Q's your daddy? Republican funders back conspiracy theorists running for Congress

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Caitlin Dickson
·Reporter
·10 min read
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David Reinert holds up a large "Q" sign
Supporters of QAnon and others gather in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., for a Trump rally, Aug. 2, 2018. (Rick Loomis/Getty Images)

Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia businesswoman and mother of three, appears to be on her way to becoming the first elected member of the House of Representative who openly aligns with the online conspiracy theory known as QAnon. And a political action committee with ties to President Trump’s allies in Congress is working to help get her there.

She might not be the only one.

Greene, a Trump acolyte who is seeking the Republican nomination for an open House seat in Georgia’s conservative 14th Congressional District, is among a growing field of 2020 candidates who have expressed some degree of support for, or promotion of, content related to QAnon, the pro-Trump fringe conspiracy theory whose network of adherents have been labeled by the FBI as “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists” who pose a potential domestic terrorist threat.

According to her campaign website, Greene and her husband, Perry, have owned a construction and renovation company called Taylor Commercial since 2002. She also previously founded and then sold a CrossFit gym. The first-time congressional candidate has been endorsed by the House Freedom Fund, the campaign fundraising arm of the House Freedom Caucus, whose members, including Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and current caucus Chairman Andy Biggs of Arizona, have emerged as some of Trump’s fiercest defenders on Capitol Hill. Former Rep. Mark Meadows, who now serves as Trump’s chief of staff, was a co-founder of the Freedom Caucus and served as its chairman before being tapped for his current job at the White House earlier this year.

Public records show that as of June 26, Greene had received more than $75,000 from the House Freedom Fund. Since then, federal campaign filings show that the PAC has continued to spend tens of thousands in support of Greene’s congressional bid, including through a number of recent email marketing campaigns.

Marjorie Taylor Greene
Georgia congressional candidate and QAnon adherent Marjorie Taylor Greene. (via Facebook)

Greene came in first place in Georgia’s crowded Republican primary election in the 14th District, in the northwest part of the state, with 41 percent of the vote, triggering a runoff election against John Cowan, who came in second with about 21 percent. The winner of the runoff on August 11 is considered a heavy favorite to win the seat in the staunchly conservative district, which Trump carried in 2016 with 75 percent of the vote.

The campaign committees for both Jordan and Biggs have each also contributed thousands of dollars to Greene’s campaign, records show. Spokespeople for Jordan and Biggs did not respond to requests for comment on this story. A request to the White House press office for comment from Meadows also went unanswered.

Through a number of videos and posts on social media over the last three years, Greene has promoted content related to QAnon which, according to an FBI document obtained by Yahoo News last year, is centered around the notion that a government official called “Q” posts “classified information online to reveal a covert effort, led by President Trump, to dismantle a conspiracy involving ‘deep state’ actors and global elites allegedly engaged in an international child sex trafficking ring.”

In one video posted to YouTube in 2017, Greene talks about Q, who she describes as “a patriot” and “very pro-Trump” and says, “I’m very excited about that now there’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it.”

During the last three and a half years, the administration has not announced any legal action against any members of a global cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. Earlier this year, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York indicted British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, a long-time confidante of the late Jeffrey Epstein, alleging she was participated in his recruitment of underage teenaged girls for sex.

Trump has said of Maxwell, whom he has known socially over the years, along with Epstein, “I wish her well. ... Let them [Department of Justice] prove somebody was guilty.”

A Donald Trump supporter
A Trump supporter holds a QAnon flag at the Mount Rushmore National Monument in South Dakota, July 1, 2020. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Greene’s controversial views aren’t limited to her belief in QAnon, however. In June, after coming first place in the Georgia primary, Politico unearthed hours’ worth of Facebook videos in which Greene “suggested that Muslims do not belong in government; thinks black people ‘are held slaves to the Democratic Party’; called George Soros, the Jewish Democratic megadonor, a Nazi; and said she would feel ‘proud’ to see a Confederate monument if she were black because it symbolizes progress made since the Civil War.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney and Rep. Tom Emmer, chairman of the National Republican Campaign Commission, strongly denounced Greene’s language. Scalise endorsed Greene’s opponent.

Yahoo News requested comments from the offices of McCarthy, Scalise, Cheney and Emmer regarding the House Freedom Fund’s support for Greene’s campaign. None responded.

In May, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Greene posed earlier this year in a photo with known white supremacist and former KKK leader Chester Doles, described by the newspaper as “a Georgia man with longstanding ties to numerous white supremacist organizations, including the National Alliance and Hammerskins, a racist skinhead gang.” The paper reported that Doles, who has been banned by Facebook, has posted several times about Greene on the Russian social media platform VK, calling the candidate as “part of the Q movement,” and a “Good friend to have.”

Greene’s campaign dismissed the Atlanta paper’s questions about the photo with Doles as “silly and the same type of sleazy attacks the Fake News Media levels against President Trump.”

Greene’s campaign manager did not respond to Yahoo News’ request for comment for this story.

According to a running tally by Media Matters for America, if Greene wins in the upcoming runoff election, she would become the 15th QAnon supporter to secure a spot on the ballot in November. Of all the QAnon-affiliated candidates currently running for Congress in primary or general races, the majority are Republicans, though the list includes two Democrats, two independents and one Libertarian.

In addition to the financial support she’s received from the House Freedom Fund, recent FEC filings show tens of thousands of dollars have been funneled to Greene’s campaign via WinRed, the Trump and RNC-endorsed online fundraising platform.

WinRed doesn’t contribute directly to campaigns, but like its Democratic counterpart, ActBlue, serves as a conduit for donations to Republican candidates.

Greene’s Twitter page includes a direct link to WinRed page soliciting donations for her congressional campaign, where she describes herself as “a conservative wife, mother, and businesswoman who stands with President Trump and against the left-wing socialists who want to wreck our country.”

“If you're looking for a candidate willing to take the fight to radical leftist Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and AOC, I'm your gal!” reads Greene’s WinRed page.

Based on a search of available campaign finance reports, Yahoo News found that at least a handful of other congressional candidates with ties to QAnon have also received donations via WinRed, including Jessi Melton, a Republican candidate who is running in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, in the southeast part of the state, and Angela Stanton-King, who ran unopposed as the Republican contender for the seat held by the late Rep. John Lewis. Stanton-King, who was pardoned by Trump earlier this year for her role in a car-theft ring, has denied believing in QAnon, despite repeatedly posting content and hashtags related to QAnon and related theories on social media.

Melton has used her own social media feeds to promote her appearance on a very popular YouTube channel devoted to QAnon, and later shared a photo of herself with one of the hosts of that channel who attended one of her campaign events. Other recent posts in Melton’s Twitter feed include criticisms of the Black Lives Matter movement, calls for schools to reopen and a pledge against mandatory vaccinations. In another, she wrote, “To all the businesses out there touting ‘we follow CDC guidance...’ You may as well say “we report to China.”

Kenneth Mayer, a political science professor and expert in campaign finance reform at the University of Wisconsin, said that the use of WinRed by candidates like Greene and others affiliated with QAnon is indicative of how such platforms have already become a dominant way of raising money, especially small contributions.”

“It will soon become the way that virtually all money is raised, because it’s so efficient,” Mayer said, noting that while WinRed makes it easier to raise money for Republican candidates, “it’s not as if the platform itself is deciding where the money goes.”

“I think this is more an issue overall of what's happening in the Republican Party rather than something specific to online platforms,” Mayer explained. “It’s kind of the classic party problem: How do you handle extremists?”

Protesters promote QAnon
Protesters promoting QAnon in Salem, Ore., May 2, 2020. (John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

In some cases, electing “an extremist candidate who harbors these very much out of the mainstream conspiratorial views, could cost the party a seat.” But extremist candidates who win the nomination in heavily Republican districts may very likely get elected to Congress in the fall. Mayer said that Greene is “the classic example” of the latter. “What happens when you have someone who may truly believe in these conspiracy theories, which are Pizzagate-level beliefs?”

Pizzagate, which predated QAnon, refers to a rumor that a Washington, D.C., restaurant was the headquarters of a child-abuse ring enlisting prominent Democrats, including Hillary Clinton. A believer in the theory attempted a one-man rescue of the supposed victims.

“I suppose the party could discourage WinRed from engaging with these candidates,” Mayer continued, but he said doing so creates another set of problems for the party. “If you have a material portion of the base [that] is supportive of this, and you do things to alienate them, that again has general election consequences.”

In a request for comment, Yahoo News also asked the NRCC chairman and the top three House Republicans whether they believed the party should discourage WinRed from working with candidates who espouse extremist views. Again, none provided a response.

Mayer said that the House Freedom Fund’s decision to back Greene, despite her racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic rhetoric, is further evidence of a growing chasm within the Republican Party.

“The Freedom Caucus is an extraordinarily conservative group that, as indicated by this, doesn’t have a problem with welcoming someone like Greene into their group,” he said. “This is an issue for [the] political party because the Democrats will point to this as evidence that the party has become more and more extremist.”

“As more and more moderates are driven out of the party and more extreme candidates gain prominence and get elected, this has clear implications for the party as a brand,” he said.

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