(WASHINGTON) — As former President Donald Trump continues to push false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, his political action committee has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations and candidates that are pushing to tighten voting laws or spread unproven claims of election fraud, new FEC filings show.
Among the donations is a $150,000 payment to a little-known organization, Secure MI Vote, that’s spearheading a petition to clamp down on voting requirements in the state of Michigan, which Trump lost in 2020 after winning the state in 2016.
The group’s director says the donation from Trump’s Save America PAC has been a big help.
“It definitely helped us get the word out and then cover some of the expenses,” executive director Jeff Litten told ABC News. “It’s not cheap.”
The payment comes amid a flurry of big-dollar donations from Trump’s PAC to like-minded groups working to lay the groundwork for voting reform before the 2024 election.
“America needs safe and secure elections,” Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich told ABC News. “That’s why Save America is investing in organizations, causes, and candidates committed to election integrity.”
Earlier this year, before the Michigan donation, ABC News reported that Trump’s PAC gave $1 million to a right-wing nonprofit organization run by some of his close allies that has been hosting “Election Integrity Summits” around the country. At one of those summits, Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who was involved with Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election, urged attendees to recruit and create election “task forces” in their communities ahead of the upcoming midterms, to avoid a repeat of the last election.
“Imagine if we had had local task forces in these counties? What if we had citizens like you in 2020, overseeing this?” Mitchell said at the private summit, which ABC News attended by purchasing a ticket.
“We could have stopped it,” Mitchell told the crowd. “That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing here tonight.”
In Michigan, the Secure MI Vote petition looks to tighten restrictions on voter ID laws, registration requirements, and mail-in ballot procedures in a way that experts say would make it more difficult to vote. Michigan law already requires an ID to vote in elections, but the petition would eliminate a provision that allows those without IDs to vote through a sworn affidavit.
“It’s a proposal that would curtail voting access for Michiganders and is part of a larger effort to slice away voting rights from every angle,” said Jasleen Singh, the counsel for the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonprofit bipartisan public policy institute.
For months, Trump himself has zeroed in on voter ID laws as a rallying cry to spread baseless accusations of fraud in the 2020 election, despite no evidence of malfeasance.
“They want no voter ID,” Trump said to a group of students during a student summit in Tampa, Florida, on Saturday. “Could it be because they want to cheat in elections?”
According to a study from the Brennan Center, “overly burdensome” ID requirements make it more difficult to vote, especially for minority and low-income populations. The group found that as many as 11% of eligible voters “do not have the kind of ID that is required by states with strict ID requirements.”
But Jamie Roe, the spokesperson for Secure MI Vote, said the Michigan group’s petition would require state-funded IDs to be provided to “applicants with hardships.” Suggestions that the petition was going to take away voting rights were “absolutely nonsense,” Roe told ABC News.
“What right are we taking away?” Roe asked. “If you don’t have an ID or can’t afford one, we’re going to get you one.”
According to a copy of the document available on the group’s website, the petition also seeks to prohibit election officials from sending out unsolicited applications for mail-in ballots — a step officials took ahead of the 2020 presidential election that helped contribute to the highest voter turnout the state has ever seen.
“There’s a reason why there are so many different kinds of restrictions, and that’s to affect all different kinds of voters,” said Nancy Wang, executive director of the pro-voter group Voters Not Politicians. “In Michigan, the margins are so close, so if you even affect 2,000 votes, then you can turn the tide on an entire election.”
Litten says the Secure MI Vote petition has over 500,000 signatures — far beyond the 340,000 required for certification. After the group missed the June 1 deadline to get on the November ballot, Litten says they’re now ready to submit the petition to the state this Friday.
If the petition is approved, the group hopes that by next year they’ll get it before the GOP-controlled legislature, which by law has the power to adopt the petition and pass it into law without approval from the state’s Democratic governor, who has previously vetoed similar legislation.
“We think it would find a favorable response from the Michigan legislature,” Roe said during a June 1 press conference.
Beyond the $150,000 donation from Trump’s Save America PAC, Secure MI Vote’s operation is largely funded by other conservative groups that do not disclose their donors.
Virginia-based advocacy group Liberty Initiative Fund has given Secure MI Vote more than $2.4 million worth of in-kind donations for services including “petitioning,” “auditing petitions,” and “media consulting,” while the newly launched Michigan-based dark money group Michigan Guardians of Democracy has given more than $2.1 million in both monetary contributions and in-kind contributions for services like “signature contact,” according to filings.
Elsewhere, Trump’s PAC has been pouring money into supporting other organizations that spread unproven election fraud claims and support like-minded candidates.
In Pennsylvania, Save America donated $1 million apiece to two super PACs, Our American Century and American Leadership Action, that helped secure a win in the GOP Senate primary for Trump-endorsed candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz, who supported Trump’s claims of a stolen election.
In an upcoming GOP House primary in Wyoming, Save America PAC gave half a million dollars to the Wyoming Values super PAC supporting Trump-endorsed Harriet Hageman against Rep. Liz Cheney, who has become a target of Trump and his allies over her role leading the House investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. Throughout her campaign, Hageman has continued to spread unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 election, including during a GOP primary debate earlier this month.
Trump’s PAC has also homed in on Georgia over the last few months, funneling millions of dollars into super PACs attempting to unseat Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who testified this week in the Fulton County grand jury investigation into Trump’s actions after the 2020 election.
Get Georgia Right, a super PAC that received a $1.5 million donation from Save America back in November, has been airing political ads opposing Kemp that claim without evidence that “widespread illegal ballot harvesting continued” during the 2020 election, even though the incumbent Georgia governor “dismissed concerns about voter fraud.”
Another group, Take Back Georgia, which received more than $2.8 million from Save America PAC over the last few months, supported former Georgia Sen. David Perdue and his false claims about “rigged elections” in Perdue’s unsuccessful primary challenge against Kemp.
And even after Perdue lost the GOP primary in May, Save America contributed another $146,000 to Take Back Georgia so the group could continue its Trump-aligned efforts in the state through the general election season.
Representatives for Get Georgia Right, American Leadership Action, Our American Century, and Wyoming Values did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for comment. Officials with Take Back Georgia were not reachable.
ABC News’ Wil Steakin contributed to this report.
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