Washington Post: GOP donor who donated millions for voter fraud investigation wants money back
Posted February 15, 2021 10:48 p.m. EST
CNN — A Republican donor who gave $2.5 million for a voter fraud investigation by a conservative nonprofit has come to regret his decision and doubt the conspiracy theories that fueled the effort, The Washington Post reported Monday.
Court records and interviews conducted by the Post show donor Fred Eshelman has worked to get his millions back from True the Vote, a Texas-based group that vowed to expose voter fraud.
Eshelman, who wasn't familiar with True the Vote before Election Day, had "thought about the range of possibilities around vote fraud" when he made his donations, according to the newspaper.
"There was already noise around cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, Atlanta and Philadelphia." He added: "I wanted to determine if this was legit. Can we find a real smoking gun?"
Buoyed by Eshelman's financial backing, the organization had launched a series of lawsuits and sought to produce whistleblower accounts of voter fraud across the country, the Post said. But much like the Trump campaign's sprawling legal efforts to overturn President Joe Biden's win, the operation failed to gain traction.
True the Vote's election lawsuits were ultimately abandoned, the newspaper reported, prompting Eshelman to demand that his money be returned. After the organization offered to return just $1 million, Eshelman launched two lawsuits.
While his federal lawsuit has since been withdrawn, the other suit is ongoing in a Texas state court, the Post said. Both lawsuits alleged that True the Vote had not spent his donations as it claimed it would.
The organization has pushed back on that claim in court documents reviewed by the newspaper, asserting that Eshelman's money was used properly. A lawyer for the group, James Bopp, also told the Post that Eshelman had not placed any conditions on his donation.
To this point, Eshelman hasn't gotten any of his money back, the Post reported, citing court documents.
The trajectory of True the Vote's efforts mirrors that of the Trump campaign's legal team, which sought to overturn Biden's win through a stream of lawsuits that were roundly dismissed or withdrawn.
Then-President Donald Trump's repeated election fraud conspiracy theories culminated in his incitement of the deadly US Capitol insurrection last month, which left five dead, including an officer with the US Capitol Police.
Eshelman told the Post he still thinks there was "some misbehavior" in the presidential election.
"But do I believe it might have risen to a degree that would change the electoral outcome?" he said. "I don't know."