Scott Presler is an openly gay, pro-Trump influencer who shamelessly collaborates with the anti-gay Christian Right, while criss-crossing the country to organize right-wing voter registration drives, facilitate school board takeovers, and promote “ballot harvesting,” the practice of collecting and casting mail ballots on behalf of other voters.
In January this year, Presler announced that he had founded a new political action committee called Early Vote Action, which plans to target all 50 states.
Presler’s next stop is Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where he will conduct voter registration and early voting training. The Democratic Party might want to keep tabs on this workshop because Presler’s past endeavors and affiliations raise some red flags.
Presler is perhaps best known for promoting voter registration drives in Florida in 2021 and 2022 when the state flipped from majority Democratic to majority Republican for the first time in history. The flip is often attributed to Presler’s efforts.
In February 2022, however, Florida local news reported that Republican operatives had switched voters’ political affiliation from Democrat to Republican without their consent.
Employees of a GOP-affiliated organization called Florida First were caught doing the same thing in 2020. (Florida First received its financing from a pro-Trump organization called America First Works, which was previously called America First Policies).
Annette Taddeo, who served in the Florida state senate at the time, told me in 2022 that there had been similar, recent reports from multiple Florida counties and that it seemed to be a multi-year “concerted” effort across the state. (Link tweet 1; tweet 2.)
Taddeo sent a letter to the Department of Justice requesting an investigation and referred the matter to state attorney Kathy Fernandez Rundle for an investigation as well.
Neither agency got back to her before Taddeo left the state legislature in 2023.
Presler has never commented on the scandal, as far as we can tell. Instead, he has used his alleged success in Florida to expand his audience.
Presler will descend upon Bucks County Saturday to provide “early voting training,” which apparently includes encouraging Republican voters to engage in ballot harvesting. “I don’t want 2,000 mules, I want 2 million mules,” Presler announced at a similar event in Pennsylvania last month, as reported in USA Today.
Presler’s “mules” pitch seeks to capitalize on manufactured outrage over unsubstantiated claims in 2020 that Democratic operatives had engaged in widespread fraud via sprawling ballot harvesting operations.
Dinesh D’Souza, a convicted felon who previously ran an evangelical college, promoted these claims in a discredited documentary called “2,000 mules.” He used the term “mules” to refer to allegedly criminal harvesters.
Presler himself peddled unproven election-fraud claims in Pennsylvania.
In early 2020, evangelical leader Ralph Reed announced in a closed door strategy session that his organization, Faith and Freedom Coalition, intended to harvest ballots in churches:
“We’re going to be specifically going in not only white evangelical churches, but into Hispanic and Asian churches and collecting those ballots,” Reed said. (Italics added.)
Reed also deployed a massive data targeting operation in 2020.
Tellingly, Reed is also an alumnus of the Leadership Institute, which lists Presler as “volunteer faculty.”
The Leadership Institute’s founder, Morton Blackwell, has taught legions of GOP operatives that “moral outrage is the most powerful motivating force in politics.” (Link to tweet.)
Blackwell and Reed also belong to the Council for National Policy (CNP), an umbrella organization for the Christian Right and wealthy financiers. The CNP’s status as an “umbrella” group means that the leaders of many prominent Christian Right organizations are members. Here’s a link to the CNP’s 2020 directory, which was first published by investigative researcher Brent Allpress. (Link to tweet.)
Presler and prominent CNP members also assisted the 2020 “Stop the Steal” campaign, the warped brain child of convicted felon Roger Stone and convicted felon Ali Alexander, who is listed in the CNP’s 2017 directory. (Tom Fitton, referenced in the post below, is the CNP’s current president.)
The campaign tried to reverse Trump’s election loss with a combination of falsehoods, distortions, unproven claims, and physical intimidation, including having the Proud Boys gang protest outside or near lawmakers’ homes.
Last year, we detailed the origin and spread of one of the Stop the Steal movement’s most viral falsehoods involving Pennsylvania.
It was Alexander who put Presler in charge of Stop the Steal rallies in the Keystone State, along with Stone protege Jack Posobiec.
Likewise, it was Alexander who designated CNP member Ed Martin (president of the Phyllis Schlafly Eagles) as a national “Stop the Steal” co-leader. (Charlie Kirk, whose organization sent buses to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, is in the CNP too.)
It is no coincidence that Presler, Alexander, Posobiec, and Ralph Reed spoke during the same Schlafly Eagles event in 2019. The Christian Right is a well oiled machine.
“Stop the Steal” culminated in an insurrection whereby Trump supporters and violent extremist groups stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6, 2021. “So we stormed the Capitol. Took the mother f#cking place back, Blahahaha,” Proud Boys organizer Joe Biggs cackled that afternoon.
“I started a riot for the sitting president,” Alexander later boasted.
As awful as it was, Jan 6 was just one phase of a continuing, far right assault against America. The trauma of Jan. 6 was still fresh when the next phase began:
Although Presler did not specify who he meant by “we,” the ensuing public school attacks have come from the Christian Right, including:
– The Leadership Institute,
(Link to tweet.)
Like Presler, Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler works for the Leadership Institute. She’s married to Christian Ziegler, the Florida GOP chair who praised Presler’s efforts in the Sunshine State.
As the Beacon reported last year, the Leadership Institute was “the largest donor for Moms for Liberty’s 2022 national summit and the sole known $50,000 presenting sponsor, and attendees of the summit could join Leadership Institute campaign trainings…”
Moms for Liberty champions so-called “parental rights,” a slogan and rubric that originates from extremist evangelical circles. The organization thus collaborates with ParentalRights.org, which was founded by CNP Executive Committee member Michael Farris, an evangelical homeschooling proponent and attorney who successfully opposed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2009. (Link tweet 1 [@Moms4Liberty tagging @ParentalRights]; tweet 2 [vice versa].)
Farris also founded the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which uses the “parental rights” rubric to undermine Child Protective Services and dismantle mandatory reporting laws for child abuse. (Link to tweet.)
ADF is currently leading court fights against gay marriage and other LGBTQ+ rights.
It may seem paradoxical, but Presler is extremely useful to the Christian Right because he helps them obscure their unpopular agenda until they are in a position to implement it.
“We can’t be that bad if a gay man works with us, right?” Wrong.
CNP member Ed Martin, for example, posted this photo of himself with Presler in 2019.
Later that year, however, he spoke as a representative of the Schlafly Eagles during the World Congress of Families (WCF) in Verona, Italy.
The WCF is a Kremlin-linked annual event, which works to undermine LGBTQ rights and abortion rights around the world. It is a key nexus between Moscow and the worldwide Christian Right.
Under this new Russian law, “any action or the spreading of any information that is considered an attempt to promote homosexuality in public, online, or in films, books or advertising, could incur a heavy fine,” as Reuters reported. “The law expands Russia’s previous law against LGBT propaganda that had banned the ‘demonstration’ of LGBT behaviour to children.”
If this sounds similar to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law (the one championed by Moms for Liberty), it’s because it is. There’s a playbook. (Link to tweet.)
The WCF’s sponsors include CitizenGo, which recently promoted legislation in Ghana that would “impose lengthy prison sentences for LGBTQ+ people,” as reported by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. (Link to tweet.)
If you think they won’t try it here, you are wrong. CitizenGo’s Board of Directors includes Brian Brown, a U.S. evangelical leader with connections to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Link to tweet.)
Whether Presler fully appreciates the global, coordinated nature of the Christian Right and its attacks on LGBTQ+ rights is unknown.
What we do know is that he began collaborating with the Christian Right after his stint with the Virginia Republican Party (VRP) ended in scandal.
Presler, a Virginia native, reportedly lost the VRP job in April 2016 when the organization learned that Presler had posted (on Craigslist) explicit photos of himself engaged in a sexual encounter inside an office that the state party shared with the Republican National Committee.
The following year, Presler rebounded with a “dream job” (his words, not mine) at ACT for America (ACT), an anti-Muslim nonprofit that has partnered with the nonprofit Turning Point USA to get liberal college professors fired. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated ACT as a hate group. (Link to tweet.)
Presler planned one of these events with neo-Nazi Billy Roper, who has said that “every nonwhite on the planet has to become extinct.” (ACT disavowed Roper after the Southern Poverty Law Center exposed the group’s involvement with him.)
Presler has also promoted evangelical Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) who, in 2020, criticized the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that bans LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace, a ruling that was supported not only by the court’s liberal justices, but also by two conservative justices, John Roberts and Neil Gorsuch. (Link tweet 1; tweet 2.)
Hawley’s wife, Erin, is an attorney with ADF, Michael Farris’s anti-LGBTQ+ legal advocacy group.
Most recently, Presler campaigned for Dan Kelly, the GOP’s Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate who criticized gay marriage in his 2016 Wisconsin Supreme Court application. Kelly was appointed to the bench in 2016 by CNP member Scott Walker. After losing his bid for a 10-year term in 2020, Kelly ran again this year when a vacancy opened up. (Link to tweet.)
Presler’s support of Kelly—who lost, by the way—provided plausible deniability for Kelly’s anti-LGBTQ+ ideology. That support included an appearance on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast. (Link to tweet.)
Despite inviting Presler on his show, Bannon has long supported an ultraconservative, radical traditional (“rad trad”) movement within the Catholic Church that is virulently anti-LGBTQ+. The movement includes MAGA (pro-Trump) Archbishop Carlos Maria Vigano who was forced to resign his position as the Vatican’s U.S. envoy after tricking Pope Francis into meeting with Kim Davis, the infamous Kentucky clerk who broke the law by refusing to sign same-sex marriage licenses in 2016.
Vigano, who loathes Pope Francis, has said that the Catholic Church’s pedophilia problem is due to the “scourge of homosexuality.”
He’s also a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who strategically rebranded himself as the global champion of the Christian Right in 2014, a move that has allowed the Kremlin to infiltrate the west.
Trump himself followed Putin’s lead by giving the Christian Right unprecedented power—both on the bench and in his cabinet—in exchange for unwavering loyalty.
According to Ralph Reed, there were “more Christians serving in the Trump administration ‘than all previous presidents combined.’”
It was a mutually beneficial, transactional relationship. Vigano and other Christian extremist leaders thus spoke in support of Trump during the pre-Jan. 6 Jericho March in Washington, D.C. Bannon also interviewed Vigano on Jan. 1, 2021.
As a fellow extremism researcher (who wishes to remain anonymous) recently observed, “It’s always done like this — whether getting women to champion other women’s oppression or Jews who supported Hitler — it’s absolutely essential to get a token member of the targeted group to promote the extremist agenda.”
What’s even more tragic, she added, is that “people keep buying this garbage ruse.”
Wisconsin, thank goodness, didn’t fall for it. But I’d still keep an eye on Presler’s upcoming workshops.