Kimberly Guilfoyle, a fundraiser for former president Donald Trump and the fiancee of his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., spoke for less than three minutes at the rally on Jan. 6, 2021, that preceded the Capitol riot.
The two people said the sponsoring donor was Julie Fancelli, the 72-year-old daughter of the founder of the Publix grocery store chain.
Eight days before the Jan. 6 rally, Fancelli wired $650,000 to several organizations that helped stage and promote the event. The Washington Post previously reported that these groups included Women for America First, a nonprofit that helped organize the rally, and $150,000 to the nonprofit arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association, which paid for a robocall touting a march to “call on Congress to stop the steal.”
She also enlisted the youth organization run by Kirk, a 28-year-old activist and friend of Donald Trump Jr. A spokesman for Turning Point Action declined to comment. Neither Guilfoyle nor Fancelli responded to requests for comment.
Guilfoyle’s speaking fee, for her remarks introducing her fiance, was disclosed in a Monday appearance on CNN by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a member of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.
Lofgren pointed to the payment as an example of what she described as a misleading marketing effort run by the Trump campaign, which raised roughly $250 million in the weeks after the Nov. 3 election with promises of a massive legal effort to uncover voter fraud. But the payment did not come from the campaign or affiliated political committees. CNN first reported Tuesday that Turning Point Action covered the speaking fee.
“I’m not saying it is crime, but it’s a grift,” Lofgren told CNN’s Jake Tapper after the committee’s second hearing.
In the hearing, committee members used video testimony from former White House and campaign advisers to recount the origins of Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him. And they argued that this false accusation proved profitable for Trump and the people around him, who encouraged supporters to travel to D.C. on Jan. 6.
Among the groups that encouraged people to attend the rally at the White House Ellipse was Turning Point Action, a 501(c)(4) organization and an affiliate of the better-known Turning Point USA, a 501(c)(3). The difference is that Turning Point Action has more leeway to engage in political activity, but it is still barred from making politics its primary focus. Kirk leads both nonprofits, which are exempt from paying federal income taxes and disclosing their donors.
Representatives of Turning Point Action have previously said the group’s involvement in the rally included sending seven buses with about 350 students to Washington.
Kirk tweeted, but later deleted, a promise that his organization was sending 80 buses to “fight for this president.” An Instagram post on Dec. 30 from Students for Trump, a project of Turning Point Action, advertised buses leaving from Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Hoboken, N.J., Richmond and Greensboro, N.C., and arriving in D.C. on the morning of Jan. 6.
On the morning of Jan. 3, a website publicizing the rally listed Turning Point Action as a “coalition partner,” along with nine other organizations, including the Republican Attorneys General Association, Stop the Steal, Tea Party Patriots and Women for America First. The Internet Archive shows the site was later updated to refer to groups such as Turning Point as “participating” organizations.
In addition to promoting the rally, the site noted: “At 1:00 PM, we will march to the U.S. Capitol building to protest the certification of the Electoral College.”
Kirk was a leading promoter of Trump’s false claims of election fraud in the run-up to the Jan. 6 rally. On the eve of the event, he used his radio show to call Jan. 6 “the most important day that will determine the future of the republic.”
On the afternoon of Jan. 6, as the mob pushed its way into the Capitol, Kirk condemned the violence on Twitter. Fancelli did not attend the rally and has also denounced the violence.
Fancelli, who splits her time between homes in Florida and Italy, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and party organizations over the past two decades. But she did not become a top-tier donor until Trump moved into the White House, records show.
Some relatives and other associates, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, attributed her support for the rally to her enthusiasm for Infowars founder Alex Jones. In the weeks before the rally, Fancelli emailed relatives and friends with links to Jones’s talk show, according to two people with knowledge of the messages.
Jones was a leading proponent of baseless claims that Trump’s reelection was subverted by systematic fraud and that Congress could refuse to certify Joe Biden’s victory.