Rule of Law Defense Fund

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The Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF) is the 501(c)(4) arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), with which it shares an address.[1] RLDF was founded in 2014.[1] According to its website, RLDF's mission is to "provide a forum for conservative attorneys general and their staff to study, discuss, and engage on important legal policy issues affecting the states. By convening stakeholders around their interests in federal and state legislation, rule-making, and other legal policy developments, RLDF fosters communication with federal regulators and policymakers regarding state interests."[2]

News and Controversies

Idaho AG Drops Out of RLDF Following Capitol Insurrection

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's office writes in an email obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy that it will “not be participating in any RLDF activities until further notice,” and any participation in RAGA will be “subject to the approval of Attorney General Wasden.” The email sent shortly after the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol of which the Rule of Law Defense Fund and Republican Attorneys General Association was tied to invites the Idaho AG to a “senior staff call.”

RLDF Listed as a Participant of Rally that Led to January 6, 2021 Storming of U.S. Capitol

RLDF was one of many conservative groups listed as participants in the "March to Save America", a rally on January 6, 2021, the day the Congress was scheduled to count Joe Biden's electoral college votes, confirming him as the president-elect.[3]

RLDF also sent out a robocall describing the location and time of the protest. One call obtained by Documented said, "I’m calling for the Rule of Law Defense Fund with an important message. The march to save America is tomorrow in Washington D.C. at the Ellipse in President’s Park between E St. and Constitution Avenue on the south side of the White House, with doors opening at 7:00 a.m. At 1:00 p.m., we will march to the Capitol building and call on congress to stop the steal. We are hoping patriots like you will join us to continue to fight to protect the integrity of our elections. For more information, visit MarchtoSaveAmerica.com. This call is paid for and authorized by the Rule of Law Defense Fund, 202-796-5838."[3]

Following the storming of the capitol, RLDF's chairman Steve Marshall claimed he was "unaware of unauthorized decisions made by RLDF staff with regard to this week’s rally"[4] and Ohio AG David Yost called the robocall an "unauthorized act by a rogue staffer".[5] However, the former chair of the Republican Attorneys General Association spoke at the rally and several Republican attorneys general took multiple legal actions in November and December to challenge the election results, consistent with the language used in the robocalls.[6]

CMD Lawsuit Against Ohio Attorney General for Refusal to Release Records of Communication with RAGA and RLDF

In December 2020, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) sued "Ohio Attorney General David Yost for his office’s refusal to hand over records concerning Yost’s work with two powerful and partisan influence groups, the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), and its sister organization, the Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF), in violation of the Ohio Public Records Act."[7]

Watchdog Group Sues Utah AG for Withholding RLDF Documents

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) filed suit in District Court on July 17, 2017 against the Utah Office of Attorney General for its refusal to turn over emails and other documents concerning Attorney General Sean Reyes’ dealings with the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) and its partner organization, the Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF) in violation of Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act.[8]

When CMD filed an open records request for AG Reyes’ correspondence with RAGA and RLDF in March 2017, it received just 19 documents, which failed to include at least 13 interactions that CMD already knew about. On administrative appeal, the Office of Attorney General took the position that all its interactions with RAGA and RLDF “involve unofficial political/campaign activities” and are therefore not public business.[8]

However, RLDF has coordinated legal briefs and official letters for Reyes, including one letter denouncing climate fraud investigations, and Reyes and at least two of his staff have attended at least six RAGA national meetings.[8]

Core Financials

2020[9]

  • Total Revenue: $2,425,525
  • Total Expenses: $2,246,852
  • Net Assets: $470,092

Grants Distributed

  • N2 America: $10,000

2019[10]

  • Total Revenue: $2,440, 349
  • Total Expenses: $2,248,637
  • Net Assets: $291,419

2018[11]

  • Total Revenue: $2,250,000
  • Total Expenses: $2,525,936
  • Net Assets: $99,707

2017[12]

  • Total Revenue: $907,000
  • Total Expenses: $937,024
  • Net Assets: $375,643

2016[13]

  • Total Revenue: $1,072,000
  • Total Expenses: $720,336
  • Net Assets: $405,667

2015[14]

  • Total Revenue: $953,710
  • Total Expenses: $1,135,475
  • Net Assets: $54,872

2014[15]

  • Total Revenue: $855,000
  • Total Expenses: $618,260
  • Net Assets: $236,636

Funding

The Rule of Law Defense Fund is not required to disclose its funders but major foundation supporters can be found through their IRS filings. Here are some known contributors:

Personnel

Staff

As of December 2020:[9]

  • David Johnson, president
  • Lee Russell, treasurer

Board of Directors

As of December 2020:[9]

  • Steve Marshall
  • Lynn Fitch
  • Austin Knudsen
  • Sean Reyes
  • Alan Wilson
  • Daniel Cameron

Former Directors

  • Derek Schmidt
  • Ashley Moody
  • Curtis Hill
  • Jeff Landry
  • Mike Hunter
  • Lee Russell

Former Personnel

  • Adam Piper, president (resigned after January 6, 2021 storming of U.S. capitol)[17]
  • Scott Pruitt, board chairman (resigned after being appointed as EPA head by Donald Trump)[16]

Contact Information

Rule of Law Defense Fund
1747 Pennsylvania Ave NW Ste 800
Washington, DC 20006

EIN: 46-5130903
Phone: (202) 263-4660

Website: https://rldf.org
Web contact form: https://rldf.org/contact/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RuleOfLawDefenseFund/

Articles and Resources

IRS Form 990 Filings

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

Articles

Related SourceWatch

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Guidestar, "Rule of Law Defense Fund", organizational website, accessed January 13, 2021.
  2. Rule of Law Defense Fund, About, organizational website, accessed January 13, 2021.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jamie Corey, "Republican Attorneys General Dark Money Group Organized Protest Preceding Capitol Mob Attack", Documented, January 7, 2021, accessed January 13, 2021.
  4. Brian Lyman, "Steve Marshall: Dark money group's involvement in pro-Trump rally was unauthorized", Montgomery Advisor, January 8, 2021, accessed January 13, 2021.
  5. David Yost, "1347996191125106696", Twitter, January 9, 2021, accessed January 13, 2021.
  6. David Armiak and Alex Kotch, "Republican AGs Forever Tied to Violent Pro-Trump Insurrection", Exposed by CMD, January 11, 2021, accessed January 13, 2021.
  7. Center for Media and Democracy, "Watchdog Group Files Suit Against Ohio AG Dave Yost for Withholding Records of Dealings with Powerful Influence Groups", press release, December 1, 2020, accessed January 11, 2021.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 ExposedbyCMD Editors, Watchdog Group Sues Utah AG for Withholding RAGA Documents, ExposedbyCMD, July 18, 2017.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Rule of Law Defense Fund, 2020 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, 2021.
  10. Rule of Law Defense Fund, 2019 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 13, 2020.
  11. Rule of Law Defense Fund, 2018 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 15, 2019.
  12. Rule of Law Defense Fund, 2017 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 15, 2018.
  13. Rule of Law Defense Fund, 2016 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 15, 2017.
  14. Rule of Law Defense Fund, 2015 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, May 16, 2016.
  15. Rule of Law Defense Fund, 2014 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, May 15, 2015.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named rlml
  17. Deanna Paul and Jess Bravin, "Republican Attorney General Official Resigns Over Group’s Role in Capitol March", Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2021, accessed January 13, 2021.