The Long Reach of Cleta Mitchell
Bradley board member’s role in the Big Lie keeps growing as more reported.
Back in 2014 when Cleta Mitchell was still an attorney with D.C. office of the Milwaukee-based Foley & Lardner firm, she testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform regarding alleged IRS abuses.
“As someone who represents three different citizens groups who have sued the IRS in the past year,” Mitchell testified. “I believe that the Internal Revenue Service is so corrupt and so rotten to the core that it cannot be salvaged. It has too much power, too much money, too many employees and it needs to be absolutely jerked out at the roots.”
If that sounds like a pretty radical remedy for what might have been over-zealous watchdogging of nonprofits by the IRS, it gives some indication of just what a scorched-earth right winger Mitchell is. As it turns out the IRS was going after both conservative and liberal groups, as to whether they might be in violation of federal rules barring overtly political activities by a tax exempt nonprofit. And there is evidence some nonprofits are becoming increasingly politicized, including Milwaukee’s Lynden and Harry Bradley Foundation, where Mitchell has served as a board member since at least 2013, a year before her House testimony.
The Bradley Foundation has engaged in work to build a “red wall” of conservative Republican states across the country which one expert argued was in violation of the federal guidelines for tax exempt nonprofits, as Urban Milwaukee has written. The attack on the IRS by Republicans has probably made it much less likely that any oversight of such activity will be attempted.
And after Trump lost the election, it was Mitchell who suggested the plan to enlist the help of state lawmakers to create fake slates of electors, as another Times story reported. Mitchell sent an email suggesting the idea “just days after the election” to John C. Eastman, the lawyer working with Trump on the “Stop the Steal” effort, and whom she had known for decades. “A movement is stirring,” Mitchell wrote in the email, introduced as evidence at the January 6 committee hearing. “But needs constitutional support.”
Mitchell also argued that the changes made to voting procedures due to the pandemic in key swing states in the lead-up to 2020 were in violation of their election laws, the magazine story notes, which Trump’s lawyers used in legal challenges the courts all shot down. (Only the Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the theory regarding absentee ballot drop boxes, but only for future elections.)
And in December, 2020, “Mitchell and a team of lawyers filed an election challenge in Fulton County [in Georgia) alleging that thousands of ballots were cast illegally; they withdrew their challenge in January after the state’s electors were certified.”
Mitchell also helped raise money for the widely-ridiculed audit of the the Maricopa County, Arizona election results in the spring of 2021. The House January 6 committee has
Since 2021 Mitchell has become a leader in building the “Election Integrity Network,” as Urban Milwaukee has written, doing seminars to train an army of election conspiracy theorists to patrol local election offices in urban areas, file information requests, launch challenges and research whether local clerks and officials are “friends or foes” of the movement she is building.
“She has appeared often on the former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s ‘War Room’ podcast, which aggressively promoted the Stop the Steal rallies leading up to Jan. 6 and has since become a sort of signal relay post for activism around the 2020 election,” the magazine story reported. “On a June episode of ‘War Room,’ Mitchell told Bannon, ‘2020 — never again,’ adding, “That’s our goal.’”
Mitchell has tight connections to key promoters of the Big Lie. She now lives in Pinehurst, North Carolina, where Meadows previously served as a congressman and now lives. Mitchell “has close ties to the Meadows family,” a story by the Raleigh News & Observer reported and “has served as an attorney for their organizations, including Right Women PAC, a super PAC run by Meadows’ wife, Debra.”
It’s a clubhouse favored by the Bradley Foundation, which has provided $300.000 in funding for the CPI, which in turn helps fund the Election Integrity Network, which is run by its longtime board member Mitchell. And so we have three non-profits — Bradley, CPI and the Election Integrity Network — all engaged in activity meant to help conservative Republicans win office, just the sort of activity by tax exempt groups the IRS was attempting to prevent. Small wonder Mitchell wants to abolish that government agency.