MyPillow CEO’s legal advisor has ties to GOP super PACs and has pushed false claims about Kamala Harris, Covid

Politics

Mike Lindell, chief executive officer of My Pillow Inc., speaks to members of the media while arriving to federal court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 24, 2021.
Samuel Corum | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A member of MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s legal team has ties to Republican super PACs and has pushed false conspiracies about Vice President Kamala Harris and Covid-19.

Lindell has brought on William Olson as one of his legal advisors, according to a new filing made in federal court in Minnesota.

Olson’s firm has done legal work for GOP super PACs that backed Ben Carson during the 2016 presidential election, supported then-President Donald Trump in the 2020 election and boosted Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in his 2018 Senate race against former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Olson’s recent legal work includes submitting an amicus brief that falsely claims Harris is not a natural born citizen of the United States and is not eligible to be vice president. Harris was born in California. The conspiracy about Harris — the first Black U.S. vice president — echoes the racist birther theory Trump and others spread about President Barack Obama.

Olson has also used his Twitter account to push some claims about the coronavirus that have been disputed by the FDA or deemed misleading by the social media platform.

Olson’s presence on Lindell’s legal team was disclosed in a recent court filing. That filing asks a Minnesota federal court judge to allow Olson to appear in that court and submit filings on Lindell’s behalf in a case where he is challenging a subpoena for his phone records from House committee investigating the origins of the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill. Because Olson is not admitted to practice law in Minnesota, he needs a judge’s permission to appear in a case there.

Lindell came under the committee’s scrutiny after he repeatedly made false claims that election fraud led to Biden’s 2020 victory over Trump.

Longtime defense attorney Alan Dershowitz is also representing Lindell as he fights the subpoena. Dershowitz represented Trump in his first impeachment and has worked for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who as a lawyer for Trump pushed to overturn the 2020 results.

In response to CNBC’s texted questions about Olson advising him, Lindell responded with the following statement: “Brian, why don’t you be a real journalist and report the election crimes of 2020? I don’t have time to entertain you horrible journalist today!”

Lindell has pushed multiple claims about the 2020 election that federal and state officials have said are untrue. William Barr, who served as attorney general under Trump, has said that there was no widespread voter fraud during the 2020 election. Courts ruled against the former president’s efforts to overturn the presidential results dozens of times. Trump is still spreading conspiracy theories about the election results more than a year after he lost.

Olson did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Olson’s links to GOP super PACs

Olson’s firm’s website says it practices in campaign fundraising. The firm, William J. Olson P.C., says it specializes in “negotiation of fund raising agreements; review of fund raising solicitations; compliance with federal, state and local charitable solicitation laws; participation in the federal government’s Combined Federal Campaign.”

FEC records show that since the 2016 presidential election, Olson’s firm has been paid just over $160,000 by at least two different PACs for what is described on all the forms as “legal fees.” The clients gave no further description of what his firm did for those committees, which legally can spend and raise an unlimited amount of money.

One of the PACs that paid Olson’s firm changed its name after the 2016 election, to the Stars and Stripes Forever PAC from the 2016 Committee. The group backed Carson during the Republican primary and then Trump when he faced Hillary Clinton in the general election.

The 2016 Committee spent $5 million supporting Carson, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It shelled out a combined $1 million in the general election backing Trump over Clinton.

John Philip Sousa IV, who runs the PAC and is the great-grandson of the bandleader who composed “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” says Olson still represents the PAC, which plans to stay active during the 2022 midterm elections.

“He was/is our attorney and kept us out of trouble with the Feds,” Sousa said regarding Olson in an email on Wednesday. He did not respond to follow up emails asking for specific examples of what Olson did for the PAC. He noted that his definition of “Feds” in this case was the FEC.

Sousa’s PAC spent over $115,000 supporting Trump during the 2020 election and another $48,000 opposing Biden, CRP data says.

A top donor the organization during the 2016 election was Julianna Hawn Holt, who was chairman and co-CEO of Spurs Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.

Mother Jones previously reported that Sousa ran a PAC supporting former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio when he successfully ran for reelection in Arizona in 2012. Trump pardoned Arpaio in 2017 after he was convicted of criminal contempt for defying a judge’s order to stop detaining immigrants because they lacked legal status.

Olson’s firm was also paid for legal work by the Hispanic Victory PAC, filings say. CRP data shows the group spent over $40,000 backing Cruz in 2018 and just over $30,000 against O’Rourke.

The former chair of the Hispanic Victory PAC did not return an email seeking comment.

Covid and Kamala Harris

Olson recently signed an amicus brief against the dismissal of a lawsuit that claimed Harris is not a natural born citizen and legally cannot be vice president. Olson was representing an outside group.

This theory about Harris was debunked during the 2020 campaign by several fact checkers, including by FactCheck.org. The website at the time said, “Kamala Harris, former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate, is eligible to serve as U.S. president, contrary to the false claims of viral posts on Facebook. Her mother is from India and her father from Jamaica — but Harris was born in Oakland, California.”

Still, Olson submitted an amicus brief dated early November 2020 after Election Day that falsely concludes Harris is not a natural born citizen.

“Being neither a ‘natural born Citizen,’ nor a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution she is not eligible to be either Vice President and (or President) of the United States,” the filing reads.

Since then, Olson has taken to Twitter to push false Covid information. A tweet published on Olson’s account in December, the month when Covid cases surged around the country, was labeled “misleading” by the social media company.

The tweet cited an article on Zero Hedge and says, “Ivermectin prophylaxis used for COVID-19 reduces COVID-19 infection and mortality rates.” The Food and Drug Administration has said it has not authorized or approved ivermectin, an antiparasitic medicine, for use in preventing or treating Covid-19 in humans or animals.

In another tweet in December, Olson seemed to encourage people not to get vaccinated against Covid: “Everyone should take this advice to heart — don’t take the shot — the tide is turning — as Dr. Malone says, ‘just hang on.'”

Dr. Malone is the same name as a doctor that The Atlantic says is a vaccine scientist spreading misinformation.

Trump himself has encouraged people to get the vaccine.

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