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Far-right conspiracist funds recounts, including for progressive activist

After the $50,560 recount cost was more than the Reno City Council Ward 1 hopeful could afford, election-denier Robert Beadles paid the bill.
Carly Sauvageau
Carly Sauvageau
Election 2024Local GovernmentNorthern Nevada

With only 15 votes separating her from the victor in a Reno City Council race, Lily Baran filed for a recount on Tuesday. 

The progressive activist had finished second behind Frank Perez, the former chair of the Washoe County Library board, in the Ward 1 race. The winner of the primary will face incumbent Kathleen Taylor.

On Wednesday, KRNV's Ben Margiott broke the news that the recount was paid for by an unlikely benefactor — far-right activist Robert Beadles. The $50,560 payment from the prominent Republican donor who has quoted racist and antisemitic materials dismayed some of Baran’s supporters and raised questions about whether it constituted an illegal campaign contribution. 

Baran said Candy Green, a local political consultant for officials such as Washoe Commissioner Mike Clark, reached out to her with Beadles’ offer, which Baran accepted. A source close to the issue shared that Baran had posted on a private Instagram story on June 21 asking for people’s opinions on whether she should accept the money or not.

Beadles also wrote recount checks for Washoe County Commission District 4 hopeful Mark Lawson, who lost by 18.4 percentage points against Clara Andriola in the Republican primary, and Paul White, who was hoping to run against Perry Rosenstein for the Washoe County School Board District G trustee but came up almost 6 percentage points short. The three recounts Beadles paid for total more than $150,000.

Baran said the closeness of the vote — which put her 0.43 percentage points behind Perez — made it a “very reasonable” decision to seek a recount and the $50,560 cost forced her to accept Beadles’ offer after she had only been able to raise $350.

“This does not, by any means, mean that I am consigned to his hateful agenda or conspiracy theories or anything like that,” Baran said, adding she was not questioning the integrity of the election.

Beadles is a prominent Republican donor who has quoted a controversial piece by conservative Black columnist Walter Williams who said there is little evidence showing slavery and racial discrimination’s legacy had negative effects on Black communities. He has also quoted the Protocols of Zion, a piece of long-debunked antisemitic propaganda stating that Jews are plotting to take over the world, and funded mailers depicting Reno City Councilman Devon Reese, who is part of the LGBTQ+ community, as a drag queen.

“In addition to this I would like to see all ballots counted as not all votes [mail ballots] were cured and many people have told me they were marked late when they were sent on time which is concerning,” Baran wrote on the Instagram post. “Nothing wrong with due diligence.”

Baran said Beadles was paying a bill to the city and it was not a campaign contribution, which would exceed the $5,000 limit. She also said she had contacted lawyers who said the payment was legal.

According to state law, a candidate needs to file and pay for a recount. Though legal experts stated on X it could be counted as an in-kind contribution, $50,000 is still well above the legal limit permitted for campaign contributions.

“I have done everything above the board this entire time. I wouldn't stop now,” Baran said.

However others, including former Reno Councilman Paul McKenzie, claim the $150,000 is an in-kind contribution and illegal. 

McKenzie sent a letter to the Nevada Secretary of State Office on Friday morning asking for an investigation into the matter and for “enforcement actions” against Baran, Lawson and White for accepting “illegal contributions.”

Additionally, he called for action against Beadles, “who appears now to be a serial violator of the law regarding elections.”

Baran, Lawson and White filed lawsuits with the Nevada Supreme Court for hand recounts and restraining orders with the goal of prohibiting Washoe County officials from being those conducting the recount. Beadles is funding all of these. 

“You have to, because [otherwise] then they just do a machine count,” Baran said. “I would like them to look into the ballots at the Cares Campus. I would like to look at the ballots that were said to be returning late, but they weren't late.”

The Washoe County Registrar of Voters office said it is “commencing the recount in the way established by” state law.

Beadles seemed to indicate he believed darker motives were involved. 

“This is not a Republican, Democrat, or Non-Partisan issue; this is an issue for all. That’s why they continue to try to divide us with their libel and slander of anyone who dares question their mile-long list of issues,” Beadles wrote on his blog, Operation Sunlight.

The Sierra Club Toiyabe Chapter said while the group still supports Baran, it does not condone her decision to accept funds from Beadles.

“In many other states, losing by 15 votes would be sufficient to trigger an automatic recount, paid for by the county. … We support Lily’s decision to ensure all voters in Ward 1 had their voices properly represented, but the Toiyabe Chapter unequivocally denounces everything Robert Beadles stands for — baseless election fraud claims, racism, antisemitism, and conspiracy theories,” the Sierra Club Toiyabe Chapter said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.

According to KRNV the recount is scheduled for Sunday.

Correction: The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada has not posted on social media about this race. Also, the Sierra Club quote was incorrectly attributed to the PAC.


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