Newsletter: Mark Robinson’s Anti-Abortion Communications; Stefanie Lambert’s Arrest

Records obtained by American Oversight and reported on this week by the New York Times include emails from last year in which North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who is currently running for governor, indicated support for a six-week abortion ban and received sample legislation from a right-wing group.

As the Times lays out, Robinson — who in the past has supported former President Trump’s stolen-election lies — has a “long history of inflammatory statements” that illustrate his far-right worldview and support for injecting his religious beliefs into government, including his opposition to abortion rights.

  • According to the records, Robinson met with the N.C. Values Coalition in January 2023 to discuss a bill that would ban abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, usually around the sixth week of pregnancy. 
  • Robinson asked the group which lawmakers to pressure to support the policy. The N.C. Values Coalition followed up with a list of nine state senators and 26 state representatives to target, which was then shared by Robinson’s chief of staff with other people in his office.
  • While North Carolina did not pass that measure, the legislature did ban abortion after 12 weeks that May.

We’ve been investigating efforts to restrict reproductive rights across the country, filing public records requests in several states for communications, messaging guidance, and analyses about potential or current abortion bans.

  • We also filed several requests seeking information about the potential use of surveillance technology to identify and prosecute abortion seekers in certain states. Read more about our investigation into efforts to restrict abortion rights here.

Stefanie Lambert’s Election Denial Activities in Michigan

Attorney Stefanie Lambert was a key player in post-election hunts for non-existent widespread fraud, and last August was indicted in Michigan in connection with a plan to illegally access and tamper with voting machines in 2021.

  • On Monday, those charges caught up with her while she was in federal court representing Patrick Byrne, the former Overstock CEO active in Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election, who is being sued by Dominion Voting Systems for defamation.
  • At the conclusion of a hearing in Byrne’s case in Washington, D.C., Lambert was arrested on a bench warrant

When she was arrested, Lambert reportedly had just been questioned about having shared Dominion documents — case evidence she had signed a protective order agreeing not to share unless the judge allowed — with Sheriff Dar Leaf of Barry County, Mich. 

  • Leaf is another familiar name in the election denial movement, having advanced baseless claims about fraud through his own long-running investigation.
  • Leaf is now fighting a subpoena related to his investigation, claiming that turning over the subpoenaed documents would “usurp” the investigation. 

We previously obtained records that shed light on Lambert’s and Leaf’s activities in Michigan and demonstrate how several of the same activists worked closely together to undermine trust in the election’s results.  

  • We obtained text messages from Lambert and others about accessing and running tests on voting equipment in March and April 2021. 
  • Last August, we reached a settlement agreement with Leaf in a lawsuit that forced his office to release several records of its communications with prominent election deniers.
  • The records included copies of communications between Leaf and Catherine Engelbrecht, the voter fraud alarmist who founded True the Vote.
  • We also obtained an August 2022 email in which Leaf shared information with four other county sheriffs about a joint meeting with Engelbrecht and “Greg” from True the Vote, likely referring to director Gregg Phillips. 

On the Records

New College of Florida Hiring Records

American Oversight has obtained additional records that shed light on the controversial hiring and recruitment practices at New College of Florida. The documents include resumes of newly hired visiting professors, some of whom appear to have conservative political connections, like David Ellis, a visiting associate professor of political science who has promoted false claims about transgender people on a conservative blog he runs.

  • We previously obtained documents that showed some recent hires had little to no prior education experience — but did have close ties to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or conservative politics.
  • The records help shed light on DeSantis’ efforts to reshape the public liberal arts college into a conservative institution. Read more about our investigation into right-wing attacks on education here.

Join Us for a Virtual Event!

On March 26 at 2 p.m. ET, we’ll be joined by voting-rights and election-administration experts from All Voting is Local, the Brennan Center, and the Campaign Legal Center for a discussion of how the election denial movement and far-right misinformation pushed nine states to reject the nonpartisan Electronic Registration Information Center. 

Register now for “Democracy Under Threat: The Campaign to Dismantle the ERIC Voter List System” to hear from our panelists on the anti-voter networks pushing the withdrawals from ERIC, the grave impacts of the exodus, and what it means for the 2024 election. We will share highlights from our in-depth investigation and report, and attendees will be able to ask questions. Panelists include:

  • Alex Gulotta, State Director at All Voting is Local, Arizona
  • Andrew Graber, Democracy Counsel at the Brennan Center 
  • Brad Ashwell, State Director at All Voting is Local, Florida 
  • Chioma Chukwu, Deputy Director at American Oversight 
  • Jonathan Diaz, Director of Voting Advocacy and Partnerships at the Campaign Legal Center

Other Stories We’re Following

Election Denial and Threats to Democracy
  • To boost Trump, GOP attorneys general charge into battle over state election rules (News from the States)
  • ​​Republicans plan blitz of election-related lawsuits, but prospects uncertain (Washington Post)
  • Election workers are bracing for another barrage of Trump threats (Vanity Fair)
  • Election deniers skirted campaign finance laws in Wisconsin (Brennan Center)
  • A Central Valley politician was charged with voter fraud. Right-wing conspiracies took over (Los Angeles Times)
  • Texas county’s GOP officials declared hand count a success, but kept finding errors (Votebeat)
  • Experts war-gamed what might happen if deepfakes disrupt the 2024 election. Things went sideways fast. (NBC News)
  • AZ Republicans echo Kari Lake in claiming election fraud without sharing evidence (Arizona Republic)
  • Republicans Kari Lake, Mark Finchem take rejected Arizona voting lawsuit to US Supreme Court (USA Today)
  • Supreme Court opens new frontier for insurrection claims that could target state and local officials (Associated Press)
  • Wisconsin false electors couldn’t serve as election officials under Democratic proposal (Wisconsin Public Radio)
Voting Rights
  • Gov. Youngkin vetoes bills to rejoin voter data-sharing organization (Virginia Mercury)
  • Republicans want to ask voters to ban early voting, put 1,000-person cap on precincts (Arizona Mirror)
  • In a small Tohono O’odham village, Maricopa County uses tech to make voting more secure (Votebeat)
  • Who’ll prosecute election fraud in FL: elected state attorneys or appointed statewide prosecutor? (News from the States)
  • Push to cut tens of thousands from Allegheny County voter rolls feeds fears (PublicSource/WESA Pittsburgh)
  • Right-wing organization files new lawsuit to gain access to South Carolina voter rolls (Democracy Docket)
  • Wisconsin Supreme Court to decide if counties must release voter incompetency records (Associated Press)
  • Liberal Wisconsin justice won’t recuse herself from case on mobile voting van’s legality (Associated Press)
  • McClinton unveils legislation to add early voting and same-day registration in Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Capital-Star)
In the States
  • Wisconsin Supreme Court prepares to weigh in on recall election question (Wisconsin Public Radio)
  • Georgia Senate panel backs bill piecing together several culture war issues (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
  • Want to sue a Harris County constable’s office for violating your rights? You can’t. (Houston Chronicle)
  • Citing ESG policies, Texas Permanent School Fund pulls $8.5B investment from BlackRock (Austin American-Statesman)
  • One far-right leader ousted. Another barely hangs on. Is Shasta rejecting MAGA politics? (Los Angeles Times)
  • West Virginia questions FBI’s diversity, equity, and inclusion hiring, promotion practices (WTRF Wheeling)
National News
  • Apple has kept an illegal monopoly over smartphones in US, Justice Department says in antitrust suit (Associated Press)
  • Social Security program failed to properly notify people of huge fines, report finds (Washington Post)
LGBTQ Rights
  • Ohioans testify against Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposed rules for transgender health care (Ohio Capital Journal)
  • Unfilled prescriptions, missed checkups and loneliness: Experts worry about health consequences from states’ anti-LGBTQ+ moves (19th News)
  • LGBTQ rights lawyers face potential sanctions over Alabama ‘judge shopping’ (NBC News)
  • England is limiting gender transitions for youths. US legislators are watching (Associated Press)
Abortion and Reproductive Rights
  • An abortion ban enacted in 1864 is under review in the Arizona Supreme Court (Associated Press)
  • ‘Our prayer is that it doesn’t even reach the ballot’: Inside Arizona’s abortion battle (Politico)
  • Arkansas governor’s campaign manager leads abortion amendment opposition group (Arkansas Advocate)
  • New ‘better’ ballot initiative seeks to ban Nebraska abortions after first trimester of pregnancy (Nebraska Examiner)
  • Standard pregnancy care is now dangerously disrupted in Louisiana, report reveals (NPR)
  • Kansas abortion ‘coercion’ bill touted by out-of-state think tank that produced retracted research (News from the States)
  • How abortion is reshaping some races to become powerful state judges (ABC News)
  • Women are getting off birth control amid misinformation explosion (Washington Post)
  • Pharmaceutical companies worry the Supreme Court’s abortion pill ruling could have a wider effect on drugs and research (19th News)
Threats to Education
  • Utah governor signs bill making it easier to ban books statewide (News from the States)
  • Florida settlement’s limits on ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law may give teachers and students breathing room (Chalkbeat)
  • Moms for Liberty candidates won less elections in 2023, but is winning the group’s goal? (USA Today)
  • Alabama Republicans pass expansive legislation targeting DEI (New York Times)
  • Goldwater Institute sues ASU over training program, alleging free speech violations (Arizona Republic)
  • Tom Horne’s wife sues Phoenix school district over dual language program (Arizona Republic)
  • They may not agree on how to define DEI, but that’s no problem for Kansas lawmakers attacking it (Associated Press)
Government Transparency and Public Records Law
  • Delaware opened up access to some police misconduct records — but still denies requests for basic police data (Delaware Call)
  • Holcomb signs bill limiting power of Indiana’s public records expert (Indianapolis Star)
  • Appeals court again blocks Texas from arresting and deporting migrants (Washington Post)
  • As Texas border arrests law teeters in court, other GOP states also push tougher immigration policy (Associated Press)
  • Enforcing Texas’ new immigration law may be challenging, even for authorities that support it (Texas Tribune)
  • Iowa passes bill to make returning after deportation a state crime (New York Times)
  • DeSantis says he might send any Haitian immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard (The Hill)
  • First DeSantis-chartered flight from Haiti carrying Americans lands in Florida (Politico)
Trump Accountability
  • Trump Media merger is approved, providing fresh source of cash (New York Times)
  • Judge wants details on any Trump Organization attempts to secure a bond in its civil fraud case (NBC News)
  • Pro-Trump attorney arrested after court hearing about leaked Dominion emails (CNN)
  • Trump calls for Liz Cheney to be jailed for investigating him over Capitol attack (Guardian)
  • Trump, GOP-led states argue ‘absolute presidential immunity’ claim to Supreme Court (Ohio Capital Journal)
  • Leonard Leo, Koch networks pour millions into groups prepping for potential second Trump administration (NBC News)
  • Papers that delayed Trump’s NY trial involve key witness Michael Cohen (Washington Post)
  • Trump is making the Jan. 6 attack a cornerstone of his bid for the White House (Associated Press)