WASHINGTON ― The Republican National Committee is welcoming ubiquitous pillow monger Mike Lindell into the fold after his failed run for the chairmanship, despite his continuing baseless claims that foreign powers stole the 2020 election from Donald Trump by hacking into voting machines and his post-coup-attempt visit to the White House with papers advocating “martial law.”
Lindell won votes from only four of the RNC’s 168 members in Friday’s election at its winter meeting, but he was nevertheless praised by Ronna McDaniel, who won her fourth two-year term, and her allies.
“Where’s Mike?” McDaniel said, after winning 111 votes, more than twice the total of California RNC member Harmeet Dhillon and Lindell combined, as she brought both onstage and thanked them equally. “Thank you for the race you ran, for the leaders you are in our party. We are so grateful for you.”
That embrace of an election liar worse than Trump himself brought bewilderment from former major Republican players.
“I sometimes refer to the obviously unhinged as being crazier than a sprayed roach. Mike Lindell is such a lunatic that he makes sprayed roaches look like Zen masters,” said Mac Stipanovich, a longtime GOP consultant in Florida who left the party after its takeover by Trump. “Any embrace of Lindell by anyone is a sure sign of advanced, irremediable moral decay.”
Jennifer Horn, a former RNC member when she ran New Hampshire’s state party, said cozying up to the likes of Lindell is not helpful. “Further proof that the GOP is consciously choosing to build their future on dangerous, extreme, anti-democracy election deniers.”
Lindell did not respond to HuffPost queries for this article.
In his sales pitch to committee members as well as in media interviews, Lindell has frequently claimed that he had been a major donor to the RNC but stopped after learning of the party’s wasteful spending, which he described as a “money-laundering operation.”
“With the RNC, the money, I used to be a big donor, and you donate money, and when I find out that almost half of it was going to fundraising .… That’s just too much overhead, that’s crazy,” Lindell said last week at a “debate” sponsored by pro-Trump radio host John Fredericks, whose program Lindell sponsors.
In fact, Lindell has never donated directly to the RNC, and he never donated to a federal candidate or committee at all prior to Trump’s nomination in the 2016 presidential election, according to a HuffPost review of Federal Election Commission records.
Lindell did contribute $195,000 to Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee, that distributed a total of $110,700 to the RNC between August 2016 and January 2018.
And though that is a significant sum, it pales in contrast to the party’s truly large donors. According to HuffPost’s analysis, Lindell’s total to the RNC makes him its 865th biggest donor from August 2016 through November 2022, with 19 donors contributing $1 million or more.
Even among donors to Trump Victory, Lindell’s total places him in just 475th place, with nine donors giving more than $1 million.
In all, Lindell over the past six years has donated a total of $529,782 to federal candidates and committees ― including $100,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC ― a number dwarfed by the $40 million he claims to have spent on proving his election conspiracy theories.
“I assumed he was a donor to some degree,” said one RNC member who spoke on condition of anonymity and who defended McDaniel’s praise for Lindell. “She would like to get him in the tent in a way that he would actually be helpful.”
The praise for Lindell by McDaniel and others is based on his endless promotion of his MyPillow sleep products on right-wing media. Lindell once earned his living counting cards at casinos and then overcame a crack cocaine addiction before starting his pillow business, he told HuffPost in a previous interview.
Today he meticulously tracks the effectiveness of his various advertising by using unique “promo codes” for each piece of programming, be it a cable show or a podcast.
His prominence in Republican politics began when he enthusiastically endorsed Trump in 2016 and started donating to Trump Victory. By the 2018 midterm elections, he was appearing onstage with Trump. When the COVID-19 pandemic came, Lindell appeared at the White House with vaccine and testing executives to announce that his factory would turn out face masks.
Later that year, after Trump lost the presidency to Democrat Joe Biden, Lindell became among the most influential spreaders of ever-more-preposterous conspiracy theories. He was eventually sued for defamation by voting machine maker Dominion, which is seeking $1.3 billion in damages. And even after Trump’s attempt to coerce his own vice president into falsely and illegally giving him a second term failed on Jan. 6, 2021, Lindell was photographed at the White House bearing papers with the words “martial law if necessary” visible on them.
Lindell claims not to know anything about the document he was carrying, but he has not stopped his lies about a “stolen” election. At Fredericks’ debate ― at which he was the only candidate in attendance; neither Dhillon nor McDaniel showed up ― he claimed that almost 2 million votes had been stolen from Trump in 2020 in California alone.
“He’s a nut job,” said Oscar Brock, an RNC member from Tennessee and one of the committee’s few outspoken critics of Trump. “He spent $40 million trying to convince people that Italians affected the outcome of the election…. There are no Italian space lasers affecting vote totals on the machines.”
Even the RNC member who defends McDaniel’s attempt to co-opt Lindell concedes that doing so risks hurting the party with mainstream voters.
“It gives credibility to some of the crazy things he says,” the member said. “Anybody who thinks that the 2020 election wasn’t won by Biden just isn’t dealing with facts…. He needs to get some people around him who would actually educate him. And then the question is: Would he listen to them? I don’t know.”