Engelbrecht Phillips True the Vote QAnon

Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

How True the Vote cultivated relationships with QAnon influencers to target an election software company and serve as a pipeline to law enforcement

True the Vote’s activity with QAnon influencers shows how the election denial movement is exploiting the conspiracy theory’s network

True the Vote, a conservative organization that’s known for pushing false claims of widespread voter fraud and that was behind the debunked film 2000 Mules, has actively collaborated with QAnon influencers, promising to act as a liaison between them and law enforcement and using them to target an election software company in Michigan.

True the Vote’s collaboration with QAnon influencers is a significant development when it comes to the QAnon community’s ongoing influence in the election denier movement. Media Matters has previously reported on the community’s close associations with election denial efforts; one QAnon influencer is even involved with a coalition recruiting and electing election-denialist secretary of state candidates. 

A Media Matters investigation into True the Vote’s extraordinary and blatant collaboration with QAnon figures to push election misinformation — including during repeated appearances on QAnon-supporting shows and the group’s “The Pit” event that included many QAnon figures — reveals the community’s connection with the election denial movement taken to a new level. Most recently, a software company targeted by True the Vote and its QAnon collaborators has sued the group, claiming defamation and saying its founder has left his home due to death threats. True the Vote’s leaders claimed the FBI refused to look at their supposed evidence against the company, so they turned their findings over to QAnon-supporting “citizen researchers.”

  • True the Vote’s background and history of election denial

  • Then-tea party activist Catherine Engelbrecht founded True the Vote in 2009, following the election of then-President Barack Obama, to push for voter ID laws and purging voter rolls. (“Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander has called Engelbrecht “the godmother of the election integrity movement.”) In 2016, Engelbrecht’s business partner, Gregg Phillips, a Republican operative and former Mississippi official, claimed without evidence that that year’s presidential election featured millions of illegal votes, a claim embraced by then-President Donald Trump. 

    Both Engelbrecht and Phillips are also listed as executive producers for and starred in 2000 Mules, a widely debunked film claiming evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Despite 2000 Mules’ false claims (and True the Vote’s dubious record with its finances), right-wing figures have widely embraced the film, which was screened at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in May. True the Vote has since announced partnerships with right-wing sheriffs groups.

    As 2000 Mules catapulted True the Vote into fame within the right, Engelbrecht and Phillips also began to cultivate a relationship with another particular group: supporters of QAnon, a categorically false conspiracy theory that has been tied to multiple acts of violence, including the January 6 insurrection. The conspiracy theory has also spurred internal warnings of domestic terrorism from multiple government agencies.

  • True the Vote has cultivated relationships with QAnon influencers, appearing on QAnon-supporting shows at least 20 times in four months, and proposed getting their material to law enforcement

  • Around the same time that 2000 Mules was released, Phillips joined Truth Social, Trump’s social media platform, whose leadership has extensively appealed to the QAnon community. There Phillips interacted with multiple QAnon figures, including repeatedly amplifying posts explicitly promoting the conspiracy theory and calling QAnon influencers his “friends.” (Phillips has explicitly credited Truth Social for connecting him with QAnon figures.)

  • Phillips Q post1
  • Phillips’ association also extended outside of Truth Social posts. Since at least June, Phillips has repeatedly gone on the QAnon-supporting MatrixxxGrooove Show (or MG Show), which is co-hosted by QAnon supporters Jeffrey Pedersen (known online as “intheMatrixxx”) and Shannon Townsend (known online as “ShadyGrooove”). In fact, he has been on the show at least a dozen times since June. 

    During those appearances, Phillips has worn flannel for “Flannel Friday,” a trend that developed in the QAnon community, and lauded the QAnon community, saying it was “becoming a force” and adding, “It’s not a fringe movement. It’s not a conspiracy theory.” Phillips even promised the hosts to get Arizona Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake on the show — which he did.

  • Video file

    Citation From the July 15, 2022, edition of MatrixxxGrooove Show

  • Phillips has also gone on other QAnon-supporting shows — such as X22 Report, RedPill78, and those hosted by Jon Herold (known online as “Patel Patriot”) — at least 6 times since May, leading Pedersen to brag that Phillips had been “going on all the anon shows.”

    Phillips seemingly revealed some of his motivation for going on QAnon-supporting shows in May, writing, “I don’t agree with all I hear but as long as the motive is freedom from tyranny, I’ll stand next to ANYONE and fight.” 

    Phillips has also collaborated with QAnon figures for Patriot Games, a podcast that he launched in July. A QAnon influencer has been co-running the podcast’s official Truth Social page, and J.T. Wilde, a QAnon-supporting musician, wrote a song for the podcast, which they first debuted on MatrixxxGrooove Show. Phillips said he is also working with Wilde on other projects.

    Engelbrecht, too, has associated with the QAnon community. Besides going on RedPill78, she has appeared multiple times on both X22 Report (whose host is an “old friend” of Engelbrecht, according to Phillips) and MatrixxxGrooove Show. During the latter, the show featured on screen a donation link for True the Vote that suggested some kind of collaboration between the show and the group. 

    Engelbrecht also participated in the QAnon Flannel Friday trend on the show alongside Phillips and has lauded the show’s “awesome” hosts for doing “such a great job of building an audience of activists and of people that are not willing — not only willing to listen, but willing to engage.” She has also said, “It is coming, there is nothing that can stop what is coming” — echoing a common QAnon phrase. (Engelbrecht has also said a QAnon influencer was “helping to run” True the Vote’s Substack.)

    Phillips and Engelbrecht also see QAnon figures as tools to support their agenda. Phillips in recent months said he wanted to use supposed research from QAnon figures to give to law enforcement and the sheriffs groups that partner with True the Vote. Phillips has praised the QAnon community’s research effortssaying that its “open source intelligence” is “spectacularly good” — and said that he wants to involve its “citizen researchers.” He has also specifically floated giving their research and findings to Pinal County, Arizona, Sheriff Mark Lamb — the head of one of the sheriffs groups True the Vote is partnering with who once signed a book with the QAnon slogan (“where we go one, we go all,” or “WWG1WGA” for short) — and to “any of the other sheriffs that are going to be involved.”

  • Many QAnon figures attended True the Vote’s The Pit event

  • In August, Phillips and Engelbrecht hosted an event in Arizona they called The Pit (which Herold said he helped coordinate), where they would supposedly reveal “devastating” information showing the 2020 election was stolen. 

    In the weeks leading up to the event, Phillips told the MatrixxxGrooove Show hosts it would be a “secret meeting” of “influencers, folks like you all, you know, Patel [Patriot] and all the guys” where they would “turn over a bunch of information to you.” Multiple QAnon influencers were photographed at the event, including Zak Paine, the host of RedPill78 and who participated in the January 6 insurrection; David Hayes (know online as “Praying Medic”), who has called for a military coup against Biden; and the host of X22 Report. Multiple members of We The Media, a QAnon influencer collective channel, were also photographed together at the event, and one of its members, Jordan Sather, said “a bunch” of them were attending.

  • QAnon influencers the pit photos
  • Media Matters identified at least a dozen QAnon figures who attended. Multiple QAnon influencers later praised the gathering, saying it allowed “us to meet, in the flesh, fellow digital soldiers who have been working tirelessly together in the trenches for years” and thanking Phillips for “bringing the anon community together” because “nobody else has done what you did for us and bringing us together.”

    Political figures also attended the event, such as Arizona gubernatorial candidate Lake and Arizona Republican secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem, along with Lamb, the Pinal County, Arizona, sheriff, and Trump attorney Christina Bobb, who used to work for far-right network One America News.

  • True the Vote used QAnon influencers to target Michigan election software company Konnech after allegedly being rejected by the FBI

  • From The Pit, Phillips and Engelbrecht used the QAnon community to target Konnech, a Michigan-based election software company, with election fraud conspiracy theories. Konnech has since sued True the Vote, Phillips, and Engelbrecht for their claims about the company, saying they hacked its servers and that their campaign resulted in death threats against its founder and forced him and his family to flee their home. 

    While much of The Pit was livestreamed, a portion of it was kept private. That portion focused on conspiracy theories about Konnech, where they claimed it was a “questionable company involved in this that may have been rigging elections on behalf of the CCP [Chinese Communist Party],” according to Sather, and that the FBI was “too compromised to do anything” about it.

    Engelbrecht has criticized the FBI, saying True the Vote shared this information about Konnech with the FBI, but “we became the target” of the agency instead. Therefore, the aim of The Pit event was to “go public … initially in a trusted space with people who could help gather up more and more and more information so that if, God forbid, something happens to us ... that other people are equipped.” Phillps has also said that the FBI “betrayed us.”

  • Video file

    Citation From the August 19, 2022, edition of GraceTime TV

  • In response to their grievances with the FBI, Phillips and Engelbrecht turned to the QAnon community to “take what we had done and turn it over to these men and women on the internet, these anons, and just let them have it.” Phillips said that because of what they claimed was their falling out with the FBI, they turned to the “most maligned community on Earth,” the “anonymous researchers, you know, that were linked to ‘Q’” (referring to the conspiracy theory’s central figure). 

  • Video file

    Citation From the August 31, 2022, edition of 1819 News The Podcast

  • And the QAnon community responded, saying after the event that it was now “focusing on” and “digging in to” Konnech. Figures also spread nefarious allegations about the company, such as calling it one of the “front companies here in the United States … owned by the CCP” and saying it was tied to efforts to “manipulate our elections.” They also claimed its owner had questionable connections. Sather even called Konnech “our new Dominion,” referring to the election voting software and hardware company that has been targeted with numerous false conspiracy theories about voter fraud. 

  • Video file

    Citation From a video uploaded to Rumble on August 17, 2022

  • Some QAnon influencers also said Phillips and Engelbrecht had emailed or planned to email them material about the company, and some even helped establish a Telegram channel dedicated to finding supposed information about Konnech.

    Both Phillips and Engelbrecht also subsequently shared content that QAnon figures created regarding Konnech on Truth Social and praised it as “brilliant” and “great work,” and even praised and recommended people follow multiple We The Media members for their supposed findings. One QAnon influencer’s blog targeting Konnech has since been shared by former national security advisor Michael Flynn and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, both QAnon-connected and election denialist figures. Both Phillips and Engelbrecht also pointed to what the “anons” supposedly found to further criticize the FBI.

    Phillips and Engelbrecht have also said they are talking with law enforcement and giving them the supposed information from those QAnon figures, invoking their partnerships with sheriffs. “We’re in with attorneys general and district attorneys and sheriffs and governors and any level that will take action,” Engelbrecht said. Phillips also said they were speaking with some United States senators, a secretary of state, and state attorneys general, and Engelbrecht in September said she had been meeting “a number of” elected officials in Washington, D.C.

  • Video file

    Citation From the September 8, 2022, edition of MatrixxxGrooove Show

  • Days before Konnech’s lawsuit was filed, Engelbrecht disclosed — on a QAnon-supporting show — that Konnech sent True the Vote a cease-and-desist order. She refused. A federal judge has since granted Konnech’s motion for a temporary restraining order against True the Vote.

    The clear collaboration between True the Vote and QAnon figures to target Konnech serves as a warning on how the QAnon movement has become an online anti-reality network that helps boost other conspiracy theorists — including the election denial movement.