary of state candidates have collectively raised more than $12 million for their campaigns this election cycle — including more than $5.8 million raised by election deniers who prevailed in their primaries and will be on the ballot this November. In two states with competitive secretary of state races this fall, election deniers are significantly outraising their general opponents.
(Update Nov. 7, 2022: Additional campaign finance documents filed before Election Day show election-denying secretary of state candidates raised more than $15.7 million — including $8.9 million raised by election deniers who prevailed in their primaries and will appear on the ballot this year. Learn more.)
Election-denying candidates — who have promoted disinformation about the 2020 election — have emerged as the Republican Party’s nominees in roughly half of the 27 secretary of state races on the ballot this November.
Democrats and Republicans who do not deny the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election have also raised tens of millions of dollars for secretary of state contests across the country. Yet Issue One’s research shows that election-denying secretary of state candidates who secured the GOP nomination this year have so far outraised their Democratic opponents in Arizona and Indiana, which are considered competitive by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics as well as in the Republican-leaning states of Alabama and South Dakota. And in Wyoming, there is no Democratic general election opponent, meaning the election denier nominated by the Republican Party in August after a competitive three-way primary is on a glide path to becoming the next secretary of state there.
“Eroding people’s faith in our free and fair elections is bad for our republic, and it is alarming that election disinformation is now turbocharging fundraising for elections to the highest election administration offices,” said Issue One Founder and CEO Nick Penniman. “Election deniers running for secretary of state appear to be raising more money than similar candidates in the past by promising donors that they’ll use their offices for partisan political gain.”
Down-ballot races like secretary of state contests don’t usually get as much attention from voters — or donors — as higher-profile races, like congressional or gubernatorial elections. But in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, people across the political spectrum have taken a greater interest in the role of secretaries of state (and other positions) in administering elections.
This new report also highlights a dozen notable donors to election-denying secretary of state candidates, including:
- Former President Donald Trump’s Save America PAC, which has raised more than $135 million since November 2020. Trump’s PAC has so far contributed to the campaigns of election deniers Mark Finchem of Arizona, Kristina Karamo of Michigan, and Jody Hice, who unsuccessfully ran for secretary of state in Georgia earlier this year.
- Patrick Byrne, the founder and former CEO of online retailer Overstock.com and one of the leading figures in the election denier movement. Byrne has so far contributed to the campaigns of election deniers Jim Marchant of Nevada, Kristina Karamo of Michigan, and Tina Peters, who unsuccessfully ran for secretary of state in Colorado earlier this year. In addition to the contributions that Byrne has directly made to candidates, a nonprofit that he founded and funds has provided nearly half of the $347,000 raised to date by Jim Marchant’s PAC, which is boosting election denier secretary of state candidates across the country.
- Fast food restaurateur Lewis Topper, the chairman and CEO of WendCentral, the largest Wendy’s franchisee in the country. Topper and his wife Margaret have so far contributed to the campaigns of election deniers Mark Finchem of Arizona; Jim Marchant of Nevada; Kristina Karamo of Michigan; Tina Peters, who unsuccessfully ran for secretary of state in Colorado earlier this year; and Jody Hice, who unsuccessfully ran for secretary of state in Georgia earlier this year.
Read the full report: “Who’s Bankrolling Election Deniers?”
A full table of how much money the Republican and Democratic secretary of state candidates have raised in the 12 races featuring an election denier is below:
Source: Issue One analysis of state-level campaign finance filings. Note: Numbers are subject to change as additional campaign finance filings will be submitted in the weeks ahead.