Trump-backed charity Border911 may be ‘breaking the law’ with border-focused push to influence election, some experts say

Written by on March 22, 2024

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(NEW YORK) — Last September, as former President Donald Trump was mounting his reelection bid, he posted a “big announcement” to his Truth Social media platform: “Introducing Border911,” he declared, promoting a tax-exempt charity led by his former Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief, Tom Homan.

“Join us in making it HUGE!” Trump urged his more than six million followers.

The mission of Homan’s charity, Border911, is to “educate” swing voters about the threats that have allegedly streamed across the Southwest border under President Joe Biden’s watch, so those voters “make the right decision” in November’s election, according to public statements from Homan, a longtime Biden critic whom Trump has vowed to put in charge of an aggressive crackdown on illegal immigration if reelected.

Border911 is planning to embark on a 12-stop tour of battleground states to “convince” independent and Democratic voters that border security should be their “number one” factor on Election Day, Homan said on a podcast two weeks ago.

“And that’s what we need. Trump’s going to win,” he added.

The charity, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, pitches itself as “a group of the most distinguished border security experts,” including Border Patrol veterans Mark Morgan and Rodney Scott, and Fox News contributor Sara Carter. It has been promoted across conservative media, and some high-profile Republicans in Congress, including the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., have publicly offered their support.

But an examination of Border911 by ABC News has revealed extensive ties to prominent conspiracy theorists who pushed false claims about the 2020 presidential election, and has raised questions over whether Border911 is supporting Trump’s candidacy in a way that amounts to illegal intervention in a political campaign.

Despite a federal prohibition on 501(c)(3) organizations favoring or opposing candidates for public office, Border911 appears to have used its clout as a tax-exempt charity to push for Trump’s reelection, the experts said.

That’s ironic coming from a group “advocating for strict enforcement of the U.S. immigration laws,” said Lloyd Mayer, a law professor at Notre Dame University who specializes in nonprofit organizations.

“You’re big ‘law and order,’ but you’re [potentially] breaking the law yourself,” Mayer said.

In response to an inquiry from ABC News, Homan said any problematic messaging was “unintentional,” and that “We are making changes quickly to ensure we stay in compliance with [federal] rules.”

He referred any other questions to an attorney working with Border911, Steve Lentz, who told ABC News that Homan has never run a charity before and is still “learning how things work in this space.”

‘What they mean is Trump’

In two weeks, on April 4, Border911 is holding its first “major fundraiser” at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, with appearances by Trump himself, some of his top advisers, and a slew of other “Trumpers,” as Homan called them. Tickets are tax-deductible, ranging in price from $1,200 to $5,000 each.

Lentz, Border911’s general counsel, told ABC News that Border911 sent an email to the current White House inviting Biden as well, but the invitation wasn’t accepted.

“Let’s celebrate with [Trump] and help Border911,” Homan said on a recent podcast.

According to Mayer, none of that would be problematic if it all weren’t linked to efforts to influence the presidential election — especially now that a Trump-Biden rematch has been secured.

Federal laws “absolutely prohibit” 501(c)(3) organizations from publicly expressing any support for or opposition to any candidate for public office — and voter education efforts “with evidence of bias” against one candidate or in favor of another clearly violate that prohibition, IRS guidelines say.

As Homan has described it, Border911 is heavily relying on the Mar-a-Lago fundraiser to fund the charity’s nationwide tour of battleground states, which he said will “educate” people to “vote for border security” on Election Day.

Lentz insisted such rhetoric is just “presenting a position” and “not saying, ‘So therefore go vote for this guy.'”

But according to Mayer, Homan’s own public comments and Border911’s website have made clear what the Border911 team means when they say “vote for border security.”

“What they mean is Trump,” Mayer said. “All you have to do is look at [their] materials.”

Over the past several months, the top of Border911’s website has prominently featured a Border911-branded video with a clip of Homan saying, “No one did more to secure this country than Donald Trump; I’m a Trump guy.”

The video was removed this week, after ABC News asked Homan about Border911’s activities. It was replaced with a flyer announcing Trump’s confirmed attendance at the Mar-a-Lago event.

In Border911-branded videos on the website — sprinkled among dire and lengthy warnings about threats crossing the border — members of the Border911 team have blasted Biden’s record as “disgusting,” “insulting,” and “illegal,” while praising Trump’s record.

“I’m hoping to God in January 2025, we’re going to have somebody back in the White House that’s going to let [Border Patrol agents] do their job,” Homan says in one video, which was removed Thursday from the website.

“We all wake up every day pissed off at what this administration has done to the security of the United States,” Homan says in another Border911-branded video still on the website.

Until this week, when ABC News began asking questions, the website’s online “shop” sold a T-shirt emblazoned with the Border911 logo and one of Homan’s mottos: “Trump comes back. I come back. We fix this [expletive]!”

The T-shirt alone was “across the line,” but everything else contributes to even more unlawful “political campaign intervention without a doubt,” Mayer said.

Dan Kurtz, a partner with the New York-based law firm Pryor Cashman who represents nonprofit organizations, agreed that Border911 has been “unequivocally” violating the law, saying charities shouldn’t “intervene in a campaign with tax-free money.”

“It’s not one of these things where you can do only a little [intervening],” Kurtz said. “You can’t do any.”

Mayer said the IRS is usually hesitant to take enforcement action in such politically-sensitive cases, but he wouldn’t rule it out, especially once the election is over, and he said understanding what Border911 is doing still matters: Defying a law enacted by Congress can undermine “the rule of law,” and potential donors might want to know about it, he said.

“I wish they would have done some things differently,” Lentz conceded to ABC News. “I would rather there be no reference to a candidate, to any elections, anything like that.”

Lentz said his staff “will be scrubbing everything in the days to come to make sure that there’s nothing that even inadvertently looks like an endorsement of any candidate.”


There is no dispute that — as an entire page on Border911’s website illustrates — key border-related numbers have surged to record levels since Biden took office, with more than 7.5 million migrant encounters along the Southwest border, nearly two million more border-crossers reportedly detected but never captured, and at least 340 migrants caught with names matching known or suspected terrorists on a government watchlist. Americans, meanwhile, are dying from fentanyl overdoses at unprecedented rates.

Echoing Trump, Homan has called Biden and his administration “treasonous,” accusing them of deliberately letting violent criminals, human traffickers, terrorists and fentanyl flood into the United States for political gain.

But Biden administration officials reject such rhetoric, insisting that, with limited resources, they’re focusing on the border-crossers they believe pose the greatest threat to Americans.

Government statistics show that only a tiny fraction — less than 2 percent — of those who reached U.S. borders in the past three years had any kind of criminal record, and the vast majority of them involved nonviolent crimes, such as driving under the influence or previously entering the country illegally.

Administration officials note that the U.S. intelligence community has seen no credible evidence suggesting foreign terrorist organizations want to send operatives into the United States through Mexico, and that the government watchlist reportedly sometimes flags people who only have indirect or family connections to terrorism.

Officials also insist that 90 percent of the fentanyl coming into the country is not being smuggled across an unmanned border — it’s coming through ports of entry hidden in cars or trucks.

‘People trust charities more’

Homan spent more than three decades in law enforcement, and Lentz described him as “passionate” about border-related issues. Homan is known to choke up in public when speaking about victims of human traffickers or drug smugglers that he’s come across.

As Homan tells it, Border911 is a charity he launched last year because he had grown so concerned about the growing threats.

“I woke up one morning and I decided, ‘How are we going to take this government back? How can we get the right guy in the White House?'” he said on a podcast two weeks ago when discussing the start of Border911. “I took my own money … I built the program, built the website.”

But there’s more to Border911’s story.

Border911 was borne out of the America Project, the self-proclaimed “America First organization” that helped spread misinformation about the 2020 presidential election and still raises funds to support what it calls the “political hostages” arrested after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Founded by two conspiracy theorists — former CEO Patrick Byrne and Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn — the America Project launched its own “Border911” tour in 2022, featuring Homan and other “experts” warning friendly audiences about what it called the “invasion at our Southern border.”

Then last year, with Homan looking to be part of something singularly-focused on border security, the America Project “graciously” gave Homan “the intellectual property rights to Border911,” according to Lentz.

Homan filed applications with the U.S. government to trademark Border911’s logo and obtain IRS recognition as a 501(c)(3) charity. He also began building a new website for Border911.

Mayer said organizations often seek 501(c)(3) status because tax-deductible donations make it easier to raise money, and because it offers “a little more credibility.”

“People trust charities more,” he said.

Lentz said Homan hasn’t mentioned the America Project when discussing the start of Border911 because his time there was a “brief” moment in his “whole history” of advocating for tougher border security.

Border911 still maintains what Lentz called a “very collegial relationship” with the America Project, which recently issued a press release promoting the Mar-a-Lago fundraiser and saying it is “proud to stand with Border911.”

Border 911 also maintains relationships with other known election deniers, whose false claims of a stolen presidency are regularly amplified by Trump’s reelection campaign and many of its supporters.

Mark Finchem, who two years ago unsuccessfully tried to become Arizona’s secretary of state with claims of a stolen 2020 election, said in a recent interview that he’s helping Homan with Border911, though he didn’t offer details. And Ben Bergquam, a right-wing media personality who wears T-shirts calling himself “Ultra Extreme MAGA” and declaring “Trump Won,” is also “part of our team unofficially,” an official Border911 “team” member said in December.

According to the Border911 website, the charity has eight “partners,” including the company MyPillow, whose CEO, Mike Lindell, is facing a $1.3 billion lawsuit for accusing Dominion Voting machines of helping Biden steal the 2020 election. Lindell has denied wrongdoing.

“Mike Lindell and the Border911 team are people of action. Support us both,” said a MyPillow ad posted to Border911’s Facebook page last November.

Another Border911 “partner” is the America First Warehouse, a so-called “patriotic” event venue and TV production studio that claims “Trump won handily” in 2020 and that America is “under assault from the leftist Marxists who seek to impose a totalitarian, new-world order.”

Lentz said neither Homan nor Border911 is “interested in that discussion” of a stolen election.

Asked why Border911 is affiliated with so many who are, Lentz said the charity is just “trying to invite the biggest group that they can.”

‘There will be a (c)(4)’

There is another type of tax-exempt charity — a 501(c)(4) organization — that can intervene in elections and even lobby members of Congress, but donations to 501(c)(4) organizations are not tax-deductible.

Lentz said he and Homan are in the process of getting a separate entity registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(4) organization, so the Border911 team can use it to participate in those political activities.

“There will be a (c)(4) eventually,” he said.

In the meantime, Lentz said he is going to focus on ensuring the 501(c)(3), officially called the Border911 Foundation, is only used for education.

“They understand now that they can’t endorse a candidate either overtly or covertly,” Lentz told ABC News.

Anything improper that may have happened “is inadvertent, it’s not intentional. And Tom is very committed to cleaning it up,” Lentz said. “As a former law enforcement officer, he wants to follow the [law].”

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