© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A year after Jan. 6 Capitol riot, a key purveyor of the ‘big lie’ is heading to Missouri

Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.
File photo / Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.

The night before the anniversary of a mob incited by false claims of a stolen election storming the U.S. Capitol, one of the main peddlers of the so-called “big lie” is scheduled to be in Missouri.

Rep. Ann Kelley, R-Lamar, sent out invitations late last month for a dinner in Jefferson City with Douglas Frank, a high school math teacher from Ohio who claims he discovered secret algorithms used to rig the 2020 election.

According to the invitation, which was first reported by Missouri Scout, the dinner will take place Wednesday, though the exact location is being withheld for “safety reasons.”

“Dr. Douglas Frank is looking forward to this great evening in Jefferson City with distinguished Missourians,” the invitation says. “Get to know the man behind the election data.”

Frank’s claims of a secret algorithm, along with other myths seeking to undermine President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, have been widely discredited. But that hasn’t stopped many adherents of the lie from latching on to his work.

Nor has it stopped Frank from gaining an audience with GOP elected officials from around the country.

That includes Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who has consistently said he does not believe voter fraud impacted the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

The Washington Post reported that Frank claims he “negotiated a deal” in which Ashcroft “agreed to take up the cause if we brought him 100 phantom voters.”

JoDonn Cherry, Ashcroft’s spokesman, said in an email to The Independent that he is “not aware of any ‘negotiated deal’ between the secretary and Douglas Frank and there is nothing on his calendar indicating a meeting between the two in the upcoming days.”

While Ashcroft and Frank have spoken previously, “I don’t have any further information regarding conversation details, when, how many times or if they will meet again,” Cherry wrote.

“As you know, the secretary is always happy to listen and talk with anyone, regardless of viewpoint, who has concerns or comments regarding election integrity and security as it pertains to Missouri elections,” Cherry said. “The secretary is committed to accessible, safe, secure elections with timely results that people can trust.”

Asked about her connection to Frank, Kelley told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch she has served as his “chauffeur a couple of times when he’s been in Missouri.”

Earlier this year, Kelleytestified to the Missouri House elections committeeabout attending a symposium in South Dakota organized by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who has said he’s spent $25 million pushing the false claim that the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.

Frank’s visit also corresponds with the first day of the 2022 Missouri legislative session. Kelley is sponsoring a wide-ranging bill that, among other provisions, creates an “election integrity committee” to conduct post-election audits.

In the year since Trump supporters inspired by false allegations of election fraud breached the U.S. Capitol in an effort to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory, federal prosecutors have filed charges against more than 700 people who participated in the violence.

That figure includes 17 Missouri residents.

The first Missourian to be sentenced — 29-year-old Nicholas Burton Reimle, who received 36 months probation, $500 restitution and 60 hours community service — publicly apologized during a court hearing last month “to the people of this country for threatening their democracy.”

While audits conducted at the behest of those questioning the 2020 outcome have consistently found no evidence of widespread fraud, and an Associated Press review of every potential case of voter fraud in six battleground statesdisputed by Trump amounted to fewer than 475, the “big lie” that the election was stolen remains a powerful force within GOP politics.

Look no further than Missouri’s heated race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt.

Former Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned in disgrace in 2018 to avoid impeachment and felony charges, has made election fraud conspiracies a centerpiece of his campaign for the GOP nomination.

Three days after the Jan. 6 insurrection, attorney Mark McCloskey tweeted, “there is no question that the election was the result of massive fraud, there is no question that Donald Trump won the legitimate vote…”

Attorney General Eric Schmitt participated in lawsuits seeking to overturn the outcome of the presidential election, and a super PAC supporting him ran a web ad that included footage of Trump claiming “this election was rigged.”

Missouri Independentis part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Missouri Independent maintains editorial independence.

Jason Hancock is a reporter covering politics and policy for The Missouri Independent.