Alleged Holocaust denier tied to bitcoin donation supporting Florida Republican Matt Gaetz

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Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Chuck Johnson, an alt-right activist who Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz controversially invited to a January 2018 State of the Union address, is the likely source of a dark money bitcoin contribution to a pro-Gaetz super PAC.

Gaetz previously distanced himself from Johnson after drawing criticism from the Anti-defamation League and the Republican Jewish Coalition, both of which identify Johnson as a holocaust denier.

Johnson wrote in a Reddit Q&A that he has “never believed the six million figure,” and supports claims from Holocaust deniers “about Auschwitz and the gas chambers not being real.” He has since claimed that his comments were actually part of an experiment to test the site’s “commitments to free speech against fake hate speech.”

For his part, Gaetz has resisted calls from the Republican Jewish Caucus to label Johnson a holocaust denier, insisting that the alt-right figure is simply a “provoker.”

In May 2018, a company linked to Johnson made a $25,000 bitcoin contribution to Florida Conservative Fund, a super PAC that spent at least $44,700 in support of Gaetz’s reelection campaign. While the committee is a single-candidate super PAC — it exclusively spent in support of Gaetz — it isn’t formally associated with Gaetz’s campaign, and the two are not allowed to coordinate with each other under FEC regulations.

The contribution was attributed to “Castar Capital,” a since-dissolved limited liability company formed in Wyoming. Public filings list Johnson as the company’s CEO and its address as a mailbox rental in a shipping store.

Public information on Castar is scant, but a graphic design advertisement for Castar Capital lists chuckwalla1022 — Johnson’s former Twitter handle — as its author (Twitter banned Johnson in 2015 after he threatened to “take out” a Black Lives Matter activist.)

The ad specifies that the author and a business partner “run one of the larger bitcoin mining companies in the US.” The central Washington address Castar provided was formerly leased to HashPlex, LLC, a company that operated data centers for bitcoin miners.

The ad doesn’t provide any further information on the business partner, and Johnson did not respond to a request for comment.

Castar’s ties to bitcoin are not too surprising. A number of alt-right figures invested in cryptocurrencies after mainstream online payment providers and crowdsourcing sites banned their accounts in the wake of the deadly Charlottesville white nationalist rally in the summer of 2017, but Johnson may be the first to make large political donations in cryptocurrency. He also made direct contributions in bitcoin to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Tim Donnelly, both California Republicans in House elections. Both Rohrabacher and Donnelly ultimately lost in 2018.

Johnson also made an appearance at a July fundraiser in southern California for Gaetz and Rohrabacher, according to Mother Jones. Gaetz’s campaign chief of staff, Kip Telley, told the magazine that the fundraiser “was a private event,” and suggested that the reporter “check the FEC filings to see who donated.” Johnson had already maxed out in donations to Rohrabacher’s campaign, and Gaetz’s FEC filings don’t list any contributions from the alt-right figure.

Gaetz’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

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