The Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) came under intense scrutiny in 2021 after Documented first reported RAGA’s 501(c)(4) dark-money policy arm called the Rule of Law Defense Fund sent out a robocall promoting the rally on January 6 in Washington, D.C. The robocall, sent on the eve of the deadly Capitol riot, urged “patriots” to march to the U.S. Capitol. RAGA and RLDF were both listed (at different times) as organizers on the March to Save America website, which coordinated the protest.

After Documented first broke the story and published the recording, many other media outlets reported on the robocall, including MSNBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Bloomberg, NBC, The Hill, and The Guardian.

Following the revelation, RAGA executive director Adam Piper resigned and other staff later followed. More than a dozen donors told Documented they suspended their funding, including Microsoft, NRG, American Electric Power, and CenterPoint Energy.

Numerous Republican attorneys general tried to publicly distance themselves from the RAGA/RLDF involvement in organizing the march. Ohio Attorney General David Yost said in a tweet he was “shocked and angered.” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a tweet he was “completely unaware” and had no involvement in the decision. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and RLDF chair called for an internal review of the decision. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office “scrubbed references to the Rule of Law Defense Fund from her online biography.”

In July 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives created a select committee to launch an investigation into the insurrection. Journalist Seth Abramson of Proof first reported Adam Piper attended a secretive January 5 gathering at the Trump Hotel (article is behind a paywall, Alabama Political Reporter also reported on the gathering). The New York Times reported the robocall was sent out at the demand of a donor while the Washington Post later revealed Julie Jenkins Fancelli, daughter of the founder of the Publix grocery store chain, gave $150,000 to RLDF on December 29, 2020. According to the Post, Fancelli also gave $300,000 to Women for America First, which obtained a permit for the rally featuring Trump.

In a statement to Documented a RAGA spokesperson said that the “Republican Attorneys General Association and Rule of Law Defense Fund had no involvement in the planning, sponsoring, or the organization of Wednesday’s event.”

Below are details about RAGA’s involvement in the events that occurred on January 6 and other related developments.

The Robocall

The robocall, paid for by the Rule of Law Defense Fund and first reported by Documented, provided details about the ‘March to Save America’ on January 6. The Washington Post reported in October 2021 that the voice on the call belonged to an RLDF staffer.

Robocall Transcript: “I’m calling from the Rule of Law Defense Fund with an important message. The ‘March to Save America’ is tomorrow in Washington D.C. at the Ellipse in President’s Park between E Street and Constitution Avenue on the south side of the White House, with doors opening at 7:00 a.m. At 1:00 p.m., we will march to the Capitol building and call on congress to stop the steal. We are hoping patriots like you will join us to continue to fight to protect the integrity of our elections. For more information, visit MarchtoSaveAmerica.com. This call is paid for and authorized by the Rule of Law Defense Fund, 202-796-5838.”

Timeline

The timeline below outlines events and findings compiled by various news reports and documents before and after January 6.

2020
9 Nov 2020

Republican attorneys general file brief challenging 2020 presidential election results

Photo of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Credit: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user UpstateNYer.

In November 2020, 10 Republican attorneys general filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court that sought to reject some mailed ballots in the state of Pennsylvania.

7 Dec 2020

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sues battleground states over "unlawful" ballots

Photograph of an absentee ballot from District of Columbia Board of Elections, Washington, D.C.
Photo by Adam Fagen.

In December 2020, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit concerning Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the U.S. Supreme Court, alleging "absentee and mail-in voting are the primary opportunities for unlawful ballots."

29 Dec 2020

Daughter of the founder of the Publix grocery store chain gave $150,000 to RLDF

Photo of a Publix Grocery Store in November 2012.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons user TaurusEmerald.

According to reporting by the Washington Post in October 2021, Julie Jenkins Fancelli, daughter of the founder of the Publix grocery store chain, gave $150,000 to RLDF on December 29, 2020.

2021
3 Jan 2021

RAGA listed as one of several “coalition partners"

Image courtesy of the Democratic Attorneys General Association Twitter.

MarchtoSaveAmerica.com, the website that coordinated logistics of the event, listed RAGA as one of several “coalition partners” earlier in the day on January 3, according to an archived version of the website — first revealed by the Democratic Attorneys General Association in a tweet.

3 Jan 2021

RLDF listed as one of several “coalition partners”

Image courtesy of the Democratic Attorneys General Association Twitter

MarchtoSaveAmerica.com, the website that coordinated logistics of the event, listed RLDF as one of several “coalition partners” later by the evening on January 3, according to an archived version of the website — first revealed by the Democratic Attorneys General Association in a tweet.

5 Jan 2021

RLDF sends out robocall promoting Jan 6

The Rule of Law Defense Fund sends out a robocall promoting the rally on January 6 in Washington, D.C. The robocall, sent on the eve of the deadly Capitol riots on January 6, urged “patriots” to “fight to protect the integrity of our elections.” The New York Times reported in February 2021 that a donor had demanded the robocall and made a contribution contingent upon its release.

5 Jan 2021

American Principles Project promotes robocall and rally in text message

According to reporting by Washington Post in October 2021, the robocall was promoted in a text message sent out by a Virginia-based conservative group called the American Principles Project. "The text, which included a telephone number where callers could hear the RLDF robocall, called on supporters to join the president and Paxton 'in DC tomorrow 2 fight for the integrity of our elections,'" the Washington Post reported.

5 Jan 2021

RAGA Executive Director attends secretive January 5 gathering at the Trump Hotel.

Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C.
Photo by Daniel X. O'Neil.

Then-RAGA Executive Director Adam Piper joined numerous Trump allies at a secretive gathering on January 5 at the Trump Hotel. "Charles W. Herbster, who was then the national chairman of the Agriculture and Rural Advisory Committee in Trump’s administration, in a Facebook post at 8:33 p.m. on Jan. 5 said that he was standing 'in the private residence of the President at Trump International with the following patriots who are joining me in a battle for justice and truth,'" the Alabama Political Reporter reported. "Among the attendees, according to Herbster’s post, were Tuberville, former RAGA director Adam Piper, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, adviser Peter Navarro, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and 2016 deputy campaign manager David Bossie."

6 Jan 2021

'Stop the Steal' rally occurs followed by pro-Trump mob storming U.S. Capitol

Photo of US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Photo credit: Blink O'fanaye

On January 6, 2021, the day of the joint session of Congress to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, President Donald participated in the 'Stop the Steal' rally near the White House. "We will never give up. We will never concede," Trump told the crowd. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also spoke at the rally. “We will not quit fighting," Paxton said at the event.

After Trump's speech, supporters made their way to the U.S. Capitol, which was eventually breached by protesters who broke down doors and shattered windows to enter the Capitol. The mayhem resulted in 5 dead, including U.S. Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick.

7 Jan 2021

RAGA Executive Director tells AG's he takes "full responsibility"

Screen Shot 2022 01 04 at 4 55 52 PM

"We will have an AG call tonight at 7PM Eastern to discuss a news story gaining traction regarding the RAGA and RLDF in conjunction with yesterday’s rally," Piper told attorneys general in an email obtained by Documented. "Additionally, I take full responsibility for this decision and will explain fully and answer any questions on tonight’s call. My apologies for the time consumed by this story instead of the mission ahead."

8 Jan 2021

Alabama Attorney General and RLDF Chairman Steve Marshall asks for internal review of RAGA's involvement in rally

On January 8, Alabama Attorney General and RLDF Chairman Steve Marshall called for an internal review over the decision to send out the group's involvement in the January 6 rally. “Despite currently transitioning into my role as the newly elected chairman of RLDF, it is unacceptable that I was neither consulted about nor informed of those decisions," Marshall said in a statement reported by the Alabama Political Reporter. "I have directed an internal review of this matter."

11 Jan 2021

RAGA executive director resigns

Ken Cuccinelli speaking with Adam Piper on December 11, 2020 during a RLDF roundtable discussion in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Benjamin Applebaum.

After several days of national news coverage surrounding RAGA and RLDF's role in promoting the rally, RAGA executive director Adam Piper resigned from the organization.

16 Apr 2021

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr steps down as RAGA Chairman

According to a letter obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr stepped down as chairman of RAGA amidst turmoil in the organization. "During the last several months, it has become clear that there is a significant difference among members of RAGA's executive committee as to the direction this organization should take going forward," Carr said in the letter. "The fundamental difference of opinion began with vastly opposite views of the significance of the events of January 6 and the resistance by some to accepting the resignation of the executive director. The differences have continued as we have tried to restore RAGA's reputation internally and externally and were reflected once again during the process of choosing our next executive director."

22 Apr 2021

Former RLDF executive director chosen as new RAGA executive director

The Hill reported that the RAGA executive committee ratified Peter Bisbee as RAGA's executive director. Bisbee previously served as the RLDF executive director during the time that the policy arm sent out the robocalls.

22 Apr 2021

RAGA finance director resigns citing promotion of RLDF executive director

According to an email obtained by Eddie Burkhalter of the Alabama Political Reporter, RAGA finance director Ashley Trenzeluk resigned over the decision to promote the RLDF director who "approved the robocall expenditure." "As RLDF Executive Director, Pete Bisbee approved the robocall expenditure, and was the only other person accountable for RLDF involvement in the January 6 events," Trenzeluk wrote in an email to Republican attorneys general, according to the Alabama Political Reporter. "Over the last few months, I have fielded, reassured and assuaged concerns from our core donor base on the future direction of our organization. The result of the executive committee vote to nominate Pete as RAGA’s Executive Director is a decision I cannot defend."

25 Apr 2021

RAGA Director of Operations resigns

An email obtained and published by David Armiak of the Center for Media and Democracy reveals that RAGA's Director of Operations Jason Heath resigned from RAGA. "I respect your votes, but the direction is not one I can honestly stand behind," Heath said in the email.

13 Aug 2021

Senator Whitehouse calls on Select Committee to investigate groups behind January 6

Image of Sheldon Whitehouse.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons User SecretName101.

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse urged the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol to examine the dark-money organizations and donors, including the Rule of Law Defense Fund, who organized and funded efforts contributing to the events on January 6.

Response from RAGA and RLDF Donors

More than a dozen donors told Documented they suspended their funding, including Microsoft, NRG, American Electric Power, and CenterPoint Energy.

Despite this, a report filed with the IRS earlier this year revealed dozens of donors undeterred by the controversy, including some entities who said they would pause or evaluate its political contributions.

In January 2021, Documented contacted numerous RLDF and RAGA donors to ask if the group's role in promoting the March to Save America rally, as well as other work by RAGA to undermine Joe Biden’s election victory, would affect their continued funding of the groups.

Below is a list of statements Documented received from RAGA donors in January 2021:

Edison Electric Institute (EEI)

EEI said they were pausing all political spending across the board including to RAGA and that they would not be funding RLDF again. A Documented analysis shows the lobbying group had given $260,000 to RAGA since 2014 and according to Energy Policy Institute gave at least $50,000 to RLDF.

Boeing Company Political Action Committee

The Boeing Company Political Action Committee told Documented in January 2021 that they would “carefully evaluate future contributions to ensure that we support those who not only support our company” in response to the January 6 violence. The PAC made a $25,000 contribution in May 2021, according to the 8872 contribution form filed by RAGA that covered contributions between January 1, 2021 through to June 30, 2021.

Recording Industry Association Of America (RIAA)

The music industry lobby group has donated more than $180,000 to RAGA since 2014. It told Documented in a statement that it has never funded RLDF, and that it wont be renewing its membership in RAGA for 2021. “RIAA condemns last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol. We support candidates who respect both the rule of law and the results of free and fair elections. In light of the events of January 6, we have reviewed the criteria for our political giving and are not contributing to those who voted against the peaceful transition of power,” a RIAA spokesperson told Documented.

Microsoft

A spokesperson from Microsoft responded very simply to the question we asked: “will Microsoft Corporation fund RAGA in 2021?” “No,” they wrote by email, and in a follow-up confirmed that this decision was because of RAGA’s role in promoting the March to Save America rally. Microsoft gave RAGA at least $36,622 in 2020 according to tax filings, and has given it more than $350,000 since 2014.

CenterPoint Energy

“CenterPoint Energy will not make any contributions to the Republican Attorneys General Association in 2021 and is reviewing its strategic giving strategy and will re-valuate in 2022,” a spokesperson told Documented. The Fortune 500 electric and natural gas utility gave RAGA at least $25,000 in 2020, and $190,000 in total since 2014.

NRG Energy

“On January 14th NRG terminated its membership with the Republican Attorneys General Association, effective immediately. NRG will continue to ensure its giving strategies and affiliations are in alignment with company values,” a spokesperson told Documented. NRG gave RAGA at least $25,000 in 2020, and $15,000 in 2019 (the first year it had given).

DTE Energy

A spokesperson from DTE Energy told Documented that they are pausing all PAC and corporate political spending, including to RAGA. DTE gave RAGA $15,000 in 2020, and more than $130,000 since 2014.

American Electric Power (AEP)

Despite APE claiming in early January 2021 that the company "paused all political contributions and will be reviewing our criteria for supporting candidates and organizations in the future", RAGA received $25,000 from AEP in June 2021.

American Property Casualty Insurers Association Political Action Committee

The Political Action Committee for the American Property Casualty Insurers Association (APCIA), the insurance industry trade association, contributed $50,000 in June 2021. The trade group told Documented in January 2021 that they were “undertaking a strategic review of all political giving to elected officials and organizations.”

Affirm

Affirm is an online financing company. A company spokesperson told Documented: “We have not renewed our RAGA membership for 2021. We are continuing to monitor developments related to the riots and awaiting the results of the internal investigation that Gen. Marshal called for before making decisions on future membership. We will not support any organizations found to have contributed to the appalling acts that took place in the U.S. Capitol.” Affirm had given RAGA $50,000 in 2020, after giving it $20,300 in 2019 (its first year of funding).

Western Union

A spokesperson from Western Union told Documented: “On January 8, Western Union informed RAGA that it will not renew its membership until RAGA’s investigation is complete and unless and until Western Union is satisfied with the results of the inquiry and measures to address any concerns raised.” Western Union gave RAGA at least $15,000 in 2020, and more than $100,000 since 2014.

Alkermes

A spokesperson from Alkermes, the Irish pharmaceutical company, told Documented: “In deciding whether to contribute to an organization or candidate, we take into account the potential recipient’s participation in activities inconsistent with the values of our company. In light of last week’s events, we are evaluating our political contribution policies to help ensure our support is focused on the aforementioned principle of working to provide real, tangible contributions to the public health.” Alkermes has given $130,000 to RAGA since 2014, and $50,000 in 2020.

Amgen

Amgen told Documented in response to a question about their 2021 RAGA membership: “such disbursements have been temporarily suspended pending a review of future contributions.” The company gave RAGA at least $25,000 in 2020, and $95,000 since 2014.

Smithfield Foods

Smithfield Foods, the giant pork industry factory farming company, owned by WH Group of China, told Reuters that they were pausing “all federal campaign contributions.” In a statement to Documented, Keira Lombardo, Chief Administrative Officer said that this pause would now extend to RAGA. The company donated $50,000 to RAGA in 2020.

Aflac

“We strongly condemn the disgraceful events that took place in our nation’s capital last week and as a result, we have paused all political donations to reassess our approach and ensure that our contributions remain consistent with our core values,” a spokesperson wrote by email. The company has given RAGA $190,000 since 2014.

Doordash

“We have communicated our outrage with RAGA and made it clear that we expect immediate action, and have paused our engagement with the organization until we feel the appropriate steps have been taken to address this very serious issue. The violence that took place this week is abhorrent and has no place in our democracy. Any individual or organization that encouraged or facilitated this horrific behavior must be held accountable.”


*Timeline photo credits are as follows:

  • 11/9/2020: Photograph of U.S. Supreme Court. Credit: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user UpstateNYer.
  • 12/7/2020: Photograph of an absentee ballot from District of Columbia Board of Elections, Washington, D.C. Photo by Adam Fagen.
  • 12/29/20: Photo of a Publix Grocery Store in November 2012. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user TaurusEmerald.
  • 1/3/2021: Image courtesy of the Democratic Attorneys General Association Twitter.
  • 1/3/2021: Image courtesy of the Democratic Attorneys General Association Twitter.
  • 1/5/2021: Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C. Photo by Daniel X. O'Neil.
  • 1/6/2021: Photo of U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Photo credit: Blink O'fanaye
  • 1/11/2021: Photo of Ken Cuccinelli speaking with Adam Piper on December 11, 2020 during a RLDF roundtable discussion in Washington, D.C. Photo by Benjamin Applebaum.
  • 8/13/2021: Image of U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. Photo by Wikimedia Commons User SecretName101.