The main donor behind the Washington D.C. ‘Stop the Steal’ rally that sparked a riot on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 has been revealed as the heiress to the Publix Super Markets Inc. chain.
Julie Jenkins Fancelli, a prominent Trump donor, pledged $300,000 to the MAGA rally in an arrangement set up by far-right show radio host Alex Jones.
Fancelli’s donation funded most of the event, which cost $500,000 in total to run.
After being initally arranged by Jones, Fancelli tapped Caroline Wren, a top fundraising official on the Trump 2020 campaign, to organize and fund the rally on her behalf.
According to records, Wren and her fundraising consultancy firm were paid $730,000 by the Trump campaign and a joint GOP committee in the 2020 election cycle.
Jones himself also contributed more than $50,000 in seed money to the event in exchange for a ‘top speaking slot of his choice’, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Fancelli previously donated more than $980,000 to the Trump campaign and Republican Party during the last election cycle.
She is a heir to Florida-based Publix Super Markets, established by her father in 1930, making her a member of one of the richest families in America.
As of December 2020, Forbes listed the Jenkins family as the 39th richest in the U.S., with a worth of $8.8 billion.
The family owns 20 percent of Publix, which has more than 1,200 grocery stores across southeastern U.S.
The other 80 percent is employee owned, making it the largest employee-owned company in the country.
Founded by her father George, who died in 1996, it is now chaired by his grandson William E. ‘Ed’ Crenshaw. Jennifer Jenkins and Howard Jenkins also sit on the board.
The company made $38 billion revenue in 2019, according to Forbes.
According to the Broward News Times, the Fancelli family holds no decision-making power at Publix and has no business with the supermarket chain.
Yet it had been funneling as $1.7 million a year to vendor Alma Foods, a company Julie Jenkins Fancelli once owned.
After Fancelli left the company in 2017, Publix stopped using Alma Foods as a vendor.
Publix was the center of controversy in 2018 after the company gave tons of cash to then–gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, a strong supporter of the NRA.
Parkland survivor David Hogg held a number of ‘die-in’ protests outside their stores as a result.
Fancelli was born in Lakeland, Florida, and remains there, along with most of her siblings.
She met her husband Mauro while on a study-abroad year in Florence, Italy, while she was a University of Florida student.
In 2016, sister Carol Jenkins Barnett, who is worth $2 billion, infamously donated $800,000 to a campaign to keep marijuana illegal in Florida, according to Broward News Times.
Fancelli has not made Forbes’ rich list but her two siblings Carol and Howard have both been listed among its billionaires.
She and two of her children also previously donated to Trump ally, Florida governor Ron DeSantis.
While she is not involved in the power plays at Publix, Fancelli does run the George Jenkins Foundation alongside Carol and Howard.
It has mostly given to a spate of Christian and other religious nonprofits, according to the Miami New Times.
Few details had previously emerged of the backers of the MAGA rally, held at Washington’s Ellipse on the morning of January 6, which descended into chaos and violence.
Several pro-Trump groups had organized various events around D.C. that day with the main Ellipse event led by Women for America First.
None of the groups involved had received a permit to march.
Wren has now been identified among the main organizers, alongside Ali Alexander, a far-right activist and leader of the ‘Stop the Steal’ movement.
Women for America First had applied for the permit to hold the rally, listing Wren as ‘VIP coordinator’.
According to the permit and Federal Election Commission records acquired by the Wall Street Journal, Wren and at least five former Trump campaign staffers were involved in the organization of the Ellipse rally.
A spokesperson for the Trump campaign told the publication that it had no involvement in fundraising for the event.
The WSJ reports that organizers said that Fancelli had contacted Jones with the offer to fund the rally and she was put in touch with an organizer through Wren.
It cost $500,000 in total including the cost of a concert stage, a $100,000 grass covering and thousands of feet of security structures.
Wren was said to be handling funding and played a central role in bringing together the various pro-Trump groups who had planned different events that day.
She also organized the list of 30 potential speakers and urged Alexander to reschedule his own Capitol rally to 1pm to avoid a clash.
Women for America First are said to have been concerned about the involvement of fringe characters such as Jones but were persuaded for their inclusion by Wren.
Organizers said she gave him and Alexander their VIP passes and escorted them from the Ellipse as they headed to march to the Capitol.
The fundraiser told the WSJ that her role ‘was to assist many others in providing and arranging for a professionally produced event at the Ellipse’.
Alexander had used social media to identify January 6, the day Congress would vote to certify the Electoral College votes, as a key protest date as he pushed the unfounded claims that the election had been stolen from Trump.
‘DC becomes FORT TRUMP starting tomorrow on my orders!’ he wrote in a tweet.
In an earlier tweet in December he had also claimed ‘If they do this, everyone can guess what me and 500,000 others will do to that building’ while speaking about the Electoral College vote at the Capitol.
Both Alexander and Jones and pushed claims that the election was stolen for weeks in their online commentary and urged others to continue to protest.
While Jones spoke at the main event, he also attended a break-out rally the night before, at which he also spoke.
His $50,000 contribution was eventually used for this event, to which he donated $96,000 in total.
On the day itself, Alexander’s ‘Stop the Steal’ group had organized a separate protest outside of Capitol buildings.
Yet he told the Wall Street Journal that his movement’s motto is ‘peaceful but rowdy’ and had no ties to the violence.
He also claimed that his own comments, such as the previous December tweet, had done nothing to encourage others to use violence.
Alexander had appeared on Jones show after the riot in which they both claimed that they had tried to stop those storming the Capitol.
Neither of them has been charged with any wrongdoing on the day of the riot.
Donald Trump also spoke at the January 6 rally and he has since been impeached for the second time, after being accused by the Democrat-led House of inciting violence.
They claim he encouraged a mob to storm the U.S. Capitol by telling them in his speech to ‘fight like hell’ against the election result.
The ‘Stop the Steal’ rally itself had remained peaceful but after it finished thousands of Trump loyalists marched toward the U.S. Capitol to break their way in.
Five people died in the following the violence.