A Wall Street Journal investigation has found a number of key allies of former President Donald Trump — including far-right media personality Alex Jones and Julie Jenkins Fancelli, heir to the Publix supermarket fortune — helped to fund the rally that preceded the storming of the US Capitol on January 6 that left five dead.
According to reporters Shalini Ramachandran, Alexandra Berzon, and Rebecca Ballhaus, Jones pledged $50,000 of his own money to the event, and organized additional funds, including a $300,000 contribution from Jenkins Fancelli, who is a major GOP donor.
All told, the rally cost about $500,000, according to the report. That event, during which Trump pledged to never concede the November election to President Joe Biden — and whipped up supporters who later took over the Capitol — formed the basis of Trump’s second impeachment in the House of Representatives. In part due to comments he made at that rally, Trump has been charged with “incitement of insurrection,” and will soon face a trial in the Senate.
The Journal also reports that, according to Federal Election Commission records, “at least five former Trump campaign staffers” were involved in the logistics of the event. The rally was particularly lucrative for Trump fundraising official Caroline Wren, who was paid $730,000 throughout the 2020 election cycle for her and her firm to work on fundraising for the Trump reelection campaign team, according to the Journal.
Jones, a prolific conspiracy theorist who has helped to promote many discredited claims, such as the idea that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax, committed his funds in exchange for a speaking slot at the rally. He ended up speaking the night before, at a different rally, but promoted the January 6 event. Both rallies were demonstrations for the ongoing “Stop the Steal” movement, which falsely claims that the presidential election was stolen from Trump.
Jenkins Fancelli’s donation was not connected to any speaking time, and was managed by Wren, who Jenkins Fancelli reportedly selected to coordinate the rally. Beyond her contribution to the January 6 event, Jenkins Fancelli donated nearly a million dollars to the Trump campaign and the Republican Party during the 2020 election cycle.
Hosted by a group calling itself “Women for America First,” the rally took place just south of the White House in an area known as the Ellipse, while congressional lawmakers were gathered at the Capitol to certify the results of that election. In his remarks, Trump blasted Republicans whom he deemed insufficiently loyal, including his own vice president, Mike Pence. He closed by encouraging the crowd to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to challenge those lawmakers directly.
By that afternoon, hundreds of people had breached the building, many waving pro-Trump flags, as well as other far-right emblems, such as the Confederate flag. Five people died during the chaos, including one police officer; two other police officers who were present that day have since died by suicide, and at least 140 officers were injured, some seriously.
Jones has not been accused of wrongdoing in connection, nor has Jenkins Fancelli.
Efforts to overturn the election were successful in activating Trump donors
The large sum of money raised for the January 6 rally is indicative of the fundraising push that surrounded the final months of Trump’s presidency — overall, the former president’s opposition to the election results proved a lucrative fundraising opportunity.
Indeed, Trump donors were motivated to contribute some $86 million to the Republican National Committee and to organizations directly tied to Trump between November 24 and December 31, 2020, according to a disclosure Friday with the Federal Elections Commission.
Bloomberg first reported that, according to WinRed, the online fundraising arm of the Republican Party, a total of $207 million was raised for Republican candidates and committees in the 19 days following the November 3 election. A portion of that went to competitive runoff elections for Georgia Senate seats, both of which the GOP lost.
But about $68 million raised went to Trump Make America Great Again, a joint fundraising committee that splits its intake between Save America, Trump’s political action committee, and the RNC, according to Bloomberg. As Politico has noted, Trump has a great deal of legal flexibility with how Save America’s money can be spent — from running ads in coming elections to paying allies and family members for work.
While it remains to be seen exactly how Save America’s money will be used, Trump is currently facing questions over his reelection campaign’s ties to the January 6 rally. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign paid more than $2.7 million to organizations and individuals with ties to the January 6 event. A substantial amount of those donations were “dark money,” which makes it “difficult to know who the campaign paid and when,” reporter Anna Massoglia wrote.
The Center for Responsive Politics also found that eight people were hired as either staffers or contractors to organize the rally, using campaign funds. The campaign, however, has said that it did not pay for the rally and that those people were not employed by the campaign on the day of the rally and its violent outcome.