Three Republican WA lawmakers used taxpayer dollars to attend Mike Lindell’s Election Plot Conference |
This summer, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell hosted a three-day “Cyber ââSymposium” in South Dakota, promising to provide “compelling” evidence that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump by hackers.
The live-streamed three-day event, riddled with disproved conspiracy theories, produced no such evidence and ended embarrassingly when even some of Lindell’s own guest experts said the data breach that he had bragged about was absurd.
Dozens of state lawmakers from across the country were in attendance at the Sioux Falls Symposium, who repeated Trump and Lindell’s false story of fraud, demanding audits of the long-standing settled election.
Among them were three Republicans from Washington, whose trips to Lindell’s event were paid for with taxpayer dollars.
Public documents released to the Seattle Times last week show that state officials Robert Sutherland, R-Granite Falls, Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver and Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, requested and received reimbursement for the expenses of the Legislative Assembly for the symposium. In total, the state paid $ 4,361 for their hotels and flights.
The three lawmakers have stoked doubts about the 2020 election, claiming widespread fraud and irregularities across the country and in Washington – even as they touted their own re-election victories last fall. Kraft and Klippert are running for Congress in 2022. Klippert challenges Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, in the 4th Congressional District.
Klippert, who did not respond to a request for comment, sponsored several bills during the 2020 legislative session aimed at changing the state’s electoral system, including a proposal to suppress ballots mail and return to voting in person with photo ID.
They are also among 186 state lawmakers nationwide who have signed a letter from Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers calling for “forensic audits” in all 50 states and potentially withdraw the certification of election results.
The use of public money – albeit a relatively small sum – to subsidize lawmakers’ trip to the Lindell Conspiracy Festival has been criticized by the head of a national nonprofit that fought against false election declarations.
âThe Mike Lindell Symposium was prima facie a conspiracy theory designed to undermine faith in American democracy. It shouldn’t have been funded by taxpayer dollars in any way, and no one in the public service should have attended it, âsaid Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, a liberal-leaning group that has Filed lawsuits and public registration applications to document ongoing efforts by Trump loyalists to cast doubt on the 2020 election results.
Lindell has become a leading provider of weirdly bogus election stories – repeatedly claiming Trump would be reinstated as president last year – and says he spent $ 25 million on his efforts.
In emails last week, Kraft and Sutherland defended their participation in the pillow mogul’s symposium, saying they would use the information gleaned there to craft election-related legislation they will present at the next legislative session.
Sutherland said voters in his legislative constituency were “very suspicious” of the 2020 election results “and for good reason …”
âMy constituents demanded that I and others do something about this. So I embarked on a journey to learn all I could about our electoral system (s), particularly in Washington State and Snohomish County, to see if their concerns were legitimate.
Sutherland has long denied the election results, telling his Facebook followers in December 2020 to âprepare for warâ and suggesting that the election was âa coupâ that could spark a second American Civil War.
Sutherland also visited the election audit in Maricopa County, Ariz. This summer at his own expense, he said. (This exercise widely criticized by a private company called Cyber ââNinjas ended without finding proof of a stolen election, and validated President Joe Biden’s victory in the state’s most populous county.)
Sutherland then invited some people involved in the Arizona audit and Lindell Symposium to a public hearing at a Snohomish church in August, where they repeated claims that millions of votes were reversed, including at Washington.
Kraft said she attended the event in South Dakota “to learn more about what a full forensic audit process looks like, how hackers might hack an electoral system and to meet with other legislators working on this issue. The conference helped me achieve these goals.
At the conference, Kraft took the stage, calling Lindell’s event “very important” and denouncing Washington’s mail-in voting system and vaccination warrants. She also tweeted a photo of herself with Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief political strategist who was charged with refusing to cooperate with a congressional investigation into the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol – a event sparked by Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election.
On January 6, Kraft backed Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign to block congressional certification of the election, writing on Facebook that “as a lawmaker you will have to question and reject the results and the electoral votes counted today â.
State House Chief Clerk Bernard Dean said state lawmakers have enough leeway to be reimbursed for travel expenses for events related to their legislative work. Each member has an annual allowance of $ 9,000 for such trips.
Typically, Dean said, the House administration does not judge the relevance of lawmakers’ travel decisions, as long as they can justify the “connection” to their official duties.
In some cases, the connection is obvious, such as when lawmakers attend events hosted by the non-partisan National Conference of Legislatures, Dean said. In other cases, the legislator is asked to provide a justification.
Email tapes show lawmakers pleaded for Lindell’s event, with Kraft telling House administrators she wanted to attend “to better understand how and what processes were broken in our election to across the country last year “.
Such explanations were sufficient and the trip was approved.
Republican State House Leader JT Wilcox said the dean’s office asked him “generally” about the symposium request and responded that the office should ask lawmakers to provide justifications for the trip.
When asked if he thought his caucus’ participation in the event was appropriate, Wilcox replied: I am not in favor of giving them a political litmus test. It seems that this judgment belongs to the voters.
Biden won the 2020 election with 306 votes to 232 for Trump and garnered an additional 7 million votes nationwide, according to officially certified results in all 50 states.
Trump and deniers such as Lindell refused to accept the result and, almost a year later, continued to argue that the result was not legitimate.
Their lies could have legal consequences. Dominion Voting Systems filed a $ 1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Lindell, claiming that his false claims that the company’s voting machines were rigged had seriously damaged the company’s reputation. The company also sued former Trump attorneys Rudolph Giuliani and Sidney Powell over similar allegations.
In August, a federal judge dismissed their requests to dismiss the case, writing that Lindell’s claims of “a large international conspiracy ignored by the government but proven by a spreadsheet on an internet blog are so inherently unlikely that alone a reckless man might believe it. . “
Denial of the 2020 election results has become a litmus test for many Republican candidates across the country, although top Republicans in Washington, including Wilcox and State GOP Chairman Caleb Heimlich, have generally defended the accuracy of the vote count here.
Evers said he was amazed that even after the embarrassing collapse of Lindell’s Symposium, some elected officials continue to echo his claims while seeking a higher post. “The proof that people who aspire to public power see the Big Lie as their ticket is an insidious development,” he said.
Kraft and Klippert are among many pro-Trump Congressional candidates running in Washington for the 2022 midterm. Both challenge Republican incumbents who have broken with most of their party and voted to impeach Trump for his conduct during the assault on Capitol Hill on Jan.6, when he refused for hours to take action to protect Congress from rioters motivated by his electoral lies.
Kraft is appearing in the 3rd Congressional District of Southwest Washington against Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground. Klippert challenges Newhouse.
It appears that Klippert and his supporters viewed attendance at Lindell’s Symposium as politically beneficial, according to posts obtained through an application for registration and posted online by American Oversight.
In a text message in August, a Klippert campaign volunteer asked him to confirm his presence so that they could “blow him up” on social media.
Klippert also texted another congressional candidate on August 12, saying he was at the symposium.
âI wish you were here! It would have, in many ways, put you one step ahead of your opponent!â He wrote.