Julie Jenkins Fancelli, heiress to the Publix supermarkets chain and a Trump political donor, contributed $200,000 to a nonprofit apparently involved in organizing the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the insurrection at the Capitol, according to a tax document obtained by CREW. Fancelli’s contribution to the State Tea Party Express is the third known donation Fancelli made to a group involved in the rally. 

Reports from the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post identified Fancelli as a source of funding behind that day’s events. The week before the rally took place, she gave roughly $150,000 to the Rule of Law Defense Fund, which paid for robocalls urging “patriots like you” to attend the event and “call on Congress to stop the steal.” That same day, she gave about $300,000 to Women for America First, which helped fund event costs. 

Fancelli’s contribution to the State Tea Party Express emphasizes her role as a major source of funding behind the proceedings on January 6. While the tax form the group sent to CREW does not show much spending activity before the end of the group’s tax year on December 31, 2020, a since-deleted webpage documents its involvement in the rally, and any spending immediately around the insurrection would not be listed on the 2020 form. RallyForTrump.com was accessible in the days before January 6th. The page included “Event Details” and an option to RSVP for the “March to Save America Rally” under the heading, “Stand with The President.” The bottom of the page says the site was “Paid for by State Tea Party Express.” The existence of the webpage was first reported by ProPublica. 

The State Tea Party Express has typically identified itself as a section 501(c)(4) nonprofit, which are commonly referred to as dark money groups when they engage in political activity. That’s what it says on the group’s website, on prior tax filings, and on a 2016 settlement agreement with the FEC. Groups that are set up that way are not required to publicly disclose their donors. The latest tax filing, however, asserts the State Tea Party Express is a different, explicitly political type of nonprofit, known as a 527, which is required to disclose contributors. It is not clear whether the group’s tax status has actually been changed. The IRS database of 527 organization filings does not contain any reports filed by the group. (Update: After this report was published, the treasurer for the State Tea Party Express sent CREW an amended filing clarifying that the group is a section 501(c)(4) nonprofit.)

The State Tea Party Express’s treasurer sent CREW an unredacted list of the group’s donors in response to a request for their most recent tax filing. Fancelli and her contribution are listed on that form, but CREW has redacted the names of other, smaller donors from it because they have limited news value. 

The group also is affiliated with Sal Russo, a prominent fundraiser for tea party-aligned political groups. It had kept a low profile for several years after the heyday of the tea party movement but sprang to life in 2018 to support Kevin McCarthy during his bid for House Speaker. Tax filings for that year showed that effort was funded by a Washington dark money group with ties to the energy industry. 

The House select committee investigating the insurrection has reportedly taken an interest in the financing of events that day. Last month, it issued a subpoena to Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich, citing her involvement in soliciting a contribution to a nonprofit organization to promote the rally. The State Tea Party Express’s tax filing adds to the known money trail behind the Big Lie, and the events that preceded the riot at the Capitol.

Photo by Phillip Pessar under a Creative Commons license.

Read More in Investigations