State

Ashley Moody’s Capitol Insurrection Connection

As Americans reeled after seeing shocking images of the United States Capitol under siege from violent supporters of the president, Florida’s attorney general Ashley Moody was editing her online biography.

Ashley Moody’s page on the Department of Legal Affairs, under the tab “Meet the Attorney General,” had said the state’s top legal officer is “recognized as a national leader” by her colleagues. One of her titles the page listed to prove her leadership was a position on the board of directors for the Rule of Law Defense Fund.

That reference was scrubbed by Jan. 12 according to the Tampa Bay Times, as the RLDF fell under intense scrutiny for its role in organizing and supporting what would become the largest assault on the Capitol since 1814.

The RLDF is the 501(c)(4) non-profit policy arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association, a national organization that works to elect and support Republicans in the top legal position of state governments. Both RLDF and RAGA have come under fire after reportedly paying for robocalls calling on Trump supporters to act against Congress on Jan. 6.

“At 1 p.m., we will march to the Capitol building and call upon Congress to stop the steal,” said a recording of the call obtained by NBC News. “We are hoping patriots like you will join us to continue to fight to protect the integrity of our elections.”

The Tampa Bay Times also reported that a spokesperson for Moody, Lauren Cassedy, stated that Moody had left the RLDF the year prior and had “no prior knowledge” of these robocalls.   

Republican allegations of mass electoral fraud in the November 2020 presidential election, fueled by the outgoing president himself, have been repeatedly rejected and disproven by top election officials in every state government, including the 26 states where RAGA-backed Republicans serve as attorney general. Many of those on the frontlines against Trump’s desperate misinformation campaign are Republicans themselves, such as Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Yet GOP attorneys general, including Moody, had largely remained staunch allies of the Trump campaign in their quixotic attempt to overturn Joe Biden’s victory. In December, 17 states, including Florida, supported a lawsuit by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to invalidate the combined 62 electoral college votes of Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all of which were won by President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

In the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection, RLDF and RAGA leadership sought to distance themselves. As Moody tried to scrub her connection to the organization, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, the chairman of the RLDF, told the Montgomery Advertiser that the organization’s involvement was unauthorized, and he would conduct an internal investigation immediately. Meanwhile, RAGA executive director Adam Piper resigned from his position.

Nevertheless, the “March to Save America” website had listed RLDF as a participating organization, alongside the “Stop the Steal” coalition and a number of far-right activists. The graphic featuring the RLDF logo has since been deleted.

Despite claiming her job is strictly apolitical, Moody has faced criticism for consistently using her political clout to support right-wing leaders and causes. She aligns herself closely with Governor Ron DeSantis, who is himself a protégé of Trump, and has expressed her “wholehearted support” for the president.

While her background as a judge gave her a strong record of impartiality upon election, Moody has graciously accepted support from her controversial predecessor, Pam Bondi, a Fox News regular and Trump administration insider. Of course, there is also the Texas lawsuit and her now-questionable RLDF affiliation.

The loyalty of state officials like Moody—although perhaps faltering momentarily—is indicative of a wider trend in state and local Republican parties. Across the country, GOP leaders and longtime Trump allies from Vice President Mike Pence to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are facing the ire of state and local Republicans for refusing to support Trump’s efforts to overturn the election and even for condemning the violence of Jan. 6.

In few states has Trump been as heavily embraced by local Republicans as his adopted home.

“The party is completely and totally realigned,” State Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R, Howey-in-the-Hills) told the New York Times.

While Moody has distanced herself for now, there is little indication that she plans to truly sever her ties to the Trump wing of the party. The homepage of her state website still highlights her efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, human trafficking, and to “Back the Blue,” all positions embraced by Trump’s movement.

Perhaps most importantly of all to Moody, there’s the electoral math; many Republicans continue to support Trump and believe he should be the party’s nominee in 2024.

As Moody herself seeks re-election in 2022, it seems unlikely that she would buck the popular support of her party.

Featured image: Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. Public domain photo by Florida Attorney General office.

Check out other recent articles from the Florida Political Review here.      

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