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Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Project 2025 partners use right-wing media to sow distrust in American elections

Several Project 2025 partners were involved in attempts to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory and have already cast doubt on the 2024 election

As Project 2025 maps out its conservative agenda for the next GOP presidential administration, several of its partner organizations have employed figures involved in efforts to overturn former President Donald Trump’s 2020 loss — and others have already begun sowing distrust in American elections ahead of the 2024 presidential election. 

Led by the Heritage Foundation, Project 2025 lays out staffing and policy priorities for Trump’s potential return to the White House. The project has over 100 partners, ranging from extreme anti-LGBTQ groups to prominent conservative think tanks, many of which have employed individuals directly involved in attempts to overturn the 2020 election, including figures who served as Trump’s “fake electors”; urged then-Vice President Mike Pence to delay the certification of the electoral count; and pushed disputed legal theories to keep Trump in power. Right-wing media have platformed these individuals, championing their schemes and validating their election lies. 

Other partners have turned their sights to the 2024 election, spreading doubts about its legitimacy months before it occurs under the guise of concerns about “election integrity.” Despite lacking evidence of systematic issues across American elections, some of these Project 2025 partner organizations baselessly suggest to their supporters that the 2024 election is being “rigged” as part of “a concerted effort by Democrats,” setting the stage for Trump and his media allies to once again contest the legitimacy of November’s results.

  • Right-wing media have platformed Project 2025 partner employees who attempted to overturn the 2020 election

  • American Family Association

    • The American Family Association hosts a daily radio show with Jenna Ellis, a former Trump lawyer who pleaded guilty to a felony charge over her involvement in efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Ellis “amplified former President Donald J. Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud as part of what she called a legal ‘elite strike force team’” and wrote legal memos for Trump and his counsel containing “widely disputed legal theories” in an attempt to keep him in power. [American Family Association, 1/2/23; The New York Times, 10/24/23; Politico, 12/10/21]

    Center for Renewing America

    • Center for Renewing America’s senior fellow Jeffrey Clark attempted to capitalize on his position in 2020 as a senior Justice Department official to “use federal law enforcement power to undo then-President Donald Trump’s defeat.” Trump’s federal indictment for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election results appears to identify Clark as an unindicted co-conspirator, portraying him as a “linchpin of plans to bypass the acting attorney general and use the imprimatur of the Justice Department to spread ‘knowingly false claims of election fraud’ and deceitfully substitute legitimate electors with sham alternates supporting Trump.” [The Washington Post, 7/3/23]
    • During his tenure at Fox News, prime-time star Tucker Carlson defended Clark after his home was searched as part of the January 6 probe, claiming, “There’s no suggestion he committed any crime of anything, that he did anything wrong.” Bannon has also shown his support for Clark by suggesting that he serve as Trump’s next attorney general and invited him on the show to advocate for deploying the military against protesters. (According to The Washington Post, Clark “is leading the work on the Insurrection Act under Project 2025.”) [Media Matters, 7/1/22, 11/9/23; The Washington Post, 11/5/23]

    The Claremont Institute

    • The Claremont Institute has emerged as “a driving force in the conservative movement’s crusade to use bogus fraud claims about the 2020 election to rewrite voting laws and remake the election system in time for the 2022 midterms and 2024 presidential election.” Claremont has also promoted stolen election narratives, with its online magazine claiming in a November 5, 2020, editorial titled “The Fight is Now” that Democrats “have all but declared themselves the winners of the 2020 election before the votes are counted,” concluding that “the President and his supporters must publicly rally and protest what any reasonable person would judge looks illegitimate.” [Rolling Stone, 1/12/22; The American Mind, 11/5/20]
    • Claremont Institute board member John Eastman was one of the chief architects of Trump’s legal efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss. While working as one of Trump’s election lawyers, Eastman attempted “to solicit GOP state legislatures to send ‘alternate’ electors to Congress” and pressured then-Vice President Mike Pence to delay certifying the election, drafting a memo for Trump’s legal team that has been described as “a blueprint for a coup.” [Politico, 3/27/24; The New York Times, 10/2/21]
    • Right-wing media championed Eastman’s fake elector scheme as it unfolded and frequently welcomed him as a guest on shows. Various figures and outlets defended Eastman’s actions again in 2023 and called for retaliation after a California judge “recommended in March that Eastman be disbarred for his election subversion efforts.” [Media Matters, 9/21/21, 6/27/23, 3/29/24; CNN, 5/2/24]

    Conservative Partnership Institute

    • In 2021, CPI hired Cleta Mitchell, “a Trump adviser and election attorney” who “played a central role in the effort to stop the certification of the election in Georgia and beyond.” The Intercept wrote that Mitchell “was one of the principal players on the infamous call in which Trump implored Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find the 11,780 votes he needed to claim victory.” She later “helped the former president covertly send $1 million to finance the farcical Arizona audit in 2021.” [The Intercept, 9/13/23]
    • Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo gave Mitchell a platform to push election misinformation on her show in the days after the 2020 election. Mitchell questioned the integrity of Dominion Voting Systems’ software and claimed that “we cannot have a situation where people don’t have confidence in the outcome and the tabulation of the votes.” Dominion later won a record $787.5 million settlement from Fox over the network airing “spurious claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential race.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria Martiromo, 11/10/20; NPR, 4/18/23]
    • In April, Bannon hosted Mitchell on War Room to defend against a New York Times report on her efforts targeting voter rolls across the country. Mitchell claimed, “We want a lawful election. If we have a lawful election, we have a chance to win. They want to cheat. We have to stop them.” Bannon replied, “If we have a lawful election, Trump wins in a landslide. They have to steal it, they know that.” [Media Matters, 3/5/24]
    • CPI also employs former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, who galvanized the effort to overturn the results in 2020 using “outlandish election conspiracy theories.” Meadows, now a senior partner at CPI, spent Trump’s final weeks in the White House asking the Justice Department “to examine debunked claims of election fraud in New Mexico and an array of baseless conspiracies that held that Mr. Trump had been the actual victor,” including “a fantastical theory that people in Italy had used military technology and satellites to remotely tamper with voting machines in the United States.” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington reported that “filling its ranks with people who undermined democracy has been a financial boon to the group. In each of the two years since, it has brought in at least twice as much money as it did in its first four years of its existence combined.” [The New York Times, 6/5/21; CREW, 11/17/23]
    • In April 2022, unearthed text messages revealed that Meadows was working with several Fox hosts, who were “integral to Trump’s plot to illegally hold onto power after losing the election.” Notably, Bartiromo provided Meadows the questions she’d be asking in advance of an interview with Trump, telling  the White House chief of staff that “the public wants to know he will fight this” and people “want to hear a path to victory.” [Media Matters, 4/29/22]

    Hillsdale College

    • Robert E. Norton II, general counsel for conservative Christian Hillsdale College, reportedly hosted a meeting in November 2020 with lawyer Ian Northon and several other individuals involved in Trump’s attempts to overturn the election. The New York Times wrote that “the pre-Thanksgiving gathering at Norton’s house presaged broader efforts to thwart the will of Michigan voters, as well as the entanglement of Hillsdale’s administration in the events leading up to Jan. 6.” Norton and Northon, “a Hillsdale alumnus and private lawyer who did work for the college,” later became “involved in a plan to deploy fake Trump electors in Michigan.” [The New York Times, 1/8/24]
    • In December 2020, Northon appeared on Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight to push a debunked legal theory and claim that state legislatures should appoint their own slate of pro-Trump electors. Northon claimed that state legislatures “need to send a second slate of electors to make sure that there’s accuracy and integrity in the election.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 12/23/20]

    Tea Party Patriots

    • Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin “worked extensively on the legal and political effort to reverse Trump’s defeat” and was in communication with Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. As noted by Talking Points Memo, “Martin attended and spoke at Stop The Steal events in the leadup to Jan. 6. She was also billed as a speaker for ‘Stop The Steal’ activist Ali Alexander’s ‘Wild Protest,’ which was set to take place at the Capitol on Jan. 6,” but “that event was cut short amid the chaos.” Additionally, Martin’s “work in the ‘Stop The Steal’ movement helped connect the political, legal, and activist elements of the push to keep Trump in power.” [Talking Points Memo, 5/9/24; NBC News, 5/8/24]
    • In January, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk hosted Martin on his show to brag about training election-denying activists to “monitor elections.” She appeared on Steve Bannon’s War Room the next day and claimed: “When it comes to securing the election, we’re in a much better position right now in 2020 — I mean in 2024 than we were in 2020, way better. In 2022, we trained 20,000 people who went on to be part of the 80,000 people that the RNC placed as poll watchers. That is massive.” [Media Matters, 1/30/24]

    Turning Point USA

    • Two men with “deep ties” to right-wing activist group Turning Point USA were among the 11 indicted in Arizona for their role as “fake electors” in Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election. One of the fake electors, Tyler Bowyer, previously worked as the national field director and chief operating officer of TPUSA and remains the COO of Turning Point Action, the organization’s 501(c)(4) branch. The other fake elector is state Sen. Jake Hoffman, a TPUSA affiliate and contractor. [MSNBC, 4/26/24]
    • Turning Point founder Charlie Kirk criticized the indictment on X, writing, “Democrats and their media flacks are attempting to criminalize a concept they themselves invented and have utilized with impunity.” On his show, Kirk also called the indictment “the death of the rule of law” and suggested that the Arizona attorney general’s office targeted Bowyer with a “legal Tomahawk missile” to interfere with the 2024 election. [Twitter/X, 4/25/24; Real America’s Voice, The Charlie Kirk Show, 4/25/24]
  • Other Project 2025 partners have used their own media platforms to cast doubt on the 2024 election

  • AMAC Action

    • AMAC Action represents the Association of Mature American Citizens, a group that labels itself “the conservative alternative to the AARP” and publishes articles priming members to believe that the 2024 election will be stolen. The group published an article in March titled “Will The Election Be Rigged?” which claims, “Citizens have reason to be concerned given the significant changes to election practices, including universal mail-in voting, widespread ballot harvesting, and a concerted effort by Democrats to allow illegal aliens to vote in the upcoming election.” Another article titled “Election Fraud Is Real And Needs To Be Fixed Before 2024” claims, “Cheating should not determine the outcome in the highly consequential 2024 national election.” [PolitiFact, 12/2/12; AMAC Action, 3/29/24, 11/7/23]

    The Heartland Institute

    • The Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank that has published election fraud surveys described as “mind-bogglingly ridiculous” by The Washington Post, claimed that one of its most recent polls shows that “nearly 45 million ballots may be fraudulently cast if they are not prevented.” According to Heartland, “28% of all voters say they would engage in at least one kind of illegal voting practice in order to help their preferred candidate–either President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump—win the 2024 election.” [The Washington Post, 12/12/23; The Heartland Institute, 4/16/24]

    The Heritage Foundation

    • The Heritage Foundation has planted seeds of doubt about the reliability of the upcoming election. The Project 2025 leader has published articles in the last year titled “Will Elections Finally Be Secure and Honest in 2024?” and “One Illegal Vote Can Change the Outcome of an Election.” [The Heritage Foundation, 1/5/24, 7/13/23]
    • Despite a lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud, Heritage Foundation President Kevin D. Roberts refuses to acknowledge that Biden won the 2020 election. In an interview published this January, Roberts told The New York Times, “Can I say definitively that he won? No.” [The New York Times, 1/21/24]