By Neetish Basnet | Cronkite News Service
Scottsdale resident William Acorn had made occasional donations to conservative candidates in the past, but never considered himself an “avid political person.”
That changed in 2020, after a flurry of emails from then-President Donald Trump’s campaign begging supporters to “step up and give us the resources” to challenge Democrats’ plans “to count ILLEGAL ballots.” Acorn became one of tens of thousands of Arizonans who responded with almost 35,000 individual donations to Trump’s “Election Defense Fund.”
The only problem is, no such fund existed.
The campaign actually funneled most of the Election Defense Fund donations to Trump’s then-new Save America political action committee, said Amanda Wick, senior investigative counsel for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said the Trump campaign “misled” donors, what she called in a June committee hearing “a big rip off.”
Acorn, for one, is not feeling ripped off.
“I do believe it was (stolen),” he said of the 2020 election. “I believe that people really don’t understand the underlying issues going on in this country. This country is being hijacked by ultra-, ultra-liberal elitists.”
Acorn, who called the Jan. 6 investigation “absolute nonsense,” said he bumped up his political contributions after Trump’s appeal. Federal Election Commission records show that he had donated $712 to Save America PAC and $5,850 to other Trump-affiliated fundraising committees since September 2016.
That was part of the $1.51 million given by thousands of Arizonans to the Save America PAC, according to the FEC data. Nationally, the political action committee had received $45.28 million contributions from individual donors from late 2020 through June 30, 2022.
Scottsdale led all Arizona cities for donations, giving $247,582, with donors from Phoenix and Tucson close behind. Retirees were by far the biggest group of Arizona donors, accounting for 56% of all contributions from the state to the Save America PAC.