Donald Trump’s efforts to delegitimize the results of the 2020 presidential election set off a gold rush, allowing prominent lawyers, conservative PACs, Republican lawmakers, and others in the former president’s orbit to raise millions of dollars off false claims of a stolen election.
Among the most successful fundraisers is Matthew Braynard, the former director of data and strategy for Trump’s 2016 campaign. Braynard had launched his fundraising page on the Christian crowdfunding platform GiveSendGo on November 7, promising to use the money to “detect potentially fraudulent ballots.” After a week, donations had surpassed the goal of $590,000 that he had set by tens of thousands of dollars, and by mid-January, the campaign had raised more than $675,000 from nearly 9,000 donations.
Braynard used the funds, he said, to acquire voter data from swing states, analyze records for suspicious voter registrations, and call individuals to confirm whether they had actually cast a ballot. He was assisted in this effort by members of the Trump administration, the Washington Post reported, and he participated in several post-election lawsuits. Braynard received at least $150,000 as an expert witness in those cases.
What’s notable about Braynard’s campaign is less the nuances of his particular effort—there’s now an entire cottage industry around claims of election fraud—than how it demonstrates the power of political crowdfunding outside traditional institutional structures like nonprofits and political action committees.
Braynard had initially launched his campaign on GoFundMe, which bills itself as the world’s largest fundraising platform. But his campaign was shut down for violating the site’s terms of service and attempting to “spread misleading information about the election,” the company told Politico. By contrast, GiveSendGo has been more permissive about the kinds of fundraisers it allows. “The democratic process is upheld by…