America First Policy Institute, a non-profit think tank founded in 2021 by former Trump officials and close allies with the objective of advancing Trump’s policy agenda, announced last month that it will be expanding its state policy team after the launch of its first state chapters in Georgia, Florida, California, Pennsylvania and Arizona. Election deniers have been appointed to lead the four state chapters that have announced leadership so far.

AFPI is avidly preparing for a second Trump presidency while receiving massive donations from just a handful of individuals. According to its website, AFPI hopes to eventually install state branches in all 50 states—but for now, it has welcomed a slate of election deniers to existing state leadership positions. As policy organizations like AFPI herd election deniers into their highest positions at the state level—with a clear target on swing states—they join the number of deniers that have been elected to state governments and those that oversee a third of the US’s state election processes, all laying the groundwork for states to pass measures that weaken the election system and threaten future elections.

AFPI’s Georgia chapter is led by former Rep. Doug Collins, a longtime Trump ally and one of the 126 GOP House members who signed an amicus brief in the dismissed Supreme Court lawsuit that contested the 2020 presidential election results. Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the amicus “election subversion,” and when Collins led the claims of fraud in Georgia, the state’s chief election official Brad Raffensperger called him a “liar” and said he “needs to answer to the voters why he never did anything for election reform” in Congress. During Collins’ failed campaign for Senate earlier that year, he campaigned with Roger Stone, Trump’s former advisor who was sent to prison for obstructing a congressional probe into election interference in 2016 and then personally worked to overturn the 2020 election for Trump.

Pam Bondi, a former Florida State Attorney General, heads the Florida chapter. Bondi defended Trump during his impeachment trial and later pushed false claims of election fraud in Pennsylvania alongside Trump and Rudy Guliani in the days after the 2020 election, including telling reporters that the Trump campaign had won Pennsylvania before it had. She claimed on Fox News that there were “fake ballots” and that the Trump campaign had evidence of the Democrats cheating.

Bondi has had a long history involving Trump—she was also at the center of an illegal $25,000 donation sent from the Trump Foundation to a political group backing her in 2013, when it was reported that Bondi’s office was considering joining the New York lawsuit against Trump University. In 2016, Trump’s representatives admitted to the illegal donation amid a series of complaints filed by CREW against Trump and Bondi. The Foundation was dissolved in 2018 in the face of growing scandals.

Leadership of AFPI’s California chapter was handed to former California state senator Melissa Melendez, who was responsible for a slew of tweets denying Biden’s win in the days following the 2020 presidential election including, “We all see it. We all know what you’re doing. We are not going to let you cheat and steal this election. See you in court.” She also tweeted, “Al Gore dragged the election out until mid December but Trump is supposed to just give up the day after? I don’t think so.”

Carla Sands, an ambassador during the Trump administration and Trump’s economic advisor during his 2016 campaign, sits on Pennsylvania’s chapter’s listed team of two, in addition to serving as AFPI’s Vice Chair of the Center for Energy and Environment. Just after the 2020 election, Sands repeated Trump’s claims of election fraud on Twitter, including claiming twice that she herself was “disenfranchised” and that Pennsylvania “did not count” her vote. The New York Times reported that the state’s elections website showed Sands’s ballot was recorded weeks prior. While ambassador to Denmark, Sands urged people to donate to Trump using her official Twitter account, one of her several violations of the Hatch Act. In 2022, she ran for Senate and lost the Republican primary.

AFPI has yet to announce an Arizona chair, and no team members are listed on its chapter page. The organization’s most recent expansion includes the addition of a nationwide Chief State Affairs Officer and support staff to coordinate AFPI’s state policy efforts.

These expansions, ushered in with leaders with histories of election denial, demands fresh scrutiny not only on AFPI’s goals to “enhance” election integrity, but also on AFPI’s role in supporting initiatives like Project 2025. The transition agenda—inspired by Trump, organized by The Heritage Foundation, and backed by a conservative coalition including AFPI—aims to defund or even dismantle and replace key federal departments including the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Environmental Protection Agency, and to bring in swaths of conservative and right-wing players to Washington to fill such agencies under Trump. AFPI’s CEO Brooke Rollins, who served as the domestic policy chief under Trump, said the program is “not just about 2025. It’s about ’29 and ’33 and ’37.”

While AFPI’s new state chapters tout traditional conservative priorities in education, safety and job creation online, their leadership in the leadup to the 2024 election raises questions about the role AFPI could play in another nationwide attempt to deny the results of a fair election, and how exactly these state policy goals fit into AFPI’s overarching plans for another Trump presidency.

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