Thursday, March 31, 2022
The FEC sent a letter to conspiracy theorist Ron Watkins’ campaign this week asking for explanations after his campaign filed an amended campaign finance report that showed he initially failed to report nearly $21,000 — about 40% of what he says he has raised.
“Failure to adequately respond by the response date noted above could result in an audit or enforcement action,” the FEC wrote to Watkins, who also serves as the treasurer of his campaign. He has until Saturday to respond. The FEC also noted that Watkins’ amended disclosure also does not fully disclose the names, addresses and information of some prominent donors, details that are required by federal election law.
Several entries for people who donated amounts in the thousands of dollars have “info requested” listed under their occupation, which the FEC said was “not considered acceptable.”
“You must provide the missing information, or if you are unable to do so, you must demonstrate that ‘best efforts’ have been used to obtain the information,” the letter says.
In Watkins’ original campaign finance report filed at the end of last year, the man who is widely believed to have been behind QAnon’s master account reported having received $30,589. In the amended filing made on March 24, Watkins reported having $51,214.
Watkins also reported more expenditures and cash on hand in the amended report.
In the initial filing, Watkins reported having around $15,000 on hand after spending about $17,000 on operating expenses. The amended report shows the campaign really had twice as much cash, reporting $30,299 on hand after spending nearly $23,000.
Watkins also left out a $2,300 airfare expenditure and a “COVID Test” in his original filing report, both billed to Asiana Airlines.
Prior to coming to Arizona, Watkins was living in Japan for about a year. Before that, he had also lived in China and the Philippines, where the online image boards 8chan and 8kun were based.
“Ron Watkins isn’t new to putting out false information, but there are much greater consequences for lying to the FEC than to users on 4chan,” Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said to the Arizona Mirror about the filing. “Ignorance is not a valid excuse for filing false or incomplete reports, and the FEC should consider all appropriate punitive actions if no better reason is offered.”
Watkins did not respond to a request for comment about the filings and the letter from the FEC.
Any response by Watkins to the commission will be public record and the commission will consider it before taking any action against Watkin’s committee. Watkins won’t be able to file for an extension on the letter submitted by the FEC.
Before QAnon, many came to associate Watkins with an online image board called 8chan, which was later renamed 8kun. Watkins didn’t create the site — its founder was Fredrick Brennan, who would later cut ties with the website — but he became its administrator after his father, Jim Watkins, purchased it.
The Christchurch shooter in New Zealand said that he frequented the 4chan and 8chan message boards where far-right and white supremacist rhetoric was prevalent, and directly linked to other real-life hate crimes. The website also promoted antisemitism, at one point creating a cryptocurrency for users to boost their posts with a program they called “King of the Shekel.”
However, 8kun’s most active board by far is “Q Research.” As of March 30, the board had more than 1,700 unique users and over 16 million posts.
In launching his campaign, Watkins has begun to distance himself from QAnon, going so far as to claim he is not associated with the movement, however, he still was the headlining speaker at a QAnon conference in Las Vegas with other Arizona candidates.
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The article was originally published in Arizona Mirror.