Backgrounder: Women for America First

Backgrounder: Women for America First

By Julia Peck, True North Research

Women for America First (WFAF) is a dark-money 501(c)(4) registered in 2019 and led by the right-wing mother-daughter duo Amy and Kylie Kremer. Its focus is on supporting Donald Trump, his extreme agenda, and his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

WFAF is best known for organizing the “Save America” rally at the Ellipse on January 6th at which President Trump gave a speech urging the crowd to march to the Capitol where Vice President Mike Pence was presiding over the counting of the electoral votes. What followed was the violent insurrection. Amy and Kylie Kremer were subsequently subpoenaed by the House Select Committee investigating January 6th to give sworn testimony about what happened at the Capitol and the dark money that funded their efforts that day. They have denied any wrongdoing.

WFAF Leadership

  • Amy Kremer: President, director
  • Kylie Kremer: Treasurer, director
  • Jennifer Hulsey: Director
  • Dan Backer: Registered agent (2019-January 2021)
  • Cogency Global: Registered agent (January 2021-present, as of Dec. 21, 2021)

WFAF was registered in Virginia in February 2019.

Amy Kremer

WFAF’s co-founder and president, Amy Kremer, is a former Delta flight attendant who became deeply involved in the Tea Party, a right-wing populist faction whose infrastructure was funded by Charles and David Koch through their Americans for Prosperity and other Koch-funded groups, as documented by Jane Mayer. The Tea Party operated as a rebrand for right-wing activists of the Republican Party in the aftermath of major financial and international failures under George W. Bush. The Tea Party was launched shortly after Barack Obama was elected president, the first Black person to win the nation’s highest office. The Tea Party sought to blame the global economic crisis that arose under Bush and due to Koch-backed banking deregulation on the newly elected Democrat, holding rallies against the government on tax day, less than three months after Obama was sworn into office.

Kremer began a political blog in which she advanced the birther conspiracy about President Obama, a demonstrably false claim later amplified by Donald Trump. In 2009, she co-founded the 501(c)(4) group called “Tea Party Patriots”. Just a year later, Kremer was ousted in a dramatic split: the Tea Party Patriots eventually filed a lawsuit and temporary restraining order against her for allegedly taking possession of the group’s email database and website passwords as she left. Kremer subsequently joined a group called “Tea Party Express,” a rival Tea Party faction that came under fire for spending only a fraction of the funds it raised on political campaigns, directing the vast majority to political consulting firms tied to the group. (The Koch network secretly supported both Tea Party groups in the 2012 election.)

In 2016, Kremer became chair of TrumPAC, a political action committee later forced to change its name to Great America PAC because it is unlawful for a PAC to share the same name as an electoral candidate unless coordinating with that candidate. After another dramatic resignation from Great America PAC just after Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, Kremer co-founded the non-profit group called “Women for Trump” and the accompanying PAC “Women Vote Trump” with Kathryn Serkes and Ann Stone (the ex-wife of the notorious Trump confederate and Richard Nixon apologist Roger Stone). Kremer’s Super PAC announced plans to raise $30 million to aid Trump’s electoral ambitions. It too was subsequently required to change its name for including the name of a candidate. The renamed “Women Vote Smart” PAC raised only $26,813 and by March 2017 was nearly $20,000 in debt.

In 2017, Amy Kremer ran for Congress in a special election for Georgia’s 6th District to replace GOP Rep. Tom Price, who had become Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services before resigning in disgrace after misusing public funds. Kremer’s campaign drew national attention when it launched a raffle to award an AR-15, a CQB (close quarter battle) 30-caliber  semi-automatic rifle to a donor to the campaign. Ultimately, she raised only $19,852 — $15,000 of which was from her own money. In the election, Kremer received only 351 votes (0.18% of the total) and did not advance to the runoff.

In 2019, Kremer and her daughter, Kylie, founded Women for America First as a 501(c)(4). 

Kylie Kremer

Kylie Kremer is listed on official records as treasurer of Women for America First, but in media appearances and on her personal Twitter account she refers to herself as Executive Director. She has taken credit for creating the viral pro-Trump “STOP THE STEAL” Facebook group just after the November 2020 presidential election. The group grew to 365,000 people in 24 hours and then was shut down by Facebook for violating their Terms of Service by spreading harmful misinformation and inciting violence. In screenshots documented by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, group members posted that it was “time to clean the guns and hit the streets” and a group administrator called on military veterans to join a “Fire Mission” at vote counts in battleground states.

Kylie’s behavior during WFAF’s trip to Washington, D.C. for the January 6th rally gained media attention when leaked text messages obtained by the Rolling Stone months later revealed that Amy Kremer had chastised her daughter in group chats for her heavy drinking. A rally organizer told Rolling Stone that Kylie was “sh*tfaced” on the night of the insurrection in WFAF’s Willard Hotel suite, where the group retreated to after Trump left the stage of its event and where they reportedly celebrated with champagne as they watched the riot unfold on television.

Before co-founding Women for America First, Kylie was an intern for Tea Party Express when her mother chaired the group.It has been reported that she helped with social media for the group’s signature bus tours. Kylie, who was born in 1990, attended two universities, but it is not clear if she graduated from either Georgia Southern University or the University of Alabama or held other jobs aside from working for her mother.

Jennifer Hulsey

The third director of WFAF, Jennifer Hulsey, is a former county commissioner for Polk County, Georgia, who twice ran and lost as a candidate for the Georgia House of Representatives as a Republican. Unlike Amy and Kylie Kremer, she has no listed role other than director and tends to stay out of the media spotlight. 

Registered agents

WFAF’s original registered agent was Dan Backer, an attorney who also represents pro-Trump PACs Great America PAC (which Amy Kremer co-founded) and the Committee to Defend the President (formerly known as the Stop Hillary PAC). Backer “has pioneered a model that uses hyperpartisan news sites to drive donations, petition sign-ups, and publicity for his PACs,” according to Buzzfeed. 

WFAF removed Backer as their agent shortly after the January 6th insurrection and replaced him with Cogency, a registered agent service.

WFAF History

WFAF’s name is a reference to Trump’s use of the “America First” slogan during his 2016 presidential campaign. He later formalized “America First” as the official foreign policy doctrine of his administration. Before that, the slogan was widely known for being advanced by American Nazis who opposed the U.S. entry against Germany into WWII, alongside others on  the America First Committee, a pressure group tied to wealthy businessmen with antisemitic and fascist sympathies. The term was first deployed by the racist President Woodrow Wilson, who initially avoided WWI before initiating a contentious draft to secure troops to fight abroad.  

WFAF’s mission statement declares support of “the America First agenda” its primary function, saying that it was founded to oppose “liberal feminists and their cohorts [spending] billions to defeat conservative principles and values.” Its second stated priority is to “elect new leaders and drain the swamp,” a phrase borrowed from Trump, and declaring that it will support candidates who will “fight the establishment… and Make America Great Again,” referring to  Trump’s most widely marketed campaign slogan. The third and final prong of the mission statement explains the group’s focus on women, calling itself a “21st century suffrage movement” for pro-Trump women who have “never had a voice in politics.” As a 501(c)(4) non-profit, WFAF may engage in political activity but may not have politics as its primary function.

Created in February 2019, WFAF’s first major public demonstration was the October 2019 “March for Trump” against his first impeachment. This was a rally on the west lawn of the Capitol attended by a few hundred protesters. Speakers included Jack Posobiec, the online right-wing personality who helped spread the slanderous Pizzagate conspiracy and who is known for posting white supremacist and anti-semitic symbols and talking points.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, WFAF made headlines by organizing dozens of “Reopen America” protests against lockdowns and other pandemic containment measures, some in coronavirus hotspots like New York City and Los Angeles. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 800,000 Americans have died, in addition to millions worldwide, from this deadly and highly contagious virus. WFAF has never apologized for how its efforts to attack public health guidance helped spread the disease or impede mitigation. The Reopen America rallies at state capitols were notorious for including numerous attendees openly carrying semi-automatic assault weapons, claiming that temporary protections to stop the spread of the disease amounted to tyranny, and calling Democratic leaders like Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer tyrants. Many of the people involved in organizing these rallies and related events hailed from the Tea Party efforts a decade earlier, like Kremer.

Since the November 2020 U.S. presidential election, Women for America First has focused on framing the election as fraudulent and pressuring authorities to overturn the results in favor of Trump. These efforts, including the group’s deep involvement in the events leading up to the January 6th insurrection, are detailed below.

Financials & Ties to Dark Money

As a 501(c)(4) group, WFAF is not required by law to disclose its major donors to the public, but financial records show that WFAF has received funds from million-dollar groups and millionaires, not just  “grassroots” donations. For example, the group received funding from pro-Trump dark money group America First Policies, which gave $25,000 to WFAF in 2019, according to CNBC and its own IRS filings

Notably, Julie Jenkins Fancelli, an heir to the Publix grocery store fortune and prominent Trump donor, gave $300,000 to WFAF to support the January 6th rally at Ellipse, covering the majority of the rally’s $500,000 price tag. Publix issued a statement to distance itself from the financial dealings of the heir to the fortune of the man who founded the company.

Despite these glimpses of limited information, most of the funders of WFAF’s operations since early 2009 are secret and it remains a dark money group.

WFAF’s 501(c)(4) status also allows it to participate in advocacy around elections so long as it is not the group’s primary function — but WFAF’s causes appear to be predominantly partisan. 

For example, in the summer of 2021 the group announced a campaign to recall Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who refused Trump’s demand that he “find” votes in Georgia that would have overturned Biden’s legitimate victory in the state. In a July 2021 email newsletter about the campaign, WFAF wrote that their objective was to “make our elected officials…do what we want… [W]e use the power we have in successfully recalling the worst of the worst, it’s likely that others will straighten up and fly right. If they don’t we will recall them too.” (Their application to recall Raffensperger was rejected in November 2021.)

WFAF also transferred $19K to Amy Kremer’s pro-Trump super PAC Women Vote Smart, which spent $11K supporting the primary campaign of Rep. Greg Murphy, the North Carolina Congressman who later voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The description accompanying the $19K contribution to Women Vote Smart explains that it was designated to pay for travel expenses for “angel families,” a right-wing phrase used to describe families of murder victims of an undocumented immigrant (more than 90% of murders in the U.S. are committed by American citizens). The WFAF travel money supported attendance at a “charitable event,” which was likely the “Secure the Border” press conference co-sponsored by WFAF that took place a week after the donation. 

Notably, WFAF co-founder Amy Kremer has a documented history of financial mismanagement. As treasurer of the Women Vote Smart PAC with Ann Stone and Kathryn Serkes, Kremer has been repeatedly fined by the FEC for failing to file their required documents. The delinquent fines now add up to $20,000. During her 2017 congressional campaign in Georgia, Kremer reportedly failed to pay her campaign manager and at least six other staff members after only raising $2,500, leading her entire campaign staff to resign.

News and Controversies

Spreading Misinformation about the 2020 Presidential Election

The day after the November 2020 election, WFAF created the “Stop The Steal” Facebook group that grew virally to over 365,000 people in just 22 hours. Facebook deleted the group for violating their Terms of Service by spreading harmful misinformation and inciting violence.

Long past the 2020 election, WFAF has continued to spread “the Big Lie” that Trump actually won the presidency and has directed their efforts at the swing states where Joe Biden won. In summer 2021, the group held a series of “election integrity town halls” across Georgia, advertising that they would “get to the bottom of what really happened on November 3rd” (with the foregone conclusion that, as the t-shirts they sell proclaim, “Trump won”). Speakers at the town halls included Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia congresswoman who has embraced QAnon conspiracy theories.

It has also attempted to pressure officials to conduct audits of the 2020 ballots in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, and Wisconsin, holding “Audit the Vote” rallies in Georgia and Pennsylvania to “demand forensic audits in all 5 key states.”

Activities toward January 6th

Leading up to the violent insurrection on January 6th, WFAF coordinated a 20+ city bus tour that, according to a report by BuzzFeed, “[spread] incendiary propaganda, lies, and hate across an American tinderbox” before landing in Washington, D.C., for the January 6th “March to Save America” rally (also called the “March for Trump”), which WFAF also organized. 

Text messages obtained by Rolling Stone show close coordination between WFAF and the Trump campaign during the rally’s planning. Kylie Kremer wrote in a WFAF group chat that they would defer to Trump’s team for decisions such as when to promote the rally on social media and how to respond to media requests. “We are following POTUS’ lead,” she messaged.

Much of the communication between WFAF and Trump’s close circle appears to have occurred using burner phones — cheap, prepaid phones that are hard to trace because users don’t have an account. A week before the rally, Kylie Kremer reportedly insisted that staff pay in cash for three burner phones for “high-level” communications, which the younger Kremer used to speak to Eric Trump, Lara Trump, and Mark Meadows.

At the Save America rally on January 6th, President Donald Trump took the podium and urged the audience to march down to the Capitol where Vice President Mike Pence was presiding over the counting of the electoral votes, a count and certification that Trump repeatedly try to stop through pressuring Pence, the Justice Department, Members of Congress, Secretaries of State, and other officials. 

Twenty minutes after Trump’s speech at the WFAF rally concluded, protesters forced back police barricades at the Capitol and within an hour forcibly entered the building, launching the infamous and bloody January 6th insurrection. 

As the riot intensified after the conclusion of the Save America rally, WFAF organizers celebrated in the presidential suite at the Willard Hotel. In Rolling Stone’s leaked text messages, Amy Kremer tells the group at 5:30pm — four hours into the siege, shortly after Maryland and Virginia dispatched National Guard troops to Washington, after the Pentagon repeatedly refused to allow the Guard to help protect Congress  — that she had ordered a cheese and charcuterie board for dinner. Three sources revealed that the group drank champagne, some becoming intoxicated, as they watched the insurrection unfold on television.

Shortly after the rally devolved into a violent attack on the Capitol, the March to Save America website was taken down, but an archived page preserves a list of nine coalition partners led by Women for America First. This list includes a dark money arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association, as detailed by Documented.

In September 2021, the House select committee investigating the January 6th riot subpoenaed WFAF co-founders Amy and Kylie Kremer to give sworn testimony about the links between their rally and the subsequent attack on the Capitol. 

They have denied any wrongdoing, and at the time of writing have not yet given their testimonies.

WFAF organizer Dustin Stockton has attempted to shift the blame for the Capitol riot to a separate “Stop the Steal” group led by Ali Alexander, telling ProPublica that WFAF members expressed concern that Alexander could get dangerous. Alexander, in turn, has told the House select committee in his own deposition that WFAF leaders removed instructions from the event program which would have told attendees exactly where to go and what to do after the rally concluded, and that they did nothing to de-escalate the Capitol attack.

The WFAF website dedicates a page under their “Past Events” to the “‘Save America Rally – January 6, 2021” which includes photos of the speakers and rally audience at the Ellipse, but no text or acknowledgement of the subsequent riot.

Post-January 6th Denialism

In the immediate aftermath of the January 6th insurrection, Amy Kremer issued a statement condemning the violence, calling what happened when hundreds of people invaded the Capitol “the misdeed of a handful of people.” On the morning of January 7th, when other WFAF organizers suggested via group text that they should hold a press conference to further denounce the insurrection, Kremer refused. She argued that her 162-word statement was sufficient and that “nothing god [sic] will come from us talking to CBS or any other mainstream media outlet.”

Since those initial statements, leaders of WFAF have turned to advancing claims that the insurrection was an inside job orchestrated by federal agencies. On her personal Twitter, Amy Kremer has tweeted that she advises against another pro-Trump march on Washington because “if we go back to DC, they’ll infiltrate us again. Don’t take the bait.”

In October 2021, Kremer also retweeted a piece in Revolver that alleges that someone named Ray Epps, supposedly a federal agent or someone backed by the federal government, is the real leader of the January 6th insurrection. Kremer has also heavily promoted Tucker Carlson’s new series on FOX about the January 6 insurrection, dubbed “Patriot Purge.” Carlson has claimed: “We’re gonna get to the bottom of what really happened on January 6th and uncover some propaganda about that day. We think we found the truth.” In her tweet about Carlson’s trailer, Kremer told her followers: “Time for watch parties & some TRUTH!” Carlson’s efforts to rewrite the history of January 6th and whitewash the perpetrators has led to resignations at FOX

November 2021 “Audit the Vote” Rally 

On November 3rd 2021, WFAF held an “Audit the Vote” rally outside the Georgia state capitol in Atlanta at which a speaker declared that officials who refuse to overturn the 2020 election results should “maybe die by firing squad.” 

The Audit the Vote rally was planned to coincide with a special session inside the Capitol on redistricting (drawing the maps for legislative districts following the census every ten years). WFAF wanted the legislature and GOP Governor Brian Kemp to require a new audit of the Georgia results of the 2020 presidential election. Amy Kremer was the event’s emcee for a long lineup of right-wing speakers, including a GOP candidate for governor named Kandiss Taylor.

Upon taking to the podium, Taylor pointed to the state capitol building and prescribed violence as the supposedly constitutionally prescribed remedy for public officials who fail to overturn the 2020 election results: 

“We have weak people sitting over here [points to the Capitol] that are scared, won’t do an audit, won’t decertify, and need to be in prison [crowd cheers]. There are three steps to fix 2020: it’s an audit, it’s a decertification, and it’s arrest. We’re scared to say arrest, because then they won’t do the audit, but it’s our government. If you do treason against the Constitution, against the people of our country, you go to jail. That’s what you do. You don’t just lose your seat [an audience member yells ‘Shoot ’em!’]. You don’t just get primaried. You go to jail. Or maybe you die by a firing squad [audience cheers very loudly], I don’t know, I didn’t write this. The Founding Fathers wrote it.”

Taylor’s statements were covered by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, which quoted her verbatim. Taylor subsequently issued a standard denial by claiming her statements were taken out of context. (For the full context, the video of almost the entire rally was uploaded to Facebook.) Taylor made no attempt to apologize for or correct her false statements, which grossly misconstrue the constitutional approach to treason. Article III, Section 3 grants Congress the power to determine the punishment for convicted traitors, and Congress has not handed down the death penalty for treason since the trials surrounding President Lincoln’s assassination. No civilian convicted of a federal crime has faced a firing squad in more than a century.

Other speakers at the Audit the Vote rally included state Rep. Philip Singleton, who called for another audit of the presidential election results in Georgia. (He was elected on those 2020 ballots, but apparently considers his own election to be legitimate.) He also told attendees to urge their Republican representatives to be “constitutional conservatives.” In a now-deleted post on Facebook, Singleton compared President Joe Biden’s policies to Hitler’s consolidation of power in post-war Germany.

Salleigh Grubbs, chair of the Republican Party for Cobbs County, claimed in her rally speech that she was the woman who “got in her car at Jim Miller Park and chased a shredding truck,” referring to the debunked conspiracy theory in Cobbs County that trucks were destroying ballots on Election Day. 

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