First Amendment Doesn't Protect Lies To Fleece MAGA Backers: Ex-White House Ethics Lawyer

"Spreading fake news to ask for money is commercial speech, and courts enforce laws criminalizing fraud,” warned Richard Painter.

George W. Bush’s White House ethics lawyer attacked a fundraising scheme appealing to MAGA supporters that cites Donald Trump’s 2020 election lies.

Attorney Richard Painter singled out attorney Sidney Powell, who raised at least $14 million for her Defending the Republic nonprofit group using baseless claims about election “fraud,” The Washington Post reported.

Where that money landed is unknown. Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed the financial records of Defending the Republic and other Powell groups in a criminal probe, according to the Post.

Prosecutors have also accused Powell of filing false incorporation papers for Defending the Republic in Texas, allegedly naming board members who were not actually on her board in order to attract donations, The Guardian reported this month.

“There is no First Amendment right to lie to people to get their money,” Painter wrote Sunday in an op-ed on the NBC News site.

“Let’s be clear about something: Spreading fake news alone may be protected speech under the First Amendment. But spreading fake news to ask for money is commercial speech, and courts enforce laws criminalizing fraud,” Painter continued.

Powell and Defending the Republic were hit early this year with a $1.3 billion defamation suit by Dominion Voting Systems, accusing the attorney of spreading “wild” and “demonstrably false” claims that Dominion played a key role in an imaginary scheme to steal the 2020 election from Trump.

Powell and other attorneys were ordered by a federal judge this month to pay $175,000 in sanctions to Michigan officials they unsuccessfully sued in an effort to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election results. The judge referred to some of the claims as downright “fantastical.”

Trump and hi Republican Party, Painter noted, raked in $255.4 million in the eight weeks after the presidential election, baselessly claiming a rigged vote.

Painter also pointed to former White House strategist Steve Bannon’s appeal to MAGA supporters to help build Trump’s border wall. Bannon and associates were indicted for allegedly bilking “hundreds of thousands” of donors in an operation that raised some $25 million. Trump pardoned Bannon before he left the White House.

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