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Corporate leaders fund election deniers in secretary of state races

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Michigan Republican secretary of state candidate Kristina Karamo addresses the gang during a rally on the Macomb Community College Sports & Expo Center in Warren, Mich., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022.

Todd McInturf | Detroit News | AP

Greater than two dozen corporate leaders and businesses are quietly donating to the campaigns of at the very least 4 Republicans who’ve pushed false claims in regards to the 2020 election results while running to change into secretaries of state, based on a review of state campaign finance disclosures.

Secretary of state candidates Jim Marchant, running in Nevada; Mark Finchem, in Arizona; Kristina Karamo, in Michigan, and Chuck Gray, in Wyoming — all endorsed by former President Donald Trump — have disputed the 2020 election results on the campaign trail.

If the candidates win, they’d have a critical role in each administering the election and counting ballots in 2024 — when Trump could again lead the GOP presidential ticket.

Nevada, Arizona and Michigan are each considered swing states during presidential elections, and Trump lost to President Joe Biden in all three of those states. The previous president and his allies filed lawsuits difficult the ends in those states, just for courts to reject them.

The candidates have echoed Trump’s false claims that widespread fraud cost him the 2020 election against Biden, allegations that led to dozens of failed lawsuits attempting to overturn state results and prompted the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot. Trump’s political motion committee, Save America, has donated $17,000 combined to the Finchem, Marchant and Karamo campaigns, based on a report by campaign watchdog Issue One.

Despite the very fact they’ve embraced false election conspiracies, the candidates have received donations from corporate leaders across quite a lot of industries. Those business officials began financing the secretary of state candidates in August 2021 and continued their donations through September, based on state records.

Overall, the 12 secretary of state candidates who’ve disputed the 2020 election results have raised at the very least $5.8 million over the two-year 2022 election cycle, said Michael Beckel, a research director at Issue One, in a tweet. The opposite Republican candidates who’ve denied the election results are running to be secretaries of state in Alabama, Indiana, Connecticut, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Recent Mexico, Vermont and South Dakota.

The wealthiest donors to Marchant, Finchem, Karamo and Gray include Richard Uihlein, a shipping magnate and conservative megadonor; Patrick Byrne, the previous Overstock CEO and current election denier; Jim Henry, the founding father of oil and gas drilling company Henry Resources; Kyle Stallings, the CEO of oil and gas investment company Desert Royalty; Lewis Topper, a quick food executive who runs Integrated Food Systems Inc.; Matthew McKean, the CEO of energy company Frontier Applied Sciences; Ben Friedman, the CEO of restaurant food producer Riviera Produce, and Susan Gore, an heiress to the Gore-Tex fortune.

All eight have combined to provide over $30,000, with donations for the reason that start of last 12 months split amongst Marchant, Karamo, Gray and Finchem, records show.

Fundraising for secretary of state races where deniers of the 2020 election results are on the ballot

◼  Republican    ◼  Democrat

StateCandidateAmount raised
AZMark Finchem
Adrian Fontes
MIKristina Karamo
Jocelyn Benson
ALWes Allen
Pamela Laffitte
WYChuck Gray
No Democratic opposition
INDiego Morales
Destiny Scott Wells
CTDominic Rapini
Stephanie Thomas
NVJim Marchant
Cisco Aguilar
MNKim Crockett
Steve Simon
MARayla Campbell
William Galvin
NMAudrey Trujillo
Maggie Toulouse Oliver
SDMonae Johnson
Tom Cool
VTH. Brooke Paige
Sarah Copeland Hanzas

Mike Kalis, the CEO of Michigan-based real estate firm Great Lake Investments, gave $1,000 in September to Karamo’s campaign to be Michigan’s secretary of state. He told CNBC that he supports Karamo for her stance on elections — though a lot of her claims have been debunked.

“The number one reason I support her is her strength in wanting to make our elections have integrity,” Kalis said in an email explaining his donation to Karamo.

Karamo spread false election conspiracies at a rally featuring Trump earlier this month. She claimed that her Democratic opponent, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, goals to “keep dead people on the voter rolls” and is “intentionally attempting to corrupt the election system.”

All the opposite donors mentioned on this story didn’t reply to requests for comment. When CNBC asked to talk with Jim Henry, the founding father of Henry Resources, in regards to the contribution to Karamo’s campaign, an organization representative said, “Well he isn’t available right away, but thanks for calling,” then quickly hung up.

Beckel noted in an email to CNBC that donors may very well be giving to secretary of state candidates for future help with issues more directly tied to their businesses. Those could include their handling of the Uniform Business Code — which governs transactions within the U.S. — and the strategy of registering corporations.

“While secretaries of state typically administer elections, these officials even have responsibilities that impact the business community and the way business gets done in a state,” Beckel said.

Election denier Marchant gets corporate support

Marchant is running to be secretary of state in Nevada — a swing state that Trump lost in 2020 and which can play host to one in all the elections that can determine Senate control this 12 months. At a rally with Trump on Saturday, Marchant said, “President Trump and I lost an election in 2020 due to a rigged election.” Marchant ran to represent Nevada within the U.S. House through the 2020 election but lost to Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford.

Marchant later added on the rally that “when my coalition of secretary of state candidates get elected, we’ll fix the entire country and President Trump goes to be president again in 2024.” It’s unclear who is a component of Marchant’s coalition, though a PAC he runs has backed candidates including Finchem and Karamo.

Jim Marchant speaks at a Republican election night watch party, on Nov. 3, 2020, in Las Vegas.

John Locher | AP

His opponent, Democrat Cisco Aguilar, has outraised him up to now within the election. But much of Marchant’s support has come from business leaders.

A few of Marchant’s biggest donations from corporate leaders or businesses up to now include $5,000 from Uihlein, $5,000 from Byrne, $2,900 from Topper, $8,000 from Tradebloc Inc., a Texas-based credit and debt management firm, and $5,000 from Nevada-based home designer Blue Heron.

Jeff Fegert, the owner of Nevada-based Goal Construction, used a limited liability company called Maico Ryder to donate $10,000 to Marchant’s campaign. Maico Ryder’s most up-to-date public disclosure signed by an accountant in April lists Fegert as the only member of the corporate, with a Nevada address matching Goal Construction.

MDB Realty, an actual estate firm headquartered in Las Vegas, also gave $100,000 in June to Marchant’s political motion committee, Conservatives for Election Integrity PAC. The PAC has endorsed Marchant, Finchem, Karamo and Audrey Trujillo, a Republican candidate to be Recent Mexico’s secretary of state who has also questioned the outcomes of the 2020 election, based on its website.

Marchant, the PAC’s president, is the one current secretary of state candidate who has received a donation from the committee, state filings show. Marchant’s campaign got $10,000 in March from the PAC he leads, based on a filing.

Trujillo pushed her false claims in regards to the 2020 election on a podcast hosted by former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

“Any person asked me, ‘How do you understand Trump won Recent Mexico?’ and I’m like, ‘We didn’t see Biden signs anywhere,'” Trujillo told Bannon in June.

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