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More Than 100 Trump-Affiliated Lawyers Targeted By Dark Money Group

The 65 Project will spend millions this year trying to expose and disbar more than 100 lawyers who worked on Trump’s election lawsuits. 

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A leftist nonprofit called the 65 Project will spend millions this year trying to expose and disbar more than 100 lawyers who worked on former President Donald Trump’s election lawsuits. 

The group — which takes its name from the number of lawsuits filed that challenged the 2020 election results — is a dark money-fueled nonprofit tied to Democrat Party bigwigs. The 65 Project plans to file ethics complaints against 111 attorneys across 26 states while also airing ads against them in key battlegrounds such as Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 

The goal is to prevent conservative attorneys from challenging election results in the future, including the upcoming 2022 midterms. For example, the group is pushing the American Bar Association to codify rules prohibiting certain election challenges and adopting language that “fraudulent and malicious lawsuits to overturn legitimate election results violate the ethical duties lawyers must abide by.” 

David Brock, the founder of Media Matters for America and a key fundraiser for the Democratic Party, is an adviser to the 65 Project. He told Axios the goal is to “not only bring the grievances in the bar complaints, but shame them and make them toxic in their communities and in their firms.”

Linda Kerns is one of nine Pennsylvania attorneys who were targeted by the 65 Project last week. In a 15-page ethics complaint filed with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the leftist group accused Kerns of engaging in “fraudulent and malicious efforts to overturn legitimate elections,” and concluded that the only way to “deter future efforts to undermine elections through frivolous litigation” is for the Office of Disciplinary Counsel to suspend or remove Kerns’ law license. 

“It’s an abuse of the ethics process,” Kerns told The Federalist. While nothing will likely come of the complaint, the 65 Project leaked it to Kerns’ local newspaper, The Philadelphia Inquirer, which ran the story on its front page.

“It was all nonsense, but the average person isn’t going to know that. They did what they set out to do: They embarrassed me and got the message out to the public that this lawyer did something wrong,” Kerns said. “They want to destroy our livelihoods.”

Attorney Bruce Marks, a former Pennsylvania state senator who represented the Trump campaign before the Supreme Court, was also notified of an ethics complaint against him through The Philadelphia Inquirer. While such complaints are supposed to be conducted privately to protect the reputation of attorneys, the 65 Project intentionally violated that process by leaking it to the press.

“It was an obvious political stunt designed to intimidate and discourage attorneys representing Donald Trump and other conservatives,” Marks told The Federalist. “Rather than follow a process where the complaint is filed privately, the 65 Project not only made it public, but provided it to the media without attempting to serve the attorneys beforehand.” 

While Marks plans to file a defamation claim against the 65 Project, he worries that the other lawyers targeted will be hurt financially. 

“Democrats are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on litigation to try to affect elections,” Marks said. “Republicans should raise money to create a legal defense fund to defend lawyers who are falsely accused like this. And to counterattack by filing defamation and abuse of process claims.” 

Although the 65 Project claims to be a “bipartisan” enterprise (two NeverTrump Republicans sit on its board), when asked whether Democratic attorneys who challenge election results will also be targeted, Managing Director Michael Teter told The Federalist: “We don’t examine a lawyer’s party affiliation as part of our review. If we determine that an attorney has violated the rules of professional conduct, abandoned their oath, and sought to subvert democracy through fabricated, bogus claims, we file a bar complaint. If there’s a partisan outcome from that process, the question is why? Fortunately, the January 6th Committee and the array of Republicans testifying have largely provided the answer.”

Such a strategic intimidation campaign isn’t the first of its kind, however. Shortly after the 2020 presidential election and the first lawsuits by the Trump campaign, left-wing activist group ShutDown DC called on its supporters to harass the lawyers representing the Trump team. The 65 Project represents a much-evolved version of ShutDown DC. Not only is it well-funded (its budget for this year is $2.5 million), but it also enjoys the support and stewardship of many prominent Democrats, including former Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Christine Durham and senior Clinton admin official Melissa Moss.

No matter its reputation among Democrats, the 65 Project is a “baseless political stunt” that sets a dangerous precedent, according to Marks.

“It’s an insidious attack on democracy when you attack the lawyers who were trying to ensure that elections are free and fair.”


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