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Rep. Matt Gaetz. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) joined a group of conservatives last week at a training session for activists readying to combat the continued use of the voting technology that propelled Trumpworld's 2020 election-theft conspiracy theories.

Why it matters: Theories about uncounted or overcounted votes have become politically tricky and legally problematic for their most prominent backers. The activist training is part of an effort to put a more respectable and pragmatic face on the trend.

What's happening: The remote event was hosted last Friday by the Leadership Institute and emceed by Matthew Braynard, who spearheaded an effort to unearth proof of 2020 voter fraud.

  • "If we focus only on why people vote, and the left focuses on how votes are laundered and processed and requested and returned and verified, then we can have the better ideas and still lose power," Gaetz warned in opening remarks.
  • Braynard and a handful of Leadership Institute staffers trained activists about how to lobby state and county governments to oppose the use of voting machines such as those made by Dominion Voting Systems, which has been targeted with outlandish and false attacks by Donald Trump, his legal team and supporters.
  • Braynard is already pushing for Stark County, Ohio, to end a contract with Dominion.
  • Dominion was in the news again Monday after it filed a $1.3 billion lawsuit against MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, accusing him of harming the firm with baseless criticism of its machines.

The training effort is part of a larger campaign by Braynard's group, Look Ahead America, to combat what it calls "black-box" voting technology.

  • The proprietary nature of equipment such as Dominion's makes it more difficult to publicly inspect the ways in which that technology tabulates votes, he insists.
  • Braynard says the proposed alternative — "open-source" equipment — "removes the dangerous suspicion that election results are not valid."

Reality check: That "dangerous suspicion" about the 2020 election is entirely a product of conspiracy theories floated by Trump and his allies.

  • Braynard himself launched a group late last year called the Voter Integrity Project, which used public voter data to attempt to root out ostensibly fraudulent or suspicious votes in key swing states.
  • Braynard's data was cited in multiple unsuccessful lawsuits seeking to overturn 2020 election results. But some of that data fell apart under closer examination.

Braynard nonetheless raised more than half a million dollars for the effort.

  • While the Voter Integrity Project did not have formal financial reporting requirements, Braynard documented its spending in a public spreadsheet to address any concerns that money was misspent or steered to him personally.
  • The leftover funds — about $85,000, he told Axios — have been donated to Look Ahead America, which Braynard founded in 2018.
  • He's now restarting the organization, which had its tax-exempt status revoked after repeatedly failing to file IRS forms. Braynard says it's already raised another $75,000 and brought on a new treasurer to address the prior reporting errors.

Go deeper

Feb 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Dominion files $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sued MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell for more than $1.3 billion in damages, alleging that the Trump ally exploited the baseless conspiracy theory that Dominion's voting machines rigged the election for Joe Biden so Lindell could sell more pillows.

The big picture: Lindell is the latest Trump ally to face a multibillion-dollar lawsuit from Dominion or Smartmatic, another voting machine company subjected to a campaign of false claims about the election.

California's largest wildfire razes homes as 88 huge blazes burn in U.S.

Firefighters on the scene as dozens of homes burn during the Dixie Fire in the Indian Falls neighborhood of unincorporated Plumas County, California, on July 24. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Flames from California's biggest wildfire were engulfing homes in the state's north overnight — one of 88 large blazes raging in the U.S.

Driving the news: The Dixie Fire, which erupted July 14 near the origin of the deadly 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County, was tearing through the community of Indian Falls, per AP.

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

U.S. swim team wins 6 Tokyo Olympics medals, including 1st gold

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz has become the first Team United States Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver, .86 seconds behind him.