Five of Clubs: Cleta Mitchell’s Election Integrity Network: Spreading the Cancer of GOP Voter Suppression

Mass purges are the new voter suppression: 

Mark Meadows, former Trump chief of staff, joined the Conservative Partnership Institute, a dark money  initiative headed by Jim DeMint, ousted executive of The Heritage Foundation.
Heritage long promoted Trump’s Big Lie of Election Fraud and its Baby Pac hawked a “blue print” serving as the false pretenses for voter suppression laws adopted in 2021 and 2022  in 19 Red States (and counting).
In 2023, Meadows then “helped incubate and launch” the Election Integrity Network( “EIN”), headed by Cleta Mitchell, who played a pivotal role in  pushing Trump’s Big Lie to overturn the 2020 election results.
in 2023 and 2024, Cleta Mitchell and EIN persuaded a host of Red States (including, most recently, Virginia ) to abandon a bipartisan  system of voter validation and instead to adopt a system designed to purge valid opposition voters from voter rolls.


The Conservative Partnership Institute’s three highest-paid contractors had connections to the group’s leaders or their relatives, raising concerns about self-dealing.

Robert Draper and Julie Tate contributed reporting.


The Conservative Partnership Institute, a nonprofit whose funding skyrocketed after it became a nerve center for President Donald J. Trump’s allies in Washington, has paid at least $3.2 million since the start of 2021 to corporations led by its own leaders or their relatives, records show.

In its most recent tax filings, the nonprofit’s three highest-paid contractors were all connected to insiders.

One was led by the institute’s president, Edward Corrigan, and another by its chief operating officer. At a third contractor, the board members included the group’s senior legal fellow Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who supported Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

The Conservative Partnership Institute applied to the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt nonprofit, and the agency approved. That means donations to the group are tax deductible, like gifts to a food bank or the American Red Cross. It also means that, by law, its money must serve the public good rather than private interests.


In fact, there’s new evidence that abusive mass voter purges will be a major weapon in the political battles of the coming months. If you can’t win citizens to your side, it appears, then try to prevent them from voting.
The New York Times recently detailed an organized effort involving leaders of the election denial movement. One is Cleta Mitchell, who joined Donald Trump on the notorious phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that is now the subject of two separate indictments. Another is a top deputy to pillow-magnate-turned-election-conspiracy-theorist Mike Lindell. Their acolytes are launching mass challenges of voter registrations, sometimes 1,000 at a time. They say it’s a citizen-led effort to update the rolls and reduce the potential for voter fraud. Don’t believe it for a second.
For one thing, their efforts appear to be focused on precincts that lean Democratic or are home to large communities of color. This seems to be about politics, not voter-roll hygiene.
Another clue: their methods are bogus. In one incident, activists sent a local election office a list of people on the U.S. Postal Service’s mail-forwarding list who remained registered to vote in the district. Election officials know this is a shoddy approach to roll maintenance. People can ask for their mail to be forwarded for any number of reasons, including college, temporary work assignments, or caring for sick or elderly relatives elsewhere. Sometimes voters haven’t moved an inch; they’ve merely been listed as relocated because someone else in the household asked for mail to be forwarded. In all of these scenarios, the person remains eligible to vote.
A challenge alone should not, in theory, prevent someone from voting. But it can kick off an investigation that results in removal from the rolls if the citizen fails to respond to inquiries — in other words, if they miss a piece of mail. (My colleague Alice Clapman offers a detailed explanation of the right and wrong ways for states to identify ineligible voters and of the laws protecting voters in that process.)
These mass challenges also can resemble a distributed denial of service attack, with emails flooding a website, aiming to just gum up the works. Election officials who are responding to excessive numbers of abusive demands for action won’t have time to process new registrations.
There has been, of course, a tested way to keep the rolls updated: the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC. States use this nonpartisan information-sharing organization to reduce error in maintaining their rolls. For example, rather than relying on mail-forwarding requests, ERIC looks for information like an application for a driver’s license in a different state. It also has access to sensitive information such as encrypted Social Security numbers, reducing the number of false positives. People who move rarely vanish.
ERIC is undoubtedly the best way to avoid voter fraud and keep lists accurate and complete. Bizarrely, a right-wing conspiracy theory claims that it was all a nefarious plot. Nine GOP-dominated states have withdrawn from the system. Gov. Ron DeSantis, for example, boasted of bringing Florida into the ERIC system in 2019, then withdrew in 2023. Nothing changed but the politics.
A right-wing alternative called EagleAI has been launched, supposedly to search for fraud. As we have documented before, it’s poorly designed to catch real wrongdoing — but it could be a tool for disenfranchisement.

Let’s try to recover bipartisan agreement on how to keep voter rolls in shape. Meanwhile, we should brace for a year of efforts by election deniers to wreck what works in our system. Voting rights advocates in and out of government are getting ready to fight back in court. The ability of many of our fellow citizens to participate in this pivotal election will depend on the outcome of this fight.


The Conservative Partnership Institute has become a breeding ground for the next generation of Trump loyalists and an incubator for policies he might pursue. Its fast growth is raising questions.

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In the lobby of the grand Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Fla., where a sprawling new force in Washington’s right-wing ecosystem, the Conservative Partnership Institute, was holding its winter conference, the former Trump legal adviser Cleta Mitchell was exultant.

“Did you hear the ‘War Room’ today? Bannon was on fire!” she said to a friend. She was referring to the podcast hosted by Stephen K. Bannon, the former Trump White House senior adviser who had been condemning Republican senators for supporting billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine and Israel earlier that day.

Ms. Mitchell was among some 150 conservative donors and activists who gathered in Coral Gables earlier this month to celebrate the ascendancy of a group that has become a well-paying sinecure for Trump allies and an incubator for the policies the former president could pursue if elected. The participants toted gift bags in the warm sunshine and swapped golf clothes for business attire at a dinner where they applauded as two Black speakers — Ben Carson, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Representative Byron Donalds of Florida — extolled conservative values while condemning the racial identity politics of the left.

The group’s top executive, Jim DeMint, the former U.S. senator from South Carolina, was there, as was Mark Meadows, President Donald J. Trump’s former chief of staff, who is paid $847,000 annually as the organization’s senior adviser. More than a dozen members of the House Freedom Caucus also turned up, as did Mollie Hemingway, the editor in chief of the right-wing journalism website The Federalist, whose parent company C.P.I. helps underwrite.

The message at the conference was “taking on the Swamp” from a nonprofit with a $36 million annual budget from private donors that now operates as a full-service nerve center for right-wing activity and a breeding ground for the next generation of Trump loyalists.

Legislators can hold fund-raisers in its event rooms; send their staff members to training sessions at the group’s getaway lodge in Maryland; do their TV news hits in its studio; or be fed, by text message, follow-up questions for lawmakers to ask witnesses during congressional hearings. Donors can funnel their money through the institute into a host of conservative causes, from promoting Christian values in education to helping pay legal fees incurred by what the group calls “America First public servants.”

“We’re just doing what the other guys have been doing for decades,” Robert Bruce, a retired Texas aviation entrepreneur and C.P.I. donor, said in an interview two days after the conference. “There’s been a void in Washington, D.C., and C.P.I. has filled it by giving conservatives a refuge.”

The organization aims to be much more than a refuge. One of the groups it has staffed and funded, the American Accountability Foundation, says in its mission statement that it seeks to “advance conservative messaging” by aggressively attacking appointees for the Biden administration. Another offspring, the Center for Renewing America, aims to take on what it calls a leftist “cultural revolution” as well as a “taxpayer-funded woke federal bureaucracy.”

“And liberalism is not something that just happens by itself. You have to fight for it, you have to struggle for it, and you have to be vigilant. Maybe that’s the lesson that every generation has to learn on its own.”

— Francis Fukuyama