Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

The Long Reach of Cleta Mitchell

Bradley board member’s role in the Big Lie keeps growing as more reported.

By - Jul 27th, 2022 01:34 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

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.”

She urged support of a bill that “would abolish the income tax and, by extension, it would abolish the IRS. Yes, that’s what I said. Abolish the IRS. The only way to ensure that the IRS never does this sort of thing again is to get rid of the agency altogether.”

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.

Now Mitchell’s name is increasingly popping up as House members and attorneys reconstruct how Donald Trump attempted a coup to overturn a legitimate election won by Democrat Joe Biden. Indeed, she increasingly looks like one of the key figures. According to a recent New York Times magazine story, it was Mitchell who suggested in July 2020 to Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, that there should be legal preparations made for post-election challenges to the results, and Trump gave his blessing, she said, for a project to build a legal scaffolding for such an effort.

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.”

Shortly after this, in early January of 2021 Mitchell participated in Trump’s infamous phone call asking Georgia election officials to “find more votes” to overturn Biden’s victory in that state. The ensuing controversy forced Mitchell to resign from Foley & Lardner. Fani T. Willis, the Atlanta area district attorney who is doing a criminal investigation of election interference in Georgia by Trump and his allies, is seeking to compel testimony by five people involved, including Eastman and Mitchell, as another Times story noted.

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 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 states” and “promoted false claims of election fraud to Members of Congress,” among other things.

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.”

Mitchell is closely connected to the Conservative Partnership Institute, which was founded by Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina who served in the House and Senate and was closely aligned with the Tea Party movement. Meadows is also one of the CPI’s leaders. “The CPI helped found and support the election monitoring nonprofit run by ex-Trump lawyer Cleta Mitchell, along with roughly a dozen other dark money and advocacy groups, virtually all of which share the address” of a CPI town house in D.C. as Maggie Severns reported for the online publication Grid. The story described this conglomeration as an “insurrectionists’ clubhouse,” and Fresh Air interviewer Terry Gross dubbed it a “one-stop shopping place for all your MAGA needs.”

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.

10 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: The Long Reach of Cleta Mitchell”

  1. nickzales says:

    This lawyer seems to spend a lot of time with people with significant criminal liability. How does she keep her license to practice law? The attorney’s oath is to defend the Constitution, not to destroy it.

  2. MichaelDrescher says:

    What a peach !! Geeezzzzz

  3. MichaelDrescher says:

    What a peach !!

  4. kaygeeret says:

    I think that we should follow the old rule:

    Those who yell the loudest are the guiltiest!

    Ok, not sure it is an old rule, but it seems to have lingered in my brain for 70+ years.

    Only the guilty are as continuously outraged as those who have been identified as the birthers/plotters of the 1/6/ insurrection.

    Only the guilty point the finger at everyone who is an “other”, whatever that term means to them at the time.

  5. NieWiederKrieg says:

    When Vladimir Putin was elected President of Russia, all the corrupt bureaucrats, oligarchs, lobbyists, and politicians fled to Israel, the UK, and the US… Those that stayed and attempted to overthrow Putin were eventually arrested for stealing money that belonged to the Russian people…

    We desperately need a person like Vladimir Putin to expel the rot and filth that is our current US government.

    P.S. Vladimir Putin is a devout Christian who rebuilt 1,000 Christian churches every year that were burned downed by the Bolsheviks 1918-1938… The Bolshevik revolution was financed by Wall Street bankers Paul Warburg, Jacob Schiff, and the Rothschild family… The Bolsheviks killed 60 million people from Russia and Ukraine in concentration camps (gulags).

  6. Thomas Sepllman says:

    I guess this is he demonstration of free speech. What color glasses are being used to see Putin as anything but Hitler. The countries of Europe SAW clearly what was next if Putin (not Russia) was successful in the Ukraine. Putin thought Trump had at least softened NATO but the memory of Hitler is still FRESH in the minds of many in those European countries. Turkey agrees to let in Finland and Sweden into NATO and then Turkey meets with Iran and Putin. Oh that’s right Trump pushed Iran to Putin and we did not see how critical it was to settle Iran ASAP and now we have this to deal with. What are 100 or even a 1000 drones compared to what by all is being provided to Ukraine

  7. tornado75 says:

    i am a long time feminist and i am always happy when women can attain seats at the table that for a long time were denied. yet, i am always sad to see some of these women wield their power in the same way as right wing, arrogant, corrupt, stupid men do. . claire mitchell demonstrates exactly that. if you align with 45, you get painted with the same brush of racism and thoughtlessness.

  8. MilwMike1 says:

    NieWiederKrieg is an Onion satirical script writer, no? You almost got me channeling The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

  9. gerrybroderick says:

    When historians write about today’s “War On Democracy”, Cleta Mitchell, John Eastman and The Bradley Foundation will all find their places as backpage footnotes in the chapter titled “Trump and other Traitors”.

  10. NieWiederKrieg says:

    @MilwMike1 –

    Have you ever read “The Gulag Archipelago” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn? You can listen to the audio version of this non-fiction classic on YouTube.

    60 million died in concentration camps… Bolsheviks tortured and killed nearly every single nun, priest, cardinal, and bishop in Russia and Ukraine. Nearly every Christian church was burned to the ground… Genrikh Yagoda killed 10 million people.

    This is never mentioned in American history books. Why isn’t there a Hollywood movie about this? Have you never heard about this part of history, MilwMike? (1918-1938)

    “The Gulag Archipelago” –

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us