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Florida investigating Sidney Powell's Defending The Republic fundraising campaign
Nobody knows how many millions the former Trump lawyer has raised or where the money has gone.
Investigators for the state of Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) have an active investigation into Defending The Republic and defendingtherepublic.org, which is both a website and the center of a nebulous cluster of companies run by attorney Sidney Powell.
She’s best known for disputing the 2020 presidential election results with a string of failed lawsuits, self-described as the “Kraken Releaser.”
Now, authorities are cracking down on her.
Public records reveal an ongoing “Administrative Complaint” tied to Powell against Defending The Republic PAC, Inc. and ‘Defending The Republic’, a Florida entity or a Texas for-profit company associated with the former Trump lawyer. (document below)
An investigatory subpoena in the case shows that the Chief of Mediation and Enforcement for FDACS’ Division of Consumer Services asked GoDaddy’s privacy domain registrar for Powell’s website defendingtherepublic.org to deliver records revealing its true owner on March 23rd of this year. (document below)
She started promoting it on the Rush Limbaugh Show two weeks after the election.
Nobody knows how much money she raised to file election challenges or how much she has spent, but reasonable estimates are in the millions of dollars donated.
Despite GoDaddy’s automatic written response acknowledging receipt of a faxed “emergency” subpoena from law enforcement and quoting a 30-day turnaround time, the Department has not received a response about who is the ultimate owner of defendingtherepublic.org says its spokesman who handled the records request.
For the moment, it is a civil case with penalties of up to $5,000.
Officials from FDACS would have been able to exempt the investigatory records from release if there was already a current criminal investigation.
But Florida law makes it a 3rd-degree felony to knowingly violate the requirement to register before making charitable donation solicitations in the state.
The maximum penalty for that crime is 5 years in prison.
Civil penalties for violating the Florida Solicitation of Funds Act can also carry a $10,000 fine per violation under the state’s deceptive or unfair trade practices laws.
Lawyers representing different Defending the Republic incarnations were extremely tight-lipped when reached for comment by phone. A third has not responded or answered phone calls. The entities’ high-profile former CEO of one of the entities gave comment on the record specifying that he quit the group after one month. Powell has not returned voicemail or a written message submitted to defendingtherepublic.org.
Notices and emails reveal that state regulators are in their sixth month trying to shed some light on Powell’s “election fraud” and legal defense fundraising activities based inside the state using the name Defending the Republic in various forms.
Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell (center) briefs the press from the Republican National Committee Headquarters about her post-election lawsuits. (L to R) Trump attornies Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis and Joseph diGenova. Source: C-SPAN
Florida regulators started asking questions about Defending The Republic late last year.
The first warning letter from Florida’s charity regulators is dated December 16th, 2020, and cites “DEFENDING THE REPUBLIC ELECTION INTEGRITY FUND SIDNEY POWELL, PC” with the address 10130 Northlake Blvd., STE 214, West Palm Beach, Florida 33412.
“Re: Notice of Licensing Requirements” reads the standard form letter from Taylor Ragans, a Regulatory Consultant for FDACS.
That name and address inside the letter coincided with the information Powell disseminated on the website defendingtherepublic.org which she unceasingly promoted as a vehicle to fund her election fraud conspiracy efforts without filing a nonprofit entity, as she told media outlets contemporaneously.
The address is inside The UPS Store #4138, inside the suburban Shoppes at Ibis strip center.
On February 11th, a company services firm named C.T. Corporation System filed for-profit articles of incorporation for a Super PAC called Defending the Republic PAC Inc. No directors are listed, which is highly unusual.
Lacking a response to their notice, FDACS opened their administrative complaint on February 26th and sent it to Powell’s UPS Store mailing address, along with a settlement offer of a $1,000 fine. It names the Super PAC and Defending the Republic as respondents.
On March 3rd, attorney Charles A. “Chip” Watkins of D.C. law firm Webster, Chamberlain & Bean LLP sent an email to the Florida charity regulators about their civil action addressed to W. Alan Parkinson, the department chief who filed the complaint and later the subpoena.
“I have been asked to respond to the Administrative Complaint, in this case, issued on February 26, 2021,” Watkins wrote, “So that we can reasonably respond to the Complaint, please provide me with a copy of the website or page to which the Complaint refers.” Five days later, an FDACS official sent him copies of the initial notice and a December screen capture of defendingtherepublic.org showing the UPS Store address as the location to mail checks.
Reached by phone, Watkins acknowledged that his “firm is representing Defending The Republic but cannot comment on any of the questions in your email.”
Thirteen days after Powell’s attorney made his inquiry, Parkinson sent Watkins’ email to the Deputy General Counsel of FDACS asking for clarification and to refer the matter to the agency’s general counsel to determine if he needed to amend his complaint.
Subsequently, Parkinson issued the investigatory subpoena on behalf of FDACS to determine registration details for defendingtherepublic.org for his proceeding. Lacking a response from GoDaddy, the case has been inactive ever since, a determination which based upon the agency spokesperson’s assurances that all relevant records have been produced.
In the meantime, Defending The Republic PAC Inc. has gone through multiple vicissitudes of leadership according to its numerous FEC filings. Filed on March 1st, the Super PAC filed a termination report on the 29th, only to seek reinstatement two days later. It has its own, separate website prominently featuring Powell as its founder, and she is now both its record keeper and treasurer after two prior associates left the committee.
Use of the website defendingtherepublic.org and associated entities has rapidly become a flashpoint in litigation against Sidney Powell by Dominion Voting Systems and its related entities. Attorneys for Dominion refused to comment for this story but did provide copies of their complaint and motion to dismiss, which the Associated Press reported last week.
The all-star legal team of Clare Locke and Sussman Godfrey suing her alleges that she misused charitable funds for her own purposes, including those monies raised on behalf of Defending the Republic, Inc. and her unincorporated ventures.
“Now, Powell seeks to abuse the corporate forms she created for her law firm and fundraising website to hide funds that she raised through her defamatory campaign, shielding those funds from the very company that was harmed by the defamatory campaign,” they wrote opposing her motion to dismiss the case.
Former Trump campaign lawyer Jessie Binnall is also counsel to Defending the Republic, Inc. That company is a for-profit corporation filed in Texas on December 1st, 2020. It is also a named co-defendant in a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems and its affiliates, alongside Sidney Powell. Open Corporates lists Powell, Michael Flynn, and his brother Joseph as its directors. It is not usual to use a for-profit corporation to accept charitable, 501c4 organization or political donations.
“No comment,” said Binnall, who listened patiently as I asked him to refer my questions to his client Powell, who has not responded. The attorney was briefly the campaign treasurer of the already-defunct Super PAC Restore the Republic, which he launched with Powell on January 22nd, 2021 and terminated exactly two months later. Based in the same UPS Store, Restore The Republic’s corporate filing was rejected by Florida’s Secretary of State with no new filing has been recorded on its publicly searchable website Sunbiz.org.
Yet, Defending the Republic is still raising funds. Their website says the group is holding a ticketed event in Dallas, Texas this upcoming weekend, with Powell as a featured speaker alongside her client, pardoned former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, as well as Texas GOP Chair Allen West, and Congressman Louis Gohmert (R-TX).
Nobody even knows where the “For God and Country Patriot Roundup” is going to be held after its QAnon-power couple organizers lost their booking at Gilley’s Dallas, a major events venue. Admission costs between $500-1000 per ticket.
For reasons unknown, Powell’s website defendingtherepublic.org is still promoting itself as “a §501(c)(4) nonprofit organization,” although it is not listed in the IRS database of social welfare organizations with that status. A Florida not-for-profit corporate filing for Defending the Republic Inc. on February 23rd, 2021, mentions seeking the separate federal tax status filing. That itself isn’t unusual, though, because the IRS only publishes determination letters, and they can take anywhere from four to twelve months to process. That entity is also not registered with the state of Florida to raise charitable funds, per a department spokesperson.
Webster, Chamberlain & Bean LLP attorney Andrew C. Dye incorporated the Florida Defending The Republic Inc. entity, and it too uses Powell’s UPS Store location. It lists My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell as a director, alongside former White House official and attorney Emily Newman, who participated in the Trump campaign’s post-election lawsuits, and Joseph Flynn, whose brother Michael is Powell’s client.
Lindell did not answer a request for comment made to the My Pillow company, having previously told The Daily Beast that he’s no longer part of the 501c4 designated entity. However, he hasn’t sent a resignation to the Florida Secretary of State. Reached for comment by text message, former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne confirmed that he, as interim CEO, Emily Newman, Mike Flynn, Joe Flynn, and Lindell, had quit the group by April 9. Asked why Byrne said, “No comment.” He reiterated that he is not a Trump voter.
Complicating matters even further, Sidney Powell has changed the location of Sidney Powell, P.C. The Texas Bar still lists her tony Turtle Creek office space in Dallas. But some time since January 7th, 2021, the last time a snapshot of her website was recorded in Archive.org, she relocated its offices to The UPS Store #4318 in West Palm Beach, Florida, according to its website federalappeals.com. A consumer service representative at the Texas Bar said that its professional rules require lawyers to report changes in address within 30-days.
A long career in the law goes political.
Sidney Powell’s long career in the law began in the late 1970s when she graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Law and spent a decade working as an assistant US Attorney handling civil and criminal cases before going into private practice in Asheville, N.C.
After moving her federal appellate law practice to Dallas, Texas, she later began representing retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who pled guilty to felony charges and cooperated with the Mueller probe when he decided to cease cooperation and fight his plea deal. Three weeks after last year’s election, the former president pardoned his QAnon-linked former National Security Advisor.
By then, Sidney Powell’s rapid rise to the national stage as the chief promoter of election fraud conspiracies was nearly complete.
Donald Trump praised her by name on his now-defunct Twitter account as a member of his legal team on November 14th, 2020, only six days after the national media called the presidential race for Joe Biden.
Two days later, Powell appeared on the late Rush Limbaugh’s radio program, guest hosted by Mark Steyn, who promoted multiple times what he called “Sidney Powell’s website” named defendingtherepublic.org to support her efforts.
Donations poured in.
Famously, she appeared on November 19th, 2020, at a press conference inside the Republican National Committee’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., alongside the former president’s other lawyer Rudy Giuliani where he precipitously leaked hair dye while Powell peddled preposterous conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems in her syrupy Southern accent.
Four days later, Giuliani issued a formal statement saying “Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own” and booting her from their self-proclaimed “Elite Strike Force” legal team.
Just over one week after her ouster, Defending the Republic, Inc. was filed in Texas as a for-profit corporation.
Throughout that time period, Powell was directing people to the website defendingtherepublic.org.
Before most of the events of this story took place, Powell’s lawsuits would all be dismissed at the trial court level across multiple states.
At present, the appellate lawyer who threw all caution to the wind for QAnon and Trump after a forty-year legal career is facing calls for her disbarment by numerous high-ranking public officials in Michigan and court sanctions motions that could lead to bar discipline or fines in multiple states.
By March 1st, the Supreme Court ruled on the last of the appeals from each and every one of Sidney Powell’s self-described “Kraken” cases.
She lost all of them.
“WE ARE NOT DONE,” proclaims a notice on the top of defendingtherepublic.com in off-white lettering on an eye-catching red background. “NEW SITE COMING SOON!!”
Here are the key documents in the case: