Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt denies any knowledge of a robocall by an arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) encouraging “patriots” to participate in a march that ended in a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
Schmitt serves as vice chair of RAGA.
The Rule of Law Defense Fund, the 501(c)(4) arm of RAGA, helped finance and organize Wednesday’s “March to Save America” that ended in five deaths.
One of those killed was U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick, who died Thursday from injuries after an armed mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters attempted to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s win. More than 50 officers from the Capitol Police and D.C.’s police department were injured, including several who were hospitalized.
The connection between the fund and the rally was initially reported by Documented.
In an email to The Independent, Schmitt’s spokesman said, “Attorney General Schmitt absolutely had no knowledge of or involvement in the robocall, and condemns the violence that took place on Wednesday in the strongest possible terms, period.”
When asked if Schmitt condemns the robocall and the fund’s involvement in organizing the march, the spokesman did not immediately respond.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, who began leading the fund in November, said in a statement that he was “unaware of unauthorized decisions made by RLDF staff with regard to this week’s 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. “I have directed an internal review of this matter.”
Documented, a left-leaning watchdog, shows a screenshot that the Rule of Law Defense Fund was listed as a participant and sponsor of Wednesday’s event on the “March to Save America” website. This page has since been taken down.
The fund used robocalls to recruit Trump supporters to attend Wednesday’s event:
“I’m calling for the Rule of Law Defense Fund with an important message,” Tuesday’s robocall. “The March to Save America is tomorrow in Washington D.C. at the Ellipse in President’s Park between E St. and Constitution Avenue on the south side of the White House, with doors opening at 7 a.m. At 1 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 election. For more information, visit MarchtoSaveAmerica.com. This call is paid for and authorized by the Rule of Law Defense Fund.”
Kelly Laco, spokesperson for both RAGA and the fund, sent the Louisianan Illuminator a statement Friday claiming that neither organization participated in planning the rally, but would not explain the fund’s robocall nor the fund’s name being featured on the rally’s website.
RAGA’s executive director, Adam Piper, told the Illuminator that the decision by the fund’s staff to “amplify a colleague” who spoke at the event was not authorized by any attorneys general.
RAGA is a 527 political action group that exists to help elect Republican attorneys general and can accept unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations. NBC News reported that RAGA raised more than $18 million in 2020 from several top corporations, including Pepsi, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase and Comcast, the parent company of NBC News.
Some of those donors, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, denounced the fund’s involvement in organizing the rally and vowed not to contribute in the future.
Many RAGA members made statements about the violence on the Capitol, but none mentioned RAGA’s or fund’s involvement in organizing the march.
Attorney David Steelman, a longtime Republican and member of the University of Missouri Board of Curators, said in a tweet, “State Bars should be looking into this.”
Republican AGs group sent robocalls urging march to the Capitol. State Bars should be looking into this. https://t.co/2mu4FAxJ94
— David L. Steelman (@DSteelmanLaw) January 9, 2021
When announcing Schmitt’s leadership position in November, a RAGA statement noted that he and the other leaders will be “on the frontlines against a possible Biden-Harris Administration.”
Schmitt is quoted in the November statement saying, “I deeply respect the work of RAGA, an organization that is focused on promoting and protecting the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution for future generations.”
In December, Schmitt threw his support behind a lawsuit seeking to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s wins in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who spoke at the rally, filed a lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate election results in the four battleground states. A group of 17 attorneys general filed a brief in support of the Texas lawsuit, saying the “integrity of our elections is of critical importance to maintaining our republic.”
On its website, the Rule of Law Defense Fund describes itself as “the public policy organization for issues relevant to the nation’s conservative attorneys general. RLDF promotes the rule of law, federalism, and freedom in a civil society. RLDF was created in 2014 to provide a forum for conservative attorneys general and their staff to study, discuss, and engage on important legal policy issues affecting the states.”
On the march’s website, the fund was included alongside groups such as Stop the Steal and Turning Point Action, a group that made headlines last year for building troll-farms and spreading misinformation until its accounts were locked by Facebook and Twitter.
Wesley Muller of the Lousiana Illuminator contributed to this report.