- The Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, and other GOP groups are accepting donations from dozens of people who claim to be associated with the QAnon conspiracy, which the FBI considers a domestic threat.
- QAnon, a baseless conspiracy theory claiming a liberal, devil-worshiping pedophile syndicate secretly controls national affairs and will only be stopped by President Donald Trump, has taken root among some right-wing Republicans and is thriving on social media.
- The donations from people claiming to be employed by QAnon may violate federal election law, which explicitly forbids making ‘materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent’ statements to a federal agency.
- Trump has described QAnon devotees as 'people who love our country' and who 'like me very much, which I appreciate.' The president has also endorsed QAnon backer Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is expected to win a congressional seat in Georgia, as a 'future Republican star.'
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QAnon is a cockeyed conspiracy theory about a liberal, devil-worshiping pedophile syndicate that secretly controls national affairs and will only be stopped by President Donald Trump. The FBI considers it a domestic terrorism threat.
But the Trump campaign and several Republican political committees, including the Republican National Committee, and National Republican Senatorial Committee, have together accepted at least 80 contributions from people claiming to work for or otherwise be associated with QAnon, an Insider analysis of federal campaign finance records indicates.
The money is modest — a few thousand dollars combined — amid an election season measured in billions. The donations may nevertheless violate federal election law, which prohibits making false or fictitious statements or representation to a government agency. That includes listing one's employer as "QAnon," which is not a place of employment.
Several political donors claiming QAnon employment or affiliation did not return Insider's phone and email requests seeking explanations.
Reached by phone, Lutreashea Keith of Williamsburg, Virginia, confirmed making several small contributions this year to the Trump campaign and RNC but hung up when asked why she listed her employer as "QAnon."
One Trump donor who gave the president's re-election effort $140 identified his employer as "QAnon" and his occupation as "agent."
Another "QAnon" employee listed his occupation as "soldier," while several others described themselves as a QAnon "digital soldier" or "patriot. Several others list either their employer or occupation as "WWG1WGA" — shorthand for the QAnon slogan, "where we go one we go all."
The Trump campaign, RNC, and NRSC did not respond to several Insider messages inquiring what they plan to do about the donations. The campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden declined to comment.
The Trump campaign has of late embraced QAnon supporters, if not the conspiracy theory itself.
In August, Trump described QAnon devotees as "people who love our country" and who "like me very much, which I appreciate." The president has also endorsed QAnon backer Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is all but assured to win a congressional seat in Georgia, as a "future Republican star."
Earlier this month, Vice President Mike Pence planned to attend a political fundraiser hosted by a Montana couple that routinely shares QAnon memes and messages — then abruptly canceled on them.
The QAnon theory has grown in popularity in recent months, spawning "save the children" rallies around the country organized by far-right believers in its collection of baseless assertions, which includes the belief that prominent Democrats lead a vast underground child trafficking network.
Republican Rep. Liz Chaney of Wyoming, for one, described QAnon as "dangerous lunacy that should have no place in American politics." House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in August that "there is no place for QAnon in the Republican Party."
Violating federal election law?
The Trump campaign and the Republican political committees could face federal scrutiny for accepting the donations claiming to be associated with QAnon.
The Federal Election Commission warns political actors that they are violating federal election law by "knowingly and willfully making any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation to a federal government agency," including the FEC.
FEC regulations further mandate that a political committee "must be able to demonstrate to the FEC that it made best efforts to obtain identifying information about contributors," agency spokesperson Judith Ingram said.
At minimum, political committees should scrub their public campaign finance filings of false information when made aware of it and use their "best efforts" to gather and submit accurate information, said Kenneth Gross, a partner at the Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP law firm who previously led the FEC's enforcement division.
Non-compliance could trigger a fine, at least when the FEC has enough commissioners to enforce civil campaign finance laws, which it today does not.
The FEC may report a suspected election law violation to the Department of Justice if it believes a criminal violation has taken place, although the DOJ rarely pursues matters related to small-dollar political donors.
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