The conspiracy theorists are coming to town, again! From 1 July 2022 to 4 July 2022, Nations in Action, a 501(c)4 organization advocating for civic nationalist causes, is holding a conference at the Georgia Tech Convention Center, owned by the Georgia Tech Foundation and managed by Crestline Hotels & Resort. The event has been endorsed by the Gwinnett County Republican Assembly on Facebook.
This conference brings together a broad swathe of speakers, including those who focus on COVID vaccine denialism, antisemitism, and #StopTheSteal. Such an event is a clear cause for alarm. Amongst the speakers, several regularly call for political violence. Others actively spread disinformation about the 2020 election. The conference represents an opportunity for these conspiracy theorists to network, spread their beliefs, and rake in cash. Tickets for the 3-day event start at $199 and sponsorship packages range $2,500-$10,000. Most alarming, many of these characters have links to, are endorsed by, or are part of the GOP.
See below for a quick look at a non-exhaustive list of the participants, detailing known antisemites, con artists, and insurrectionists.
Election Results Denial – Maria Zack
Maria Zack is the founder and head of the Nations in Action organization. Zach is a known actor within the mainstream right in the South. In 2016, she ran to represent Georgia at the RNC, saying that the Republican Party is the party that most closely represents “American values”. She also ran a super PAC promoting Ted Cruz’s 2016 bid for president. She is well-known to local journalists, including in her current home of Sarasota (she joins quite the lineup of locals from the “Conspiracy Capital of the United States”). Zack claims to have been a high-level government advisor for decades and now pushes conspiracy theories about the accuracy of election results. Her recent push on the 2020 election is based on a QAnon-linked conspiracy theory known as “Italygate,” which holds that Italian satellites changed ballots cast for Trump to Biden votes. Zack claims to have passed this message to President Trump at a Christmas party in December of 2020, in which she reiterated ““Italy did it. We know why they did it and how they did it.”. There is significant evidence that Trump himself believed in the “Italygate” conspiracy theory and asked his staff to investigate it as a potential wedge to overturn the 2020 election, something that was backed up by shady moneyed interests. A Justice Department official Richard Donoghue described the investigation as “Pure insanity”.
A recording of her theory, of course, circulated throughout QAnon channels on Telegram. It gained momentum in part due to her claims that Obama was also involved in the scheme (it also includes mention of the right-wing and anti-semitic theory that globalists led by George Soros are once again behind all of this). However, exploring her theory on Stew Peters’ show, she failed to deliver evidence for her theory beyond an undocumented conversation she had with someone who claimed to be an intelligence officer (Peters continued to press her for evidence but she avoided his questions).
Her conspiracy theories are also finding some purchase among the right who are still – 2 years later – trying to cope with the clear electoral loss Trump endured. She is still regularly mentioned alongside others like MyPillow head Mike Lindell and conspiracy lawyer Sidney Powell [note: the author of the previous citation, though he decries Zack as an extremist in 2022, supported Zack’s conspiracy theory back in 2021]. Indeed, even in some cases, Zack’s testimony has encouraged state legislators to call for election audits even this year, potentially starting a long and expensive process that in every context has only served to reaffirm the election result we already knew.
Just in case it is not clear – DSRW does not believe that Obama and Former Italian Prime Minister Renzi had any role in the US election. This is clearly a conspiracy theory with no basis in fact, as agreed upon by other external fact-checkers, too. This hasn’t stopped people from acting on the theory, including two Americans who broke into an Italian mafia prison to intimidate a hacker hosted there.
Explicit Calls for Political Violence on January 6th – Christie Hutcherson
Christie Hutcherson is the CEO/ Founder of Women Fighting for America LLC (WFFA), an “anti-communist” organization with the primary goal of selling pocket constitutions for 14 dollars a pop and promoting vaccine and covid misinformation. The group also promotes the New World Order conspiracy theory. Huchersons’ claim to fame maybe when she spoke to thousands of people on a stage on January 5, when she is recorded saying, ”We are going to go to every state capitol and crush the head of the snake”. This, along with other actions on that day, resulted in a court order from the January 6 Select Committee to turn over all communications related to “Recruitment, Planning, Coordination, and Other Preparations for the Rallies Leading up to and Including January 6 and the Violence on January 6”. As of 25 March 2021 Hutcheson had yet to comply.
Hutcherson has also been very active on the U.S. border, and has accompanied the Veterans on Patrol (VOP), a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) designated anti-government militia group, on their unsanctioned missions. These videos often use imagery of children, filmed without their consent, to prove that there is a crisis permeated by a “globalist regime to destabilize the country”.
Arizona’s Election Fraud Impact Nationally – Rep. Mark Finchem (AZ)
As reported by MilitiaWatch, Mark Finchem is a prominent figure on the far right. He is the Arizona lead of the Coalition of Western States, known for its support for the Bundy occupation in Malheur (Finchem promoted three standoffs over email, too). Finchem called the deadly Unite the Right fascist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia a “Deep State” operation staged by Democratic leaders. In a 2014 interview, Finchem also said that he is a member of the Oath Keepers. Lastly, Finchem was a vocal supporter and public advocate of the “Stop the Steal” conspiracy theory that resulted in the far-right riot at the U.S. Capitol Building. His involvement and vocal support earned him a subpoena earlier this year. He’s now running for Secretary of State for Arizona, a position that would give him extensive control over the elections he claims were stolen.
Influencing School Policy Through Fear – Rhonda Thomas
Rhonda Thomas is the founder of Truth in Education, a non-profit based in Snellville, GA, which “advocates for the rights of parents to control the education and health of their children“. This occurs predominantly through false narratives surrounding Critical Race Theory and “transgender ideology” in public schools to galvanize parents. For example, Mrs. Thomas and her organization had a firm hand in the 2021 campaign to remove a newly hired woman of color, Cecelia Lewis, from her new position as DEI administrator with the Cherokee County School District in Georgia. The campaign led to a swarm of white individuals that descended upon a school board meeting, and, in what could be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate those in attendance, banged on the facility’s doors. As with their previous campaigns to combat the teaching of evolution as fact in Cobb County, in the end, Thomas and her ilk succeeded in restricting the utility of Ms. Lewis’s position. ProPublica reported extensively on the incident.
Notorious Fraudster turned COVID Disinformation Guru – Christopher Key
Christopher Key, best known for his role in the misinformation-rich Vaccine Police Telegram channel, pushed all sorts of strange narratives over the course of the pandemic, including the claim that he was drinking his own urine to stave off COVID-19. He has, throughout the years, involved himself in a wild number of far-right escapades and obvious scams. Sports Illustrated wrote about his running scams regarding “concussion caps”, devices meant to help heal concussions, that were really just beanies. He has been highly active on the US-Mexico border, joining Veterans on Patrol conspiracy militia leader Michael Meyer in Pima County for an extended media campaign. There, he involved himself with Meyer in what appears to be a kidnapping scheme
Tax Scheme Peddler with a hint of Antisemitism – Peymon Mottahedeh
Peymon is a long-time con artist who runs the Freedom Law School, an organization listed by the SPLC in 2021 as an Anti-Government group. The “School” is a scam that teaches tax avoidance schemes, including that tax filing and record-keeping are optional. It is not, and in fact, in November 2016, Richard Thomas Grant was sentenced to 33 months to prison for tax evasion According to the Justice Department due to his dealing with the School. On 30 March 2022, Mottahedeh was liable to the IRS for over $90,000. More troubling, it seems that underlying his erroneous tax beliefs, Mottahedeh holds a world view built on a foundation of “New World Order ” conspiracy and antisemitic tropes. For example, in a lecture titled “The Truth about Jews and Zionism“, Mottahedeh states that Jews “own the federal reserve” and “want to create a centralist one-world government run out of Jerusalem…to rule over the whole world until the messiah comes”.
Producing False Evidence of Election Conspiracy – Mark Davis
Do you remember when former President Trump claimed that they had found 35,000 votes in Georgia to support his claim of election manipulation? Mark Davis does. Davis is President of Data Productions, Inc, a direct marketing and advertising agency that provided those numbers to trump’s team. As outlined in petitions in the Trump v. Kemp, 2021 case, Davis claims to have 30 plus years of experience with elections data, but “ he fails to explain what “working with” such data means, what kind of data he claims to have “worked with” and what he did with this unidentified data”. His argument rested on the estimated numbers of voters who allegedly moved to another county in Georgia and yet voted in their former county. Upon review, however, “86% of the voters identified by Davis voted in person” and presented legal IDs to do so. It seems that Davis, now ready to capitalize on his spotlight role in trying to overturn the Georgia Election results, has turned to the more lucrative public speaking tour.
The above are merely a handful of the characters that will attend the Georgia Tech Conference Center, alongside descriptions that barely scratch the surface. Sitting back and allowing such a confluence of individuals to gather will strengthen linkages between close yet diverse segments of the conspiracy community. Larger coalitions will be built, and future actions will be planned. The topics of conversation, while baseless, are not what should be most concerning. Instead, the connections and bonds built from the event should not be understated. Meetings like this can only lead to larger schemes to defraud, greater coordination in campaigns to influence election results, and the reinforcement of the idea that calls for political violence are legitimate.
At the time of publication, The Georgia Tech Foundation has not responded to DSRW’s request for comment.