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Sidney Powell’s nonprofit raised $16 million as she spread election falsehoods

Sidney Powell speaks during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 19, 2020. (Al Drago/Bloomberg)

A nonprofit group run by pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell raised $16.4 million in the year following the 2020 election and spent less than half that money, according to the group’s tax filings.

Defending the Republic, whose mission is to use the courts to “protect election integrity” and individual freedoms, reported that it spent about $8 million in the 12-month period ending Nov. 30, 2021. That sum included more than $3.8 million for legal services and another $2 million for “other” services, including litigation support. It said those services were provided by “nonemployees” it did not name.

The tax filings identify Powell as the president and treasurer of Defending the Republic and say she and the only other individuals named — two other directors and the chief financial officer — worked for no pay. However, the organization was only required to report on individuals’ compensation from Dec. 1, 2020 — the date it was founded — through Dec. 31, 2020. The filings were obtained by The Washington Post.

The new documents show that spreading election falsehoods is “incredibly lucrative,” said Brendan Fischer, deputy executive director of the watchdog organization Documented, which scrutinizes the activities of nonprofits and corporations and also obtained the tax filings. But the filings, the organization’s Form 990 and related attachments submitted to the Internal Revenue Service, reveal “almost nothing about where the nonprofit’s millions in reported legal expenses are flowing,” he said.

In an email responding to detailed questions from The Post, Powell wrote: “Defending The Republic Inc. has independent accountants, legal counsel, and auditors. If there are errors or omissions in the 990, it will be corrected as soon as possible.”

Some of the money is going to a company that listed Powell as its manager and organizer when it was incorporated last year.

The company, 524 Old Towne, paid $1.2 million in April of last year for a property in the historic Old Town neighborhood of Alexandria, Va. The sellers of the former antique shop have said they understood that Powell was the buyer and that she intended to establish a law office there. The tax filings show that Defending the Republic paid 524 Old Towne $80,000 in rent.

Previously, Defending The Republic had reported to Florida regulators that it raised $14.9 million during the first eight months after its founding, though that disclosure was far less detailed. The organization has focused much of its spending on “challenging issues and instances of government overreach and abuse of individual rights” and litigating “cases of constitutional infringement,” according to the new filings.

Powell first gained celebrity among Trump fans for defending former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn against charges that he lied to the FBI. Later, beginning in December 2020, Flynn and his brother Joseph were listed as directors of Defending the Republic, Texas business filings show.

Patrick Byrne, the former chief executive of Overstock and a prominent election denier, joined Defending the Republic as chief executive in 2021. Questions about how much money the organization had taken in, and where the money was going, helped sow division in the organization. In early April, Byrne, the Flynn brothers and several other people quit, The Post previously reported.

In a text message Thursday, Byrne said he was only involved with the nonprofit for 12 business days and emphasized that concern about the organization’s financial management was a reason for his and others’ departures. Joseph Flynn declined to comment, and Michael Flynn did not respond.

Powell was one of the most visible of a number of attorneys who went to court to challenge Joe Biden’s victory. After the legal challenges failed, Powell herself became the subject of legal action on multiple fronts.

Last year, the Justice Department subpoenaed documents related to Defending the Republic and a related political action committee, The Post has previously reported.

A federal judge in Michigan sanctioned Powell, calling one of her election-related lawsuits “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.” The state bar of Texas has filed a lawsuit against her alleging professional misconduct. She has been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in Atlanta investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the election. And she and Defending the Republic are named as defendants in a defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, the company she targeted with conspiracy theories.

Dominion has accused Powell of using Defending the Republic dollars to “fund her own personal legal defense,” citing an interview she gave on Dec. 29, 2020, in which she described the organization as a “nonprofit that is working to help me defend all these cases and to defend me now that I’m under massive attack.” In an August 2021 deposition for a separate defamation case, one filed by a former Dominion executive, a representative of Defending the Republic was asked whether the organization was paying to defend Powell against either lawsuit. His lawyer instructed him not to answer.

Powell did not respond Thursday to a question from The Post about whether the nonprofit had paid for her personal legal defense.

In the deposition, the representative of the nonprofit said its work was not limited to election-related issues but instead included potential challenges to vaccine and mask mandates. The group filed several lawsuits challenging coronavirus vaccine mandates, including for U.S. military service members and federal contractors, court records show. It has also paid for the defense of some people facing charges related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to media reports.

The filings say that some of the money was allegedly misappropriated in what was reported as a “significant diversion.” An independent contractor working for the nonprofit “converted funds from contributions,” and the nonprofit has “authorized legal action to press charges” to recover the money, more than $520,000, the filings state. No other information was disclosed.

The filings show that Defending the Republic gave a $700,128 cash grant for equipment to Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based company that Republican senators in Arizona hired to examine voting machines and ballots in Maricopa County. Cyber Ninjas said last year that Defending the Republic had donated $550,000 for the ballot review. Though election deniers claimed for months that the review would finally reveal evidence of election fraud, it instead reaffirmed Biden’s victory in the state.