A year ago, Reno conservative activist Robert Beadles, while a guest on a podcast hosted by Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon, laid out his vision for a new political landscape in Washoe County and the nation.
“You know, the left … and these RINOs (Republicans in name only), they’re really scared of Trump, but what they should be scared of is like 25 to a hundred million little Trump 2.0s running around the country,” he said during Bannon’s Oct. 15, 2021, War Room episode. “… We need to do, like, a peaceful purge, you know, bringing in American Firsters. You know, we need to take back our votes. We need to take back our school boards.”
Beadles, who moved to Reno from California in 2019, put the Washoe County School Board on notice 10 days later during the panel’s public-comment period. “God has blessed me,” he said. “I have a shit-ton of money, and I’m going to do everything I fucking can to remove all of you.” He had a similar message for the Washoe County Commission at its March 8, 2022, meeting: “I have no problem spending millions of dollars to replace you all. I have no problem doing, it because we’ve got to get our county back.”
Since then, Beadles, who now sits on the Washoe County Republican Central Committee, and his company, Coral Bay, have contributed more than $600,000 to his political action committees—the Franklin Project and Operation Sunlight—and to candidates for local and statewide offices, according to campaign-finance reports from the Nevada Secretary of State. He also funded two unsuccessful recall efforts against local officials. He’s alleged that there are “40,000 more votes than voters” in Washoe County, a claim county officials determined was baseless after an investigation. A county spokesperson told the Reno Gazette-Journal that “we can only surmise that (Beadles) did not understand the data he requested.”
After the June primary, the California native paid for a statewide vote recount, filed and/or financed several election-fraud-related lawsuits (which so far have been dismissed), and has been regularly lambasting local election officials, officeholders and candidates on his blog, OperationSunlight.com. In this campaign cycle, Beadles said, he has made contributions to about 50 candidates.
He is just getting started.
“I’ll spend millions and then spend millions more,” Beadles said in an interview with the Reno News & Review conducted via Zoom.
His supporters say he is a champion, fighting against corrupt, left-wing politicians and “RINOS.” His critics, as Beadles told Reno businessman Mike Bosma on his “Bosma on Business” podcast, see him as a right-wing “wackdoodle”—or worse.
“His political currency is misinformation and false narratives,” said Don Vetter, of Vetter PR, who worked on Wendy Leonard’s unsuccessful primary bid for a seat on the Washoe County Commission. Beadles’ PAC sent out mailers asking if Leonard was “taking drug money” to finance her campaign. Other primary-election campaign mailers from his PACs accused candidates of racism, having an affair, supporting “totalitarianism,” taking bribes and extorting people.
“I guess what he doesn’t understand is that (misinformation) can damage lives,” Vetter said. “He comes into this community and offers no solutions, no positives. He tears people down and brings the national culture-wars stuff to the forefront. That overwhelms the discussion. So many important issues get forgotten. It’s some crazy stuff, but a lot of it has traction.”
Beadles characterizes himself as a truth-teller and a catalyst for positive change.
“People think I’m right wing; I’m the furthest thing from it,” he said. “My great uncle is Ben Franklin. I’m a constitutionalist. I just think we should have limited government. I think we should have God-fearing, constitutional people in office who look out for we, the people, (instead of) themselves and their buddies.”
Who is this guy?
Robert Dale Beadles, 45, came to Reno from Lodi, Calif., in 2019, although he sometimes says he has been a Reno resident for 27 years. He got married in the Biggest Little City in 1995 and visited often after that. “I just made it official in 2019,” he said.
Beadles and his wife, Nicole, have been together since they were 14.
“We married when we were 17, and we didn’t have much,” he said. “Welfare, food stamps, that was us. God’s been great to us. Basically, I just built up a lot of different businesses, sold some, and started buying real estate.”
He started a construction-services company and later founded several software companies. “As the software companies started bringing in profits, I just started buying more and more real estate,” he said. “… I’ve invented a ton of different things that are being used all over the place. I buy assets, not liabilities. All these different spokes are what holds (my) wheel together.”
In 2009, Beadles published a book, Here’s What You Do! Your Economic Survival Guide. The volume’s introduction, entitled “Conspiracy Theory,” describes the imminent collapse of the economy caused by entrenched, dark forces, including the false, anti-Semitic trope that “the Rothschild family secretly runs this world,” according to “theorists.” He predicted the crash of the dollar and counseled readers to buy gold, invest in real estate and apply for government grants, loans and subsidies. In addition, he recommended that people have a year’s supply of food, guns and ammo available “just in case.”
Beadles ended the chapter by noting that he doesn’t agree or disagree with the conspiracy theories he described, because, “I have no proof, nor do the conspiracy theorists that make such claims. After all, a good conspiracy theory is one without proof; otherwise, it would be fact. You can take this with a grain of salt or heed the unknown and prepare for it.”
Beadles said his advice remains relevant, because the economy is fated to fail.
“Not a question of if; it’s just a question of when,” he said, citing the current inflation rate and other factors. “(It) is a matter of time before the dollar dies. Every currency has died, and every nation has fallen. The track that they’ve put us on is absolutely going to destroy this country.”
In 2010, Beadles was briefly a candidate in the Republican primary for California’s 11th Congressional District, but he withdrew after a business competitor accused him of stealing highway signs and equipment. No charges were filed, but the experience soured him on running for office, he said.
“I got tricked into putting my toe in to run for Congress,” Beadles said. “I was an idiot. I saw how corrupt it was, and it wasn’t for me.”
He said he realized that he could do more behind the scenes than as a politician. “I can help hundreds of people, amazing people, get into office,” he said.
Beadles said he quietly helped candidates in California, but didn’t get much media attention until he moved to Reno and started shaking up local politics.
“The only reason you know my name is because of all the corruption in this county,” he said. “I don’t want to be doing (political activism). It’s the last thing in the world I want to be doing. … This is my last-ditch effort to save the country.”
He and his wife bought a $1.6 million home in Reno’s upscale Somersett community. In 2020, the couple purchased 26 properties in Washoe County for a total of $12.6 million, according to the assessor’s office. Those parcels include single-family homes and townhouses. He rents many of those units to low-income people with federal Section 8 housing vouchers, he said, because “it’s a way of giving back, and it also protects the asset, too. They take care of the property. We could make a lot more money, but this is doing the right thing and helping people out.”
Bosma, who interviewed Beadles on his podcast in July, said renting to low-income tenants shows that the multi-millionaire “is a good guy, willing to take time to help people. He’s got a big heart.”
“YouTube took me down as soon as I started asking questions about the elections in 2020 and about some of the protocols for COVID,” he said. “I had 50,000 subscribers there, and that was deleted. My Twitter and Facebook accounts (also) were deleted.”
Fraud claims repeatedly debunked
Beadles said he started looking at local elections in January 2021 and “found all kinds of issues.” This year, he backed a proposal by Washoe County Commissioner Jeanne Herman that would have upended the county’s election system. The plan included using paper ballots that would need to be hand-counted, and stationing law enforcement officers at all polling places. Commissioners rejected the proposal in a 4-1 vote in March.
In February, he claimed that data from the county registrar’s office proves there were about 40,000 more votes than voters in the 2020 election. County officials told the Reno Gazette-Journal that the point-in-time data couldn’t be used to determine election turnout, and that an investigation verified there was no evidence of fraud. In April, Beadles filed a lawsuit against state and county election officials, alleging that election observation in 2020 was inadequate. The suit listed proposals for more for “meaningful voter observation,” including provisions that would allow election observers to “visually inspect each ballot,” stand within 2 feet of any ballot-counting system, and demand the counting process be stopped if an observer has an issue officials cannot resolve.
In May, Washoe County District Court Judge Egan Walker rejected the proposals, noting there was “no competent evidence” of election problems. The plaintiffs, he said, seemed to want to audit the vote count rather than be observers. “What I have is multiple plaintiffs who filed an unsworn, unverified complaint,” Walker said. He added that the 16 requests were potentially “a substantial invasion in the constitutional right to privacy of every voter in the county” and “would give the plaintiffs the ability to invade the privacy of other voters.”
Although he lost the lawsuit, Beadles said he considers the ruling a victory, because the judge ordered “meaningful observation” of the vote counting process. However, Walker was quoting existing Nevada law.
Beadles also paid for a recount for Joey Gilbert, a candidate for governor who lost the Republican primary to Joe Lombardo by more than 26,000 votes. Gilbert had seven fewer votes after the recount. Gilbert, with Beadles’ support, followed up with a lawsuit claiming that an “illegal formula” was used to count votes, asking for a re-run of the election.
Carson City District Court Judge James Wilson in August rejected the proposal, finding that no “competent evidence” was presented by Gilbert to warrant re-doing the election. The lawsuit was based on allegations by an “expert mathematician” that beginning with the 2020 election, “algorithms” have been responsible for switching votes in Nevada and other states.
Nationally, courts have rejected more than 60 lawsuits alleging fraud in the 2020 election. County registrars, auditors and secretaries of state in Nevada and elsewhere have found no evidence of rigged elections. In November 2020, the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council, made up of election officials from across the nation, issued a joint statement that the 2020 election “was the most secure in American history.”
An unofficial group of political conservatives reiterated the judges’ findings in the lawsuits in a 72-page report, “Lost, Not Stolen: The Conservative Case That Trump Lost and Biden Won the 2020 Presidential Election.” The authors, a group of eight judges and former senators, summarized their investigations into every claim of election fraud presented by Trump and his supporters, including the unfounded allegations of voter fraud in Nevada. “Efforts to thwart the people’s choice are deeply undemocratic and unpatriotic,” the report noted.
Beadles said those who say the elections were free and fair are either corrupt or cowards.
“The evidence speaks for itself. … There’s all the evidence in the world that the election is rigged,” he said. “I can’t explain to you why so many people in positions of power are cowards, why they are refusing to do the right thing.”
Even though the fraud claims have been repeatedly rejected, and the lawsuits have failed, Beadles noted that recent polls show a majority of Americans think that there are problems with election integrity. A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters in August, for example, found that 80% believe the issue of election integrity will be important in this year’s congressional elections. Just 16% don’t think election integrity will be an important issue. Other polls also show widespread concerns about election integrity.
The message that elections are rigged is getting through to the public, even though “the media puts a crooked spin on all this (fraud) stuff, for whatever reason,” Beadles said. Voters, he said, should ignore traditional media outlets, do their own research, and watch documentaries. He suggested viewing “2,000 Mules,” which claims there was widespread and coordinated election fraud in 2020. That film has been repeatedly debunked by mainstream media outlets, nonpartisan fact checkers and numerous technology experts.
“People need to do some of their own due diligence and look into some of these things,” Beadles said, and voters “need to stop listening to people who say there’s no proof and do their own homework.”
A ‘threat to the democratic process’
Fred Lokken, a professor of political science and department chair of business, political science and history at Truckee Meadows Community College, said people believing disinformation on the internet erodes public confidence in election integrity and weakens our democratic process. Daily newspapers are dissolving, and TV news is not stepping up to really cover local political races, Lokken noted, leaving social media, random blogs and conspiracy theories to fill the gap.
“It’s very possible (fringe candidates) will win some seats in the fall because of that,” Lokken said. “People are getting a lot of misinformation from the internet. There’s no firewall anymore other than common sense.”
When faced with a flood of contradictory information, “people can’t figure out what’s true. People are afraid; everything is changing. In times of trouble if you blame somebody, they’ll believe it.”
Lokken said many people “vote without really understanding what’s afoot.” But those active in politics are well aware that repeated lies about election fraud are dangerous. “It’s what gets the so-called RINOs to start voting for moderate Democrats,” he said.
In Nevada, many prominent Republicans are supporting Democrats in statewide races against election deniers and fringe candidates. For example, 13 Nevada Republicans in July formed a coalition to back Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford in his re-election bid against the GOP nominee, Sigal Chattah, a right-wing candidate who defeated a more-moderate Republican primary contender. Other big-name Republicans are supporting secretary of state candidate Cisco Aguilar against Jim Marchant. Marchant, a conspiracy theorist, is among a national “America First” slate of secretary of state candidates who falsely claim the 2020 election was rigged.
Pete Ernaut, a Republican political consultant and lobbyist, has endorsed Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto over Republican challenger Adam Laxalt, who spread false conspiracy theories even as the ballots were still being counted in 2020. Amy Tarkanian, a former state GOP party chair, has endorsed Democratic state Treasurer Zach Conine over Republican challenger Michele Fiore.
To Beadles, the defection of veteran Republican leaders is further proof of the “swamp” that Trump claimed he would drain when elected president. However, election denial isn’t a “litmus test” for candidates who want his support, he said.
“I tell these people that you need to follow God (and) follow the Constitution; that’s all I’ll ever ask for,” Beadles said. “As far as giving people (campaign contributions), I look at their actions and what kind of personality they have. Typically, they are people who aren’t even politicians. They are just good people from the community who have had enough.”
He sees the election of such candidates as a panacea: “If we had free and fair elections, you would literally see the landscape change overnight,” he said. “Get these people elected, (and) you would see Nevada become incredible again. You would see lower gas prices, lower food prices. It would be incredible if we had incredible people running things instead of running into the ground. It’s not about money; it’s about getting good, moral, Christian, constitutional-type people into positions of service so we can get back our great state.”
Beadles is undeterred by the legions of experts, officials from both political parties (including many Trump appointees) and the multitude of judges and independent researchers who overwhelmingly reject allegations of election fraud. In one instance, however, Beadles is in agreement with a statement often repeated by his critics.
In reference to tidal wave of sources that reject claims of rigged elections, Beadles said: “I guess if you say a lie often enough, people will accept it as truth.”