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Dominion says ex-Michigan state senator’s election fraud claims ‘successfully duped thousands of people’

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 5 days ago Katie Shepherd
a man wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: State Sen. Patrick Colbeck talks during the Republican gubernatorial candidate town hall at the Kent County GOP headquarters in Grand Rapids, Mich., Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press-MLive Media Group via AP) © Cory Morse/AP State Sen. Patrick Colbeck talks during the Republican gubernatorial candidate town hall at the Kent County GOP headquarters in Grand Rapids, Mich., Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press-MLive Media Group via AP)

For months, former Michigan state senator Patrick Colbeck (R) has repeated baseless claims about mass fraud in the presidential election to state senators and pro-Trump crowds, falsely insinuating that rigged voting machines and bogus ballots swayed the results.

Now, Colbeck is the latest target in Dominion Voting Systems’ legal battle to combat claims by Republican allies of former president Donald Trump that the company says have damaged its reputation. Last week, Dominion demanded the onetime gubernatorial candidate retract his “demonstrably false claims” about the 2020 election results.

“You have now taken your disinformation campaign on the road, touring Michigan,” said a letter sent to Colbeck by lawyers for the election machine company, the Detroit News reported. The letter demanded Colbeck retract statements “falsely blaming Dominion for stealing the election from former President Trump.”

In recent weeks, Dominion has also sued Fox News for airing false statements made by guests on its shows, along with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who repeatedly made such claims on national TV.

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Colbeck called Dominion’s claims “spurious” and countered that the company was defaming him by suggesting that he was “lying” for personal gain.

“Their letter is yet another example of an orchestrated campaign by election fraud-deniers to infringe upon our fundamental civil rights such as our first amendment rights to freedom of speech and the redress of grievances,” Colbeck said in a news release late Monday.

Colbeck, an influential force in Michigan’s GOP, was first elected to the state senate in 2010 as a tea party candidate and served until 2019. He began casting doubt on the security of Michigan’s elections in the weeks before Election Day, penning an op-ed that suggested coronavirus precautions threatened election integrity and a letter to the editor arguing that “irregularities” in urban voting districts pointed to fraud.

Shortly after the election, in which President Biden won Michigan by more than 154,000 votes, Colbeck filed an affidavit challenging the results in Wayne County. A judge dismissed his challenge on Nov. 13, saying the Republican had “no evidence” to support his claims that Democrats used the pandemic to obscure election fraud.

“His predilection to believe fraud was occurring undermines his credibility as a witness,” Wayne County Circuit Judge Timothy Kenny said in a ruling.

On Nov. 14, Colbeck attended a “Stop the Steal” rally outside the Michigan Capitol, where he was photographed giving a speech as a man wearing a tactical vest and a Three Percenter patch stood behind him. (The Three Percenters is an extremist anti-government movement that gained notoriety after some of its members allegedly stormed the U.S. Capitol building in January. The Jan. 6 riot resulted in the deaths of one police officer and four others.)

Colbeck was featured in a 93-minute video that circulated online in December in which he repeated the false claim that the machines that counted paper ballots were connected to the Internet and inaccurately suggested the tabulators could have been hacked.

As rioters forced their way the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Colbeck led a prayer outside the Michigan Capitol at a simultaneous rally to oppose the certification of the presidential election results.

“We know that they’re not going to get away with this again,” he said to a crowd of Trump supporters, the Detroit News reported. “We know how the story ends, God. Today is going to be one of the most consequential days in our nation’s history.”

Colbeck also falsely told protesters that Biden had not won the election, and claimed that news reports conveying the election results were “propaganda.” That same day, he posted a PowerPoint presentation filled with debunked election fraud claims on his website.

In a letter sent April 2, lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems allege that Colbeck has continued making inaccurate claims about the company’s role in the election by promoting the power point and urging officials to decertify Michigan’s election results, even after Biden’s victory was certified by Congress. The letter also accuses him of using those false statements to raise money for his private business, Perspective Shifts LLC, which advertises consulting services and promotes two books he wrote.

“You are knowingly sowing discord in our democracy, all the while soliciting exorbitant amounts of money — totaling over $1 million so far — from your audiences paid directly to your personal business,” the letter said.

Colbeck said in a statement Monday he has only made $30,195 in “gross revenue” from memberships and donations to his company’s website in the last nine months.

“Obviously this is nowhere near the unsubstantiated figure of ‘over $1 million’ cited by Dominion and their lawyers,” he added.

According to the lawyers, the debunked claim that Dominion’s voting machines led to inaccurate vote tallies has caused damages to the company that could result in a defamation lawsuit.

“Because your demonstrably false claims have caused and continue to cause enormous irreparable harm to Dominion, its employees, and American democracy, we write to demand that you retract your false claims and set the record straight,” the letter said.

This isn’t the first time that Colbeck has faced backlash over a PowerPoint.

In 2018, while running in the GOP primary for governor, Colbeck used PowerPoint slides to suggest that one of his Democratic opponents had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that some politicians have lobbied to designate as a terrorist organization. The presentation also implied that Colbeck’s political rival was engaged in a plot to wage a “civilization jihad,” BuzzFeed News reported at the time.

But the opponent, Democrat Abdul El-Sayed, had no ties to the organization and Colbeck did not back up his claim with evidence, prompting allegations of Islamophobia during the race, the Detroit News reported. Colbeck came in third place during the 2018 Republican primary for governor with 13 percent of the vote.

Lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems referenced the 2018 controversy in their letter. They also argued that Colbeck had “successfully duped thousands of people across Michigan” into believing Dominion’s machines contributed to nonexistent discrepancies in the 2020 election.

The letter also accused Colbeck of using baseless election fraud claims to fuel his political aspirations.

“We do not yet fully understand why someone of your intelligence, academic pedigree, and experience would deliberately mislead the world about the integrity of an American election,” the letter said. “We strongly suspect that you maintain political aspirations and will run for governor again in Michigan in 2022, and we know the lengths you are willing to go to try and get what you want, including by falsely accusing a political opponent of ties to terrorism simply because he is a Muslim American.”

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