Lawyers Democracy Fund has engaged in lawsuits to undermine voting rights and promotes the fringe “Independent State Legislature” theory.
Lawyers Democracy Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization run by influential conservative operatives that advocates and litigates in favor of a more restrictive voting system. LDF has used its legal capabilities to:
LDF also generally opposes initiatives that expand voting rights and access, including automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, ranked-choice voting, and universal mail voting. The organization has championed and defended harsh laws passed in the wake of the 2020 election that severely restricts voting access in Iowa, Florida, and Georgia–the last of which the New York Times called the law “a breathtaking assertion of partisan power in elections.” LDF also promoted an anti-voter fraud program that was found to be incorrect “well over 99 percent” of the time and was put on hold in 2017 by the Department of Homeland Security due to data breaches.
Harvey Tettlebaum has long been involved in Republican politics. Tettlebaum served as assistant attorney general under U.S. Attorney General John Danforth in the 1970s and was president of the Republican Lawyers Association from 2003 to 2006.
He also served on every rules committee at Republican national conventions from 2000 to 2016. The 2016 RNC Rules Committee became the subject of controversy when some factions of the party attempted to deny Donald Trump the presidential nomination even after he had won the requisite number of delegates. At the time, Tettlebaum refused to say whether he fell into the pro-Trump or anti-Trump camp at the convention. Politico characterized Tettlebaum as likely to “tow the line” and support Trump, but his actual vote is unknown. Tettlebaum was later named to the advisory committee of the Export-Import Bank of the United States during Trump’s presidency.
Tettlebaum is active in Republican organizations in Missouri, presently acting as outside general counsel to the Missouri Republican Party. He has also held the following positions:
Tettlebaum is also involved in other professional organizations related to the legal and healthcare industries, including the American Bar Association, American Bar Foundation, American Health Care Association, American Health Law Association, and The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis.
Tom Spencer is a long-time, well-connected Republican operative. In addition to his role at LDF, Spencer serves on the Advisory Council of the Republican Lawyers Association and is a member of the Federalist Society. According to his resume, he has been a member or has held senior leadership roles at the Heritage Foundation, the Council for National Policy, and Florida’s Dade County Republican Party.
Spencer was at the center of challenges to the 2000 election. Prior to the recount effort, Spencer supported the Bush-Cheney campaign on behalf of then-Florida Governor Jeb Bush. That post-election period was defined by the recount of votes in Florida and the “Brooks Brothers Riot,” an incident where a cadre of conservative lawyers, many of whom belonged to the Federalist Society, shut down efforts to perform recounts in Miami-Dade County using intimidation tactics. Their efforts inspired protests that eventually turned violent, and this combination of legal efforts and protests effectively handed the election to George W. Bush. Some commentators have characterized the “Brooks Brothers Riot” as a precursor to the onslaught of 2020 election challenges and Capitol insurrection. Spencer, who is based in the Miami area, was a Republican election observer in the 2000 election and testified against Al Gore’s campaign in Gore v. Harris, in which the Gore campaign asked for a hand recount in Florida. In his Gore v. Harris testimony, Spencer describes himself as arriving the day after the election to a site where a recount was taking place to act as an observer–putting Spencer at the scene of the Brooks Brothers riot.
Spencer then served as the co-counsel for the Republican legal team in Bush v. Gore, which sought to dispute the Florida recount effort in the 2000 election. According to University of California election law professor Rick Hasen, “Bush v. Gore taught political operatives that in a really close election the rules of the game matter and it may be possible to litigate to victory.” Spencer was appointed to the Presidential Rank Review Board by President George W. Bush in 2001 and to the Florida Judicial Nominating Commission by former Governor Jeb Bush.
Shortly before the 2016 presidential election, Spencer claimed that “voting machines [switched] votes from Trump to Hillary Clinton” in an op-ed promoted by LDF. Spencer’s claims were rebuffed by election officials, who claimed such issues were usually user errors. In that same op-ed, Spencer called on the Trump administration to establish a commission to investigate election fraud. Shortly after Trump’s inauguration in 2017, his administration announced it would form a special commission to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the 2016 election. The announcement followed unfounded claims by Trump that three to five million fraudulent votes were cast in the election – comparable to the margin by which he lost the popular vote. The commission faced bipartisan backlash from state election officials as it asked for comprehensive voter roll information – including social security numbers. The commission ultimately found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Tom Josefiak is listed as the Secretary and as a member of the board of directors of LDF on their most recently available IRS form 990. Josefiak is also a long-time and well-connected Republican operative. He served at the Republican National Committee in various legal roles from 1992 to 1995 prior to serving as chief counsel until 2003. Josefiak then left the RNC to become general counsel for the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign. After the campaign, Josefiak returned to the RNC and served as counsel at the 2008 Republican National Convention. He also was a legal adviser to the well-funded super PAC American Crossroads.
Early in his career, Joseifak served as Special Deputy to the Secretary of the Senate and was counsel to the National Republican Congressional Committee. He also served as special counsel to the minority of the Committee on House Administration. There, he advised the Committee on the 1979 amendments made to the Federal Election Campaign Act. One of the notable outcomes of those amendments was “diminishing the amount of [campaign finance disclosure] reports, as well as reducing the number of subjects responsible for the disclosure of documentation.”
Josefiak was appointed by Ronald Reagan as a commissioner to the FEC. At the FEC, Josefiak voted against investigating potential coordination between the George H.W. Bush campaign and a pro-Bush PAC over the infamous Willie Horton ad. According to the New York Times, the Willie Horton ad “ushered in a new era of racial politics.” Vox said the ad serves as “shorthand for a certain brand of political racism.” Democrats at the FEC were concerned that the PAC, Americans for Bush, which created the original version of the Horton ad, may have helped the Bush campaign create their own version without disclosing it – representing an illegal campaign contribution. Republicans, including Josefiak, deadlocked the FEC on a party-line vote and the investigation never began. According to The New Yorker, the “real legacy” of the Willie Horton ad “may be the proof it provided that outside political groups can operate with near-impunity in America, if they are crafty enough.”
Josefiak became a partner at Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky PLLC after his time at the 2008 Republican National Convention. Holzman Vogel is a boutique law firm that represents “some of the nation’s largest super PACs and their related nonprofits” on the conservative side.
The Washington Post described Elliot Berke as “one of Washington’s top Republican lawyers.” Burke was voted Republican Lawyer of the Year by the Republican National Lawyers Association in 2021. He served as counsel to former minority leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) from 2004 to 2006. DeLay was indicted for campaign finance violations in 2005, was forced to resign over the indictment, and was convicted of money laundering in 2010.
Berke currently serves as counsel to Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as he faces pressure from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack for his role in the 2021 Capitol Riot. In this role, Berke has questioned the committee’s authority, as well as asked committee officials to turn over details about the investigation to McCarthy.
Berke has served as counsel for numerous Republicans who have been accused of unethical conduct or have been the subject of ethics probes, including Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX), Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-MN), White House Communications Director Anthony Scarammuci, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), and former Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). Berke also reportedly gave major Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy legal advice after it was revealed Broidy “offered Russian gas giant Novatek a $26 million lobbying plan aimed at removing the company from a U.S. sanctions list.”
Berke is also a member of the Board of Advisors of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, serves as the Special Assistant Attorney General for the State of Georgia, and is a member of a band called “The Deplorables.”
Prior to working at LDF, Lisa Dixon served as the legal counsel to the Republican National Lawyers Association and worked as an associate at the conservative law firm Holtzman Vogel.
Mike Andrews was the long-time staff director and senior counsel to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. He is a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association.
LDF has been heavily engaged in legal efforts to curtail voting access; specifically, LDF has:
LDF stands against initiatives designed to make voting easier, more efficient, or more accessible, including:
LDF has pushed policies and rhetoric that disenfranchises voters. LDF:
LDF has thrown legal, and public support beyond numerous laws passed after the 2020 election that would restrict voting access – particularly regarding absentee ballots. LDF:
Defended Georgia’s sweeping 2021 election law passed by Georgia’s Republican legislature after Democrats won multiple key elections in 2020–including the presidential and Senate elections. The New York Times called the law “a breathtaking assertion of partisan power in elections.” The law limited absentee ballot drop boxes, imposed increased oversight of county election boards, restricted provisional ballots, and made it illegal to offer food or water to voters in line. The law also decreased the timeline for runoff elections and limited the authority of the Secretary of State, who rebuffed efforts by Trump and Public Interest Legal Foundation chair Cleta Mitchell to overturn the popular vote in Georgia in 2020.
According to the watchdog organization, Center for Media And Democracy, LDF received over $625,000 from 2018 to 2020 from the Diana Davis Foundation, which CMD called “the biggest voter suppressor you’ve never heard of.” According to CMD, the Diana Davis foundation gave $3.7 million to 13 voter suppression groups from 2018 to 2020, including LDF.
LDF senior leaders Harvey Tettlebaum, Lisa Dixon, Tom Spencer, Mike Andrews, and Ashlee Titus are all members of the Republican National Lawyers Association. The RNLA is a prominent organization that coordinates efforts between Republican legal operatives and has played a key role in Republican presidential campaigns. Right-wing activist Cleta Mitchell is the former president of the RNLA.
Mitchell is known for her legal activism around election laws and her belief in rampant voter fraud, a claim which has been called “a myth” by legal experts. Her former colleagues characterized her as the “fringe of the fringe” and someone who told, “clients what they wanted to hear, regardless of the law or reality.” She was a key Trump advisor during his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, notably participating in Trump’s infamous phone call where he pressured Georgia election officials to “find” exactly enough votes for him to win the state in 2020. She has since been subpoenaed by the House Committee investigating January 6th for her role in the insurrection as well as by a Fulton County, Georgia, special grand jury investigation concerning potential criminal interference in the election. Since the 2020 election, Mitchell has used her role at the Conservative Partnership Institute to coordinate right-wing efforts to undermine elections under the guise of ‘election integrity.’ At CPI summits, Mitchell aggressively trains right-wing activists, conspiracy theorists, and 2020 election deniers on how to “stake out election offices, file information requests, monitor voting, work at polling places and keep detailed records of their work.”
Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky is a boutique law firm that represents “some of the nation’s largest super PACs and their related nonprofits” on the conservative side. LDF secretary Tom Josefiak is a partner at Holtzman Vogel and LDF executive director Lisa Dixon worked at the firm as an associate. Notable clients include the Karl Rove-led American Crossroads and the Koch-connected Americans for Prosperity. The firm is also closely connected to numerous groups connected to right-wing activist Leonard Leo including the Honest Elections Project, the BH Fund, the Freedom and Opportunity Fund, and American Engaged among others. According to McClatchy, Holtzman Vogel “specializ[es] in creative legal maneuvers that allow donors to conservative causes to remain anonymous.”
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