Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

The Bradley Foundation’s Election Deniers

Board member Cleta Mitchell and Bradley-funded group train army of zealots to watch over elections.

By - Jun 7th, 2022 04:43 pm
Cleta Mitchell speaking at CPACin 2012. Photo by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Cleta Mitchell speaking at CPACin 2012. Photo by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, (CC BY-SA 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

The efforts by attorney Cleta Mitchell to overturn the election of Joe Biden caused a national controversy in January 2021 that embarrassed the Milwaukee-based law firm Foley & Lardner, long a paragon of the political and corporate establishment, both locally and nationally. Mitchell, who had worked as an attorney for the firm since at least 2006, was involved in the infamous phone call by Donald Trump where he pressured Georgia election officials to overturn the legal election results favoring Biden.

The law firm quickly declared it had no knowledge of these activities by Mitchell, but the storm did not subside. She soon resigned from Foley, with the firm noting that “Ms. Mitchell concluded that her departure was in the firm’s best interests.” But at Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which was once a pretty elite institution itself, albeit with a clear conservative agenda, there was no move to get rid of Mitchell from its board of directors, where she had served since at least 2013.

In March of this year the House Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol subpoenaed documents from Mitchell, noting that its investigation had found credible evidence that she “participated in efforts to prevent, delay, or overturn the certification of the popular vote results in several states1; promoted false claims of election fraud to Members of Congress2; and participated in a call in which President Trump pressured the Georgia Secretary of State to ‘find’ enough votes to reverse his loss there.”

That same month the 65 Project, a bipartisan, nonprofit effort “to protect democracy… by holding accountable lawyers who engage in fraudulent and malicious efforts to overturn legitimate elections,” filed an ethics complaint against Mitchell with the District of Columbia Office of Disciplinary Counsel. “A full investigation… will demonstrate the egregious nature of Ms. Mitchell’s actions… and the serious risk that Ms. Mitchell will repeat such conduct unless your office acts on this matter.”

The charges for which Mitchell should be investigated and disciplined, the complaint charged, included:

-“Ms Mitchell knowingly counseled and assisted her client in criminal and fraudulent behavior.

-Ms. Mitchell engaged in illegal conduct that reflects adversely on her honesty and trustworthiness.

-Ms Mitchell engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or impersonation.”

It’s the sort of stuff the bosses at Foley were probably very grateful they were no longer connected to, but again, the Bradley Foundation seemed unfazed. Indeed, it’s become clear the foundation’s policy is now united with Mitchell in her attempts to persuade Americans that their elections are fraudulent. A New Yorker story by Jane Mayer calculated that since 2012 the $850 million foundation has spent some $18 million on groups tied to voter suppression legislation, and most recently on stoking false fears of a stolen election. It has been a generous funder of a list of groups working to promote the Big Lie, including the Heritage Foundation, ALEC (American Legislative Action Council), Federalist Society, Honest Election Project (formerly the Judicial Education Project), Election Integrity Project California, FreedomWorks’ National Election Protection Initiative, True the Vote and Turning Point.

And a recent story by the New York Times reported that Mitchell is “recruiting election conspiracists into an organized cavalry of activists monitoring elections” in the future. It reported on her speech to 150 activists  at a conference center outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

“In seminars around the country, Ms. Mitchell is marshaling volunteers to stake out election offices, file information requests, monitor voting, work at polling places and keep detailed records of their work.” And to “research the backgrounds of local and state officials to determine whether each is a ‘friend or foe’ of the movement… The effort, called the Election Integrity Network, is a project of the Conservative Partnership Institute, a right-wing think tank.” where Mitchell “serves as a senior legal fellow and where Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s final White House chief of staff, is a senior partner. Mr. Trump’s political action committee, Save America PAC, donated $1 million to the group last year.”

The Conservative Partnership Institute is also funded by the Bradley Foundation, which gave it $200,000 over a two-year period, according to Source Watch.

Election officials who examined Mitchell’s training methods and statements for the Times said they “promote particularly aggressive methods — with a focus on surveillance — that appear intended to feed on activists’ distrust and create pressure on local officials, rather than ensure voters’ access to the ballot.”

“A test drive of the strategy in the Virginia governor’s race last year highlighted how quickly the work — when conducted by people convinced of falsehoods about fraud — can disrupt the process and spiral into bogus claims, even in a race Republicans won,” the story reported. “Mitchell has repeatedly held up Virginia, and particularly Fairfax County, as the national model” for what she hopes to accomplish. Scott Konopasek, who served as registrar in Fairfax VA, at the time, said “the operation ate up county workers’ time with dozens of information requests, as well as informal interrogations. ‘Everything they saw that they didn’t understand was fraud in their minds and that’s how they would frame the questions,’ he said. ‘It was always accusatory.’”

Konopasek ultimately resigned from his job in large part because of how difficult these zealots were making his job. “In his 30-year career, he said, he had never seen anything like it. ‘If there’s an absence of good will there’s nothing you can say that’s going to reassure someone or win them over or change their mind,’”

In some states there is an overlap between Mitchell’s program and the Republican National Committee’s “multimillion-dollar investment” in overseeing elections, “hiring 18 state ‘election integrity’ directors and 19 state ‘election integrity’ lawyers. The party has so far recruited more than 5,000 poll watchers and nearly 12,000 poll workers,” the story noted.

And there’s no doubt the greatest efforts to monitor and harass election officials will be in the big cities of swing states like Wisconsin, with Milwaukee and Madison as top targets.

Mitchell declined an interview with the New York Times and as of publication the Bradley Foundation had not responded to requests for comment by Urban Milwaukee.

6 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: The Bradley Foundation’s Election Deniers”

  1. ringo muldano says:

    This. uber rich folk have been rigging elections with lawyers for republiCONs for decades and this is now where the tyranny of govt resides.

    Fitz, Vos, Johnson, et al. are lined up shoulder to shoulder like the good soldiers they are. Ha! Yea, we need more data! F em. single bullet theory? Just asking questions! Will they get what they wrought?

  2. Mingus says:

    Creeping Neo-facism!

  3. julia o'connor says:

    Disbar the b*tch

  4. gerrybroderick says:

    Agreed, Mingus. Except for the term “creeping”. The Bradley Foundation has been quietly in favor of a fascist agenda for as long as it has existed. Not unlike the Manufacturers & Commerce Association. For them what’s good for the country is one thing. What’s good for Big Business is what REALLY matters.

  5. NieWiederKrieg says:

    @ringo muldano

    The 2016 and 2020 Democratic Primaries were rigged by the uber rich and the DNC for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Marc Lasry is the “dark money man” for the Democratic Party.

    Democrats are just as evil as Republicans.

    Read Hillary Clinton’s hacked emails on WikiLeaks…

  6. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    All the more reason to TAX THE BRADLEYS. There is no positive social purpose these oligarchs and their “charity” serve.

    Now that Cavalier Johnson has been elected, he should not hesitate to send an overdue property tax bill for millions to these fascist frauds.

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