Anti-Trump group led by longtime GOP strategist Bill Kristol raised, spent millions during 2020 campaign

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  • A group led by longtime GOP strategist Bill Kristol and a group of fellow so-called Never Trump Republicans raised more than $35 million during the 2020 campaign.
  • The non-profit organization, Defending Democracy Together, spent millions during the same period on projects that attacked then-President Trump.
  • Its largest single contribution, $6 million, went to one of the group’s projects, Republican Voters Against Trump, according to a 990 tax disclosure first reviewed by CNBC.

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A group led by longtime GOP strategist Bill Kristol and a group of fellow so-called Never Trump Republicans raised more than $35 million during the 2020 election, funding projects targeting then-President Donald Trump.

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It was a record race for the relatively young non-profit organization, which was founded in 2018, the second year of Trump’s term. According to a filing, it raised $9 million in 2019.

The group, Defending Democracy Together, used its run to spend more than $13 million on grants during 2020. Its largest single contribution, $6 million, went to one of the group’s projects, Republican Voters Against Trump, according to the first 990 tax disclosure. reviewed by CNBC.

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The purpose of that project was to give what the group says Republican voters had the opportunity to speak via video testimony on their dislike of the former commander in chief.

Defending Democracy Together donated more than $4 million to WorkMoney, a separate 501(c)(4) nonprofit that recently launched a campaign to bring liberal lawmakers in line with President Joe Biden’s agenda. did.

A spokesperson for Defending Democracy Together did not return a request for comment prior to publication.

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Kristol was not always sympathetic to democratic causes. He was an adviser in the administration of President Ronald Reagan, and he became one of the leading voices of the neo-conservative movement in the Republican Party. He was the founder and editor of the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, and a vocal supporter of President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Kristol is also known for his early support of the then-Alaska government. Sarah Palin, who became Sen. John McCain’s running mate on the GOP ticket in the 2008 election, when Barack Obama and Biden won control of the White House.

During Trump’s rise, however, Kristol largely broke with his party and became one of the leading voices on the right to oppose the former president and his agenda.

Defending Democracy Together, like WorkMoney, is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that does not publicly disclose its donors. Its 990 disclosure form shows two anonymous charities, each valued at more than $10 million. one of those donations came from sixteen thirty fund, a dark money fund that often supports Democratic leaning causes.

Past supporters of the group include a foundation run by James Murdoch, son of conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and his wife, Catherine. The Murdoch family owns a vast media empire, including Fox News. Another previous financier of the group is a foundation entirely funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

Kristol isn’t the only Republican running the organization. Sarah Longwell, a veteran Republican strategist, is the group’s executive director. His website lists former Republican New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman as a director.

In addition to the grant, Defending Democracy Together spent more than $7 million on Facebook ads, according to its financial report. The group also paid more than $4 million to Longwell Partners, a communications firm operated by Longwell itself.

Defending Democracy Together has paid more than $3 million to advertise Applecart, a data firm saw The investment of Hollywood super agent Ari Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff and brother of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

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