True the Vote

True the Vote promotes fringe, debunked voter and election fraud conspiracy theories. They have also been accused of illegally coordinating with political campaigns, and engaging in shady financial practices.

About True the Vote

True the Vote is a Texas-based nonprofit organization founded in 2009 by former PTA mom-turned-Tea Party activist Catherine Engelbrecht. Engelbrecht’s experience as a poll worker was a radicalizing moment for her, leading her to found King Street Patriots, a 501(c)(4) organization affiliated with the Tea Party movement that birthed True the Vote. 

True the Vote’s tactics range from alleging voter fraud by Democratic campaigns to concrete forms of voter intimidation and suppression. TTV pushes disinformation about mail-in voting, promotes the QAnon conspiracy theory, and filed suits to purge voter rolls in various states. Members of TTV appeared as “stars” of 2000 Mules, a debunked documentary about voter fraud during the 2020 election, directed by conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza. In October 2022, the Attorney General of Arizona asked the FBI and the IRS to investigate potential financial misconduct related to TTV’s involvement in the 2000 Mules documentary, and also called for TTV’s 501(c)(3) status to be reexamined.The alleged voter fraud central to True the Vote’s work has been refuted on numerous occasions. On October 31st, 2022, TTV founder Catherine Engelbrecht and TTV board member Gregg Phillips were jailed after being held in contempt of court for failing to disclose the name of a “confidential informant” involved in a lawsuit filed against the group.

Ahead of the 2020 election, True the Vote worked to recruit police officers and former military to serve as poll watchers — an effort dubbed the “Continue to Serve” initiative. This intimidation tactic was banned in 1981, but that ban was lifted in 2018 when a federal judge declined to renew it.

Additionally, TTV has been accused of illegal coordination with state Republican parties. A Texas judge likened True the Vote and King Street Patriots to a GOP “front group” in a ruling that claimed the groups operated as a PAC

Catherine Engelbrecht, Founder/President

Catherine Engelbrecht is the founder and president of True the Vote and King Street Patriots, a pair of nonprofit organizations that have pushed election denial and voter suppression measures for over a decade. Several right-wing figures uplifted Engelbrecht and True the Vote: “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander called Engelbrecht “the godmother of the election integrity movement” and Steve Bannon hosted Engelbrecht on his right-wing “War Room” show. 

Before founding True the Vote, Catherine Engelbrecht was “a churchgoing mother of two who ran a successful oil field machinery business with her husband” in Texas. Engelbrecht reports that she had no interest in politics until the 2008 election, which prompted her to become a poll worker. She frequently cites her experience as a poll worker as a radicalizing moment that led her to found King Street Patriots, a 501(c)(4) organization affiliated with the Tea Party movement, which later gave rise to True the Vote as well.

Dianne Josephs, Board Member

Dianne Josephs is a board member of True the Vote and has been listed on both True the Vote and King Street Patriots tax forms multiple times since the organization’s inception. There is little public information available about Josephs aside from her inclusion on tax forms, though a ProPublica article on TTV mentions Josephs’ presence on both organizations’ forms and reports that a True the Vote spokesman told them “that despite these connections, the group keeps separate accounting structures and staff from King Street Patriots.” Josephs, along with Catherine and Bryan Engelbrecht, have been listed as defendants in lawsuits against King Street Patriots.

Erin Young-Timme, Board Member

Erin Young-Timme is a new addition to True the Vote’s board, added in 2020

James Bopp

Representing True the Vote in numerous legal complaints and suits is James Bopp, an Indiana lawyer who got his start representing right-to-life groups during the 1980 presidential race and has been accused of “using the First Amendment to create a sort of Wild West system” via dismantling campaign-finance laws. Bopp previously worked in electoral politics, serving as Indiana co-chair of Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign and working on the Bush-Cheney 2004 re-election campaign. 

As a lawyer, Bopp helped craft the strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade and was part of the team that successfully argued Citizens United and Bush v. Gore. Bopp represented the Christian Coalition in a case against the FEC where the Christian Coalition allegedly had illegally campaigned on behalf of candidates including Oliver North, Jesse Helms, and Newt Gingrich. The Christian Coalition negotiated an end to the litigation in which they were ordered to pay $45,000 to the FEC.

The Republican National Committee, which Bopp is a member of, has been a major funder of Bopp’s work, and as of 2011 paid him “at least $1.5 million in fees for cases involving GOP candidates.” 

Gregg Phillips

Longtime conservative operative Gregg Phillips joined True the Vote’s board in 2014 and took Bryan Engelbrecht’s board seat after Catherine Engelbrecht and her husband filed for divorce. Phillips was last included on TTV’s board in 2019.

Gregg Phillips is the former head of the Mississippi Department of Human Services and once served as the Texas Deputy Health and Human Services Commissioner. Phillips has been accused of leveraging both of these positions in Mississippi and Texas for financial gain, and in 2017 owed the federal government over $100,000 in unpaid taxes.

Phillips became a conservative celebrity when his claim that millions of illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election was picked up and amplified by Donald Trump. At the time, Phillips was a board member of True the Vote and ran a mobile app called VoteStand, which allows Americans to report and read about suspected incidents of voter fraud.

Both Phillips and Engelbrecht starred in 2000 Mules, a debunked documentary about purported voter fraud during the 2020 election, directed by conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza. The Associated Press fact-checked the film and determined that geolocation data alone is far from sufficient to prove voter fraud despite claims to the contrary made in the film. In August 2022, at a gathering of top election-fraud conspiracy theorists, Phillips was escorted out of the event by police for bringing a gun.

While True the Vote is not required by the IRS to disclose their contributors, information from other organizations tax forms and public reporting shines a light into the convoluted funding operation of the organization.

When True the Vote was just getting started in 2009, conservative journalist John Fund helped Engelbrecht obtain grants for the newly founded organization. Since then, TTV has received funding from numerous mainstay conservative funding organizations, such as Donors Trust (over $600,000 since 2013), the Judicial Crisis Network ($125,000 in 2013), and from the State Policy Network in ($40,000 2012).

In 2011, True the Vote received a $35,000 grant from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation as it geared up to play a role in the unsuccessful 2012 effort to recall Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, where the Bradley Foundation is based. TTV provided training for thousands of volunteer poll watchers for the election and attempted to prevent students from voting on election day.

Reportedly, True the Vote had to return the 2011 donation from the Bradley Foundation because it was given on the condition that the group’s application for tax-exempt status was approved by the IRS, which had not happened at the time of the donation. Despite this temporary issue, True the Vote received about $466,000 from the Bradley Foundation between 2011 and 2016, in addition to $216,000 between 2013 and 2017 from the affiliated Bradley Impact Fund.

In the wake of the 2020 election, True the Vote received a financial windfall to look into voter fraud. The New York Times reported that Engelbrecht “campaigned to raise $7 million” to investigate the election’s results in Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona, according to a lawsuit by a former donor.

Inappropriate Financial Transactions

An analysis of True the Vote’s financial records done by the Center for Investigative Reportingpaints the picture of an organization that enriches Engelbrecht and partner Gregg Phillips rather than actually rooting out any fraud.”

  • True the Vote has reported multiple loans to Engelbrecht over the years, including more than $113,000 in 2019. In 2015, TTV issued Engelbrecht a $40,607 loan. 

Companies connected to Engelbrecht and Phillips collected nearly $890,000 from True the Vote from 2014 to 2020.

  • Two LLCs owned by Engelbrecht, ARC Network LLC and Ao2 LLC, were paid a total of $82,500 in 2015 and 2016 for “database license fees” and “software license fees,” respectively. 
  • At least $750,000 went to a company created by Phillips, OPSEC Group LLC, for “voter analysis” work in 2020. The contract, which one expert called “eye-popping” for its largess, was not disclosed in the 2020 tax return TTV provided to the Center for Investigative Reporting.
  • In 2014, TTV paid $25,000 to American Solutions for Winning the Future, where Phillips was a director, for a “donor list rental.” 
  • In 2015, True the Vote gave $30,000 to a company called Define Idea Inc. for “IT support services,” another organization where Phillips was a director.

True the Vote faced financial difficulties in 2017, when it spent nearly $140,000 more than it took in and reduced its employee count to only Catherine Engelbrecht. In 2017, Engelbrecht had not paid back her 2015 loan of$40,607, which was on the books and accounted for more than 66% of the organization’s total assets. The next year, TTV made an even larger loan to Engelbrecht, totaling $61,896. When asked by the Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit law professor said there’s “a lot of sloppiness” in the financial statements, specifically around reporting Engelbrecht’s loan, which at times contradicts itself.

Voting Disinformation

Ahead of the 2020 election, True the Vote launched a six-figure national advertising campaign promoting in-person voting and warning that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “could emerge as commander-in-chief next year if citizens don’t vote in-person.”

In May 2020, Engelbrecht hosted two Republican members of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission on True the Vote’s podcast, where they falsely claimed that mail-in voting was rife with fraud and said voter rolls were “very dirty” and needed to be purged. One of the members made headlines in years past for claiming that Russian interference in the 2016 election was “deceptive propaganda perpetrated on the American public” by the Obama administration.

2000 Mules

Catherine Engelbrecht was “the star” of 2000 Mules, a debunked documentary about purported voter fraud during the 2020 election directed by conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza. 2000 Mules asserts that nonprofit organizations employed people to collect ballots and then drop them into drop boxes in various cities, denoted in the film as “ballot trafficking.” The documentary’s claims rely on anonymized cellphone geolocation data, which it claims shows definitive evidence of individuals frequenting ballot dropboxes. The Associated Press fact checked the film and determined that geolocation data alone is far from sufficient to prove voter fraud, especially because ballot drop boxes are placed in high-traffic areas where many people pass by every day. 

Despite this, a True the Vote spokesperson claimed the data was so accurate that it actually helped solve the murder of an eight-year-old girl in Atlanta. Specifically, the spokesperson’s claim was that TTV collected data from the area of the shooting, which showed “only a handful of unique devices that could have pulled the trigger” and subsequently turned it over to authorities. When reached for comment, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said that they “did not receive information from True the Vote” connected to the relevant investigation. Furthermore, NPR determined that the timeline of the investigation and subsequent indictments “directly contradicts” the claims made in 2000 Mules. Since the documentary launched, True the Vote has been reluctant to share the data. 

The New York Times obtained emails from True the Vote through a Freedom of Information Act request, which stated that a TTV associate had turned over a hard drive with the data from 2000 Mules to the Arizona attorney general, Republican Mark Brnovich. The data in question were alleged “stash houses,” where Ms. Engelbrecht said people had illegally submitted ballots. When reached for comment, the attorney general’s office said that it hadn’t received it. 

QAnon Promotion

Catherine Engelbrecht has appeared on shows associated with QAnon on numerous occasions, often promoting True the Vote. After the release of 2000 Mules, Engelbrecht’s business partner Gregg Phillips joined Truth Social and began affiliating with QAnon supporters and amplifying their election denial sentiments. Phillips appeared on multiple online QAnon shows at least a dozen times in 2022 alone, and managed to convince Arizona Republican gubernatorial nominee and election denier Kari Lake to appear on the show. Phillips uplifted QAnon “citizen researchers” and proposed giving the research to an Arizona Sheriff who heads one of the sheriff groups that True the Vote partners with. Phillips also stated that TTV was talking to “some extremely influential members” of the United States Senate about the research, as well as at least one secretary of state and state attorneys general.

In August 2022, True the Vote hosted an event that promised to reveal evidence of voter fraud. The event, called “The Pit,” was promoted by one of the QAnon shows Engelbrecht and Phillips had appeared on. The watchdog group Media Matters for America identified at least a dozen QAnon figures present at the event, along with political candidates like Kari Lake and Arizona Republican Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem.

Konnech Lawsuit

At “The Pit” event, Engelbrecht levied election fraud claims against Konnech, a Michigan-based election software company, and accused Konnech of having ties to the Chinese Communist Party. TTV called their campaign “Tiger Project” and filed dozens of public record requests to Konnech’s customers, “all in an apparent effort to intimidate those customers or to otherwise raise customers’ suspicions about Konnech,” according to the company’s complaint.

Konnech sued True the Vote for fraud and defamation, claiming that TTV hacked their servers and levied a racist campaign against Konnech’s founder, resulting in death threats. After allegedly sending the data to the FBI and being turned away, TTV turned to their online QAnon following to take matters into their own hands. The online community picked up the mantle and began targeting Konnech, with some figures calling it one of the “front companies here in the United States … owned by the CCP.” The Konnech attack took off among the online QAnon community, and eventually figures like Mike Lindell and Michael Flynn were promoting QAnon blogs covering Konnech.

On September 12, 2022, a federal judge sided with Konnech and granted the company a temporary restraining order against True the Vote.

Recruiting Law Enforcement And Military As Poll Watchers

Ahead of the 2020 election, True the Vote worked to recruit police officers and former military to serve as poll watchers. At a February 2020 meeting sponsored by the Council for National Policy – an influential and highly secretive networking group for major conservative donors and activists, right-wing religious extremists, and Republican lawmakers – Engelbrecht urged conservative leaders to look to former soldiers and law enforcement as poll watchers in what she dubbed the “Continue to Serve” initiative. This intimidation tactic was banned in 1981, but that ban was lifted in 2018 when a federal judge declined to renew it.

Catherine Engelbrecht spoke at an annual gathering of sheriffs in Las Vegas focused on election fraud hosted by two right-wing sheriff organizations, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association and Protect America Now. The founder of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association said that 2000 Mules, a documentary about voter fraud featuring Catherine Engelbrecht and True the Vote, persuaded him to make election issues his group’s top priority, calling the documentary a “smoking gun.” At the Las Vegas conference, True the Vote and Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association announced a partnership to monitor voting in the 2020 election. And the New York Times reported that TTV, in partnership with Protect America Now, had raised $100,000 toward a goal of $1 million for grants to sheriffs for more video surveillance and a hotline to distribute citizen tips.

Verify The Recall

In 2012, True the Vote had an ambitious goal: to “train, mobilize, and merge a million new election workers into the process,” according to remarks Engelbrecht made on a 2011 panel hosted by the conservative group Judicial Watch. That year, True the Vote joined the Wisconsin “Verify The Recall” initiative, where they provided training for thousands of volunteer poll watchers and appeared to take a lead role in blocking the recall of Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Leading up to the 2012 election, Americans for Prosperity and other conservative groups sponsored meetings featuring Engelbrecht and True the Vote. 

True the Vote attempted to prevent students from voting in Wisconsin and published numerous blog posts and reports which accused Democrats and unions of voter fraud. These accusations cited debunked examples of fraud as reasons not to believe the “claims of union supporters and anti­-Walker operatives who say that they collected more than one million signatures on petitions to recall Governor Scott Walker.” The eventual findings of True the Vote’s “Verify The Recall” effort were riddled with “misleading assertions, inaccurate data, and dishonest framing,” and discounted by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. 

In a Walker campaign filing from February 2012, the campaign described the “Verify the Recall” initiative only with reference to two Wisconsin-based 501(c)(4) groups and did not mention True the Vote, a 501(c)(3) prohibited from campaign activity. True the Vote suddenly became a “contracted partner” of the initiative, rather than the lead role True the Vote previously proclaimed. Nevertheless, True the Vote called the outcome of the unsuccessful recall campaign a “victory” in an email to supporters – despite their original goal of having the recall thrown out all together due to unsubstantiated claims of fraud.

Code Red USA

Code Red USA was a national effort during the 2012 election to “flood swing states with conservative volunteers.” The initiative used RVs “as mobile command centers to coordinate on-the-ground operations in key battleground states” and boasted election integrity efforts such as training volunteers to act as poll watchers or election observers. In an email, a coordinator for Code Red USA announced that Code Red was partnering with True the Vote to “train and put election observers in polling places in the swing states to reduce voter fraud.” Despite the email, Engelbrecht denied any involvement in Code Red USA.

Code Red USA was financed by the Madison Project, led at the time by former Rep. Jim Ryun (R-KS), whose son Ned Ryun now runs American Majority, a nonprofit that trains budding conservatives to run for elected office.

2010 Election

Engelbrecht reports one of the first strategies used to investigate alleged voter fraud was to “look at houses with more than six voters in them” in Harris County, Texas, which led Engelbrecht and fellow volunteers to historically poor and predominantly black areas of Houston. Witnesses reported that the group’s members were harassing voters in communities of color, though Engelbrecht denies allegations of political or race targeting, saying “it had nothing to do with politics. It was just the numbers.”

True the Vote’s work during the 2010 election sparked a Department of Justice investigation into alleged voter intimidation efforts by poll watchers. Reports of voter intimidation had a noticeable uptick in the 2010 election as national voter hotlines received thousands of calls reporting robocalls that told voters they could only vote online or by telephone. The probe did not proceed further than an initial investigation.

True the Vote is part of a network of conservative lawyers and firms that together have been involved in at least 61 lawsuits over election rules since 2012. Other top players in the network are the Public Interest Legal Foundation, the American Constitutional Rights Union, and Judicial Watch. Together, the network has sued to restrict mail-in voting, purge voter rolls, and enact restrictive voter ID and verification laws.


Ahead of the 2020 election, True the Vote sued the state of Nevada to block universal mail-in because, according to TTV, “it removes safeguards against fraudulent votes; usurps the legislature; and violates citizens’ constitutional rights.” The Nevada court dismissed the case on standing, and it noted that “even if they can establish standing, Plaintiffs’ claims fail on the merits and the other relevant factors.”

New Mexico

Ahead of the 2020 election, True the Vote filed a “59-page brief that was used as the core document” in a New Mexico Supreme Court case regarding mail-in voting. In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a group of New Mexico county clerks together with the secretary of state petitioned the Supreme Court to shut down all in-person voting in the June 2020 New Mexico primary election and enact universal mail-in voting. TTV’s brief argued that if the court had ordered mail-in balloting, “the right to vote of eligible registered voters would be violated.” Ultimately, the New Mexico Supreme Court did not enact universal mail-in voting and directed county clerks to mail absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. True the Vote declared this decision a victory.

Voter Purge Tactics

True the Vote pushed for voter roll purges in multiple states ahead of the 2012 election, citing voter roll maintenance required by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). 

  • True the Vote sent letters to county clerks across Michigan threatening to sue unless each clerk purged their county’s voter rolls before the election.
  • True the Vote and Judicial Watch sued the state of Ohio in 2012 over allegations of the state violating the NCRA by failing to maintain “clean” voter registration lists. Ohio eventually settled the case and agreed to reform the purging process to remove inactive voters. An analysis by Reuters in 2016 found that in the state’s three largest counties, voters were struck from the rolls in Democratic-leaning areas at roughly twice the rate as in Republican ones.
  • An analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice concluded that noncitizen voting – one of the bases for TTV’s fear-mongering over unmaintained voter rolls – is “extraordinarily rare.”

King Street Patriots

King Street Patriots, a nonprofit organization founded prior to True the Vote and affiliated with the Tea Party movement, is regularly referred to as the predecessor group to True the Vote. The two groups have in the past shared officers on their tax forms, including Katherine Engelbrecht and ex-husband Bryan Engelbrecht – though in 2012 a True the Vote spokesman told ProPublica that “despite these connections, the group keeps separate accounting structures and staff from King Street Patriots.

In 2010, King Street Patriots trained and dispatched poll watchers allegedly in coordination with the Texas Republican Party. A 2010 launch video for True the Vote, which also featured King Street Patriots’ logo, begins with anti-immigrant activist David Horowitz telling the camera “Republicans have to win by at least three percent in order to win an election,” due to Democratic voter fraud.

In 2011, True the Vote and King Street Patriots released an outline for “comprehensive election code reform,” which called for requiring photo ID to vote, prohibiting same-day voter registration, allowing recording devices inside polling precincts, and designating English as the “official language of Texas and the only language used on ballots.”

Public Interest Legal Foundation

True The Vote has worked with both Cleta Mitchell, J. Christian Adams, and Hans von Spakovsky of the Public Interest Legal Foundation. The Public Interest Legal Foundation is a right-wing group that aims to purge voter rolls by suing states and local governments, often based on false claims. It is at the forefront of the movement to institute stringent voter ID laws, which have been shown to disproportionately disenfranchise minority voters. According to fact checking website Snopes, PILF uses “a few tried-and-true tropes that get significant viral play on social media” to stoke fear of voter fraud and, by extension, support their charge to purge voter rolls and restrict voting access.”

Cleta Mitchell at one time served as the counsel of True The Vote, and helped secure their nonprofit tax-exempt status. Mitchell is a long time conservative lawyer and activist who has played a key role in right-wing circles for decades. She 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. Mitchell was a participant 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 also promoted unfounded evidence that the election was stolen from Trump. In support of TTV’s tax exempt application, Mitchell claimed that “fraudulent voting occurs in the United States,” but only cited a 2010 case that involved a small rural school district in which the judge ruled there was “no intent to cast a false or fraudulent ballot.” 

Judicial Watch

True the Vote and Judicial Watch filed lawsuits against election officials in Ohio and Indiana in 2012 for reported failure to adhere to their “voter list maintenance obligations.” Judicial Watch is a right-wing accountability group that was founded in the mid-90s as part of the groundswell of opposition to the Clintons. Judicial Watch was an early promoter of conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Clinton White House staffer Vince Foster.

Americans For Prosperity

In 2012, True the Vote co-sponsored an event with Americans For Prosperity that provided citizen watchdog training for attendees. Americans for Prosperity “played an important role in structuring and supporting the Tea Party in its initial stages.” With the financial backing of the Koch family along with the tobacco and energy industries, AFP “provided training, communication, and materials for the earliest Tea Party activities.” The organization has been credited by multiple Republican senators as their key to success: AFP has spent millions of dollars supporting conservatives in every major election cycle since its inception.

Tea Party Patriots

True the Vote has collaborated with the Tea Party Patriots to host “election integrity” fundraisers in Colorado and Alabama. Tea Party Patriots was founded around the same time as True the Vote in 2009 and claims to be the nation’s largest grassroots Tea Party organization. Tea Party Patriots Foundation is the 501(c)(3) arm of the organization focused on providing “training opportunities and educational resources to the largest network of grassroots Tea Party groups around the country.” The 501(c)(4) arm, simply called Tea Party Patriots, actively supports aligned candidates. In 2021, they were listed among the groups participating in the January 6th March to Save America Rally, which immediately preceded the Capitol Riot.

Matthew Vadum

In 2011, True the Vote invited Matthew Vadum to speak at a fundraising event. Vadum has ties to groups associated with the “anti-immigrant” movement, such as the Center for Security Policy and David Horowitz Freedom Center, and is the former senior vice president at the Capital Research Center. Vadum authored an article titled “Registering the Poor to Vote is Un-American,” which states that “registering [the poor] to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals” and that it is “profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population.”

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