Approximately $1 of every $3 that a high-profile anti-democracy group that peddles false claims about elections in the United States spent in 2022 went to a firm operated by one of its leaders, an Issue One review of tax filings shows.
The Texas-based nonprofit group True the Vote spent $4.62 million in 2022, of which $1.54 went to the OpSec Group, a company formed by longtime True the Vote official Gregg Phillips. Since September 2020, when Phillips launched the OpSec Group, True the Vote has paid it more than $2 million, tax filings show.
“The Big Lie continues to be a big grift,” said Issue One Founder and CEO Nick Penniman. “Spreading falsehoods about the integrity of our elections shouldn’t be a lucrative undertaking, but unfortunately, today it is. As we head into another contentious election, local election officials on both sides of the aisle are working tirelessly to run safe, secure, and transparent elections, despite being bombarded with conspiracy theories and lies.”
True the Vote provided much of the research behind the unsubstantiated allegations featured in provocateur Dinesh D’Souza’s widely discredited film “2,000 Mules.” The film falsely claimed that Democratic operatives in 2020 — which the movie dubs “mules” — stuffed ballot drop boxes in swing states with fake absentee ballots. None of the film’s assertions have stood up in a court of law, and President Donald Trump’s own Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud in 2020.
Longtime True the Vote board member Gregg Phillips and True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht have been accused of using the group to enrich themselves. Both were briefly jailed in 2022 after a federal judge found them in contempt of court during a civil case brought by an election logistics software company that sued True the Vote for defamation, libel and slander.
In addition to True the Vote’s payments to Phillip’s company, the tax filing shows that Engelbrecht was paid a salary of $195,000 in 2022.
Since 2010, when Engelbrecht founded True the Vote, she has been paid more than $1.66 million. She also reportedly received $113,000 in loans from True the Vote, in apparent violation of a Texas law that bars nonprofits from loaning money to their own directors, which Engelbrecht is, as previously reported by Reveal News.
Payments to Engelbrecht and Phillips have come as True the Vote’s fundraising has flourished and fringe theories about election administration have proliferated, despite being widely debunked.
True the Vote raised more than $19 million between 2010 and 2022, an Issue One review of tax filings shows. Most of that came in the past three years, including a near-record $4.8 million in 2022. During its first ten years of existence, True the Vote typically raised about $600,000 a year. In 2020, True the Vote experienced a huge fundraising spike, collecting $5 million.
True the Vote continues to sow doubt about the 2020 election and our election processes in general. In its tax filing, True the Vote says it trained 2,500 volunteers in 2022 to “research voter rolls.” And in August 2022, the group convened a gathering in Arizona of prominent voices in the election denialism movement, including Richard Mack, founder of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association and a former board member of the Oath Keepers militia group that played a central role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
Issue: Fighting False Narratives