Follow the Money

The billionaire backers of the attack on Congress

PHOTO: Tyler Merbler. Treatment and collage: Gordon Frazier / FS
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While Congress sets up commissions to investigate, lawsuits are filed, and blaming fingers are pointed in every direction from Trump to “antifa,” the real roots of the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., are lurking in the shadows.

How did this deadly right-wing coup attempt come about? It wasn’t a spontaneous and unscheduled march. Examine the planners, social media publicity, and leaders of the break-in, and there is a clear path from the far-right ultra-rich to fascist gangs.

Trump’s campaign staff did most of the coordination and planning of the actual March to Save America rally at the Ellipse, although he claims he was not involved. His staff managed behind the scenes while Trump fired up the crowd to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell!”

Many came wearing red MAGA hats to protest what the right-wing media had convinced them was a stolen election. Scores of those in attendance were from well-organized armed groups, like the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, and they had bigger plans.

Oath Keepers is made up of far-right anti-government militias, whose members are present or past law enforcement and military. They coordinated many rallies against Covid-19 lockdowns, as well as election fraud protests in state capitals. The Proud Boys is a far-right, neo-fascist, and male-only white nationalist organization that routinely attacks Black Lives Matter protesters, leftists, and anti-fascists.

These groups helped spread the word on social media to call thousands to the March to Save America. They then led the crowd to the Capitol and took the lead in breaking windows, scaling walls, stealing laptops, and trashing Congressional offices.

Whose money is it? But where did the $500,000 to pay for the equipment, stage, and setup for Trump’s speech come from? For this particular rally, right-wing media personality Alex Jones convinced Publix Super Markets heir Julie Jenkins Fancelli to contribute $300,000 toward expenses. Jones gave $76,000 of his own money.

Other far-right groups funded publicity and transportation. Turning Point USA, a campus group, brought busloads of students to the rally. Turning Point’s funding comes from DonorsTrust, one of the largest nonprofit groups laundering donations from the wealthy.

According to The Intercept, DonorsTrust also receives funding from the The Federalist Society and The Concord Fund which is then passed on to the Republican Attorneys General Association. From there the loot goes to the Rule of Law Defense Fund which sent out robocalls announcing, “At 1p.m., we will march to the Capitol Building and call on Congress to stop the steal.”

What a tangled web they weave! Not one of these funds or trusts is required to identify their donors and there’s little tracking of their expenditures, hence the name “dark money.”

The 2009 Citizens United court ruling that “corporations are people” and “money is speech” allows the 1% to secretly donate to front groups. This is essentially legal money-laundering. The contributing billionaires’ identities are protected to avoid stockholder scrutiny and shield their corporations from public outrage.

Since the Citizens United court decision, billions of dollars have flowed through nonprofit organizations and shell companies to white supremacist, neo-Nazi, and far-right militia groups as well as primarily to Republican politicians. In 2006, The Center for Responsive Politics noted that the wealthy and corporations donated $5.2 million into elections. In 2020, Open Secrets and the Wesleyan Media Project reported that dark money groups poured more than $750 million into elections!

Long-term investment. So the right-wing invasion of the Capitol Building was not just a Trump rally that got out of control — it had been in the making for years. Far-right fat cats have been growing their network to finance and encourage just such events. Some, like Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, are major investors in right-wing media Breitbart News and social media app Parler, which both spread the election fraud myth and urged followers to attend the rally.

Others like Linde and Henry Bradley have given millions to DonorsTrust which then funds many right-wing groups. Stephen Schwarzman, founder of the investment firm Blackstone Group, and Richard Uihlein of shipping supply company Uline, Inc. are among other relatively unknown billionaires who contributed millions to DonorsTrust and far-right Republican campaigns.

Wealthy capitalists and corporations are trying to protect their interests and reputations using dark money. They have financed the anti-immigrant group VDARE, the anti-union Freedom Foundation, and of course the Charles Koch backed ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) whose members draft and push model legislation that opposes unions, immigration reform, LGBTQ+ rights, abortion, affirmative action and the reality of climate change.

By attacking every facet of the working class and keeping people angry and divided, the ruling class is trying desperately to preserve their crumbling economic system. The Jan. 6 riot was a clumsy but escalated attempt to deepen these divisions, even if it used a cringe-worthy president and conspiracy theories to do so.

Many of the thousands who rallied were professionals, small business owners and local government officials. These middle-class Trump supporters, the petty bourgeoisie, are being lured toward fascism — historically the tactic used when the capitalists see their economic system threatened.

But history also shows that these wannabe billionaires will cast their lot with whoever appears strongest in order to preserve their positions, profits, and privileges. They need to be convinced that a more secure future lies with following the working class. And the working class must organize together, expose the far right and face down the fascist thugs in order to defeat the oligarchs and make a better world for all of us.

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