An arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association, a national group representing the top law enforcement officers in their states, sent out robocalls encouraging people to march to the U.S. Capitol the day before the building was stormed by a pro-Trump mob.
“At 1 p.m., we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal,” said the voice on the recording, which was obtained by NBC News.
The calls, which did not advocate violence or suggest the building should be breached, was sent out by the Rule of Law Defense Fund, a fundraising arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association. The groups share funding, staff and office space in Washington, D.C.
In a statement to NBC News, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, who runs the fund, said the calls were sent out without his knowledge.
“I was unaware of unauthorized decisions made by RLDF staff with regard to this week’s rally,” said Marshall, who assumed his role Nov. 10. “Despite currently transitioning into my role as the newly elected chairman of RLDF, it is unacceptable that I was neither consulted about nor informed of those decisions. I have directed an internal review of this matter.”
A website set up to promote the rally that preceded the Capitol incursion lists the Rule of Law Defense Fund as one of the participating organizations. The site has since been taken down.
Adam Piper, the executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association, and Peter Bisbee, the executive director of the fundraising arm, did not return requests for comment about the robocalls, which were first reported by the watchdog group Documented.
A spokesperson for Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, the chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association, said he “had no knowledge or involvement in this decision.”
“Attorney General Carr has been working diligently to determine how this situation occurred and ensure that it does not happen again,” said spokesperson Katie Byrd. “The stance of the protestors was not consistent with Attorney General Carr’s position on election fraud. And, as he has been saying since moments after seeing news break, the violence and destruction we saw at the U.S. Capitol is unacceptable and un-American.”
The Republican Attorneys General Association raised more than $18 million in 2020 from several top corporations, including Pepsi, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase and Comcast, the parent company of NBC News. Its supporters also include interest groups such as the NRA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which was its top donor in 2020 with a $750,000 contribution.
Many companies that donated to the Republican Attorneys General Association also gave to the Democratic Party equivalent. Several told NBC News that spending money on this kind of recruitment for protest runs counter to the purpose of their donation.
Reached for comment, the Chamber of Commerce provided a statement from Harold Kim, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.
“We are appalled at Wednesday’s incursion into the Capital, and did not support any efforts by the Rule of Law Defense Fund,” he said. “We do not support any similar activities now, and will not in the future.”
A Microsoft spokesperson said: “We condemn the actions taken by the RLDF and are raising our concerns directly with RAGA. Earlier this week, we spoke out alongside others in the business community regarding the violence that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol.”
A JPMorgan spokesperson said its political action committee donated $25,000 to the attorneys general group and none of it went to the Rule of Law Defense Fund.
“Our PAC contributions to both the Republican and Democratic Attorneys General associations were used strictly for attorneys generals’ campaign purposes,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
The Cherokee Nation Businesses LLC, which donated $150,000 in 2020, said it has requested an immediate refund of its sponsorship to the Republican Attorneys General Association, and the organization obliged.
“We had no knowledge of RAGA’s association with the Rule of Law fund or any connection in the January 6 insurrectionists’ storm on the U.S. Capitol,” spokesperson Brandon Scott said in a statement. “Cherokee Nation Businesses does not condone these actions and strongly condemns the insurrectionists and all those who instigated the disruption of the federal government through their words and actions.”
Melaleuca, an online wellness shopping club, gave $290,000 to the Republican Attorneys General Association in 2020.
“We are appalled at the events that culminated in the storming of the U.S. Capitol,” the company said in a statement. “We have never contributed to Rule of Law Defense Fund. We have been assured by RAGA that none of our contributions to RAGA were given to the Rule of Law Defense Fund.”
In a statement, Comcast said: “We have long supported Democratic and Republican associations of attorneys general. We are appalled and condemn these actions in the strongest possible terms and have communicated that to RAGA. We were very clear with RAGA that we could not continue our relationship unless we had assurances that they take steps to ensure that nothing like this would happen again.”
Pepsi and the NRA did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokesperson for the Republican Attorneys General Association did not address questions about the robocall but sought to distance the organization from the event.
“The Republican Attorneys General Association and Rule of Law Defense Fund had no involvement in the planning, sponsoring, or the organization of Wednesday’s event,” the spokesperson said. “No Republican AG authorized the staff’s decision to amplify a colleague speaking at the event. Organizationally and individually, we strongly condemn and disavow the events which occurred.”
One of its members, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, attended the rally and spoke to the crowd, saying, “We will not quit fighting.”
Following the Capitol invasion, he tweeted, “I am sorely disappointed today in the certification of the election, but I don’t believe violence is the answer.”