PayPal is still allowing white supremacists to raise money for legal defense

One California law firm seems to be bypassing PayPal's ban on white nationalist fundraising.

Prominent white supremacist Jason Kessler is now soliciting donations via attorney Corey Mahler. CREDIT: Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Prominent white supremacist Jason Kessler is now soliciting donations via attorney Corey Mahler. CREDIT: Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In the wake of the tragic violence at last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the backlash from Big Tech was swift.

GoDaddy, the popular web hosting service, forced the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer to find another domain provider. Discord, Google, Cloudflare, and Facebook all issued forceful condemnations of white supremacy and promised to ban any far-right group using their platforms. Twitter began stripping prominent far-right accounts of their coveted blue ticks. And Richard Spencer’s recent online fundraising efforts have all imploded.

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PayPal, which aids in fundraising ventures, also issued a statement reiterating its policy to not accept payment for people or organizations that advocate hate. “We work to ensure that our services are not used to accept payments or donations for activities that promote hate, violence or racial intolerance,” PayPal said. “This includes organizations that advocate racist views, such as the KKK, white supremacist groups or Nazi groups.”

These white supremacists haven’t abandoned their fundraising efforts, however. And despite PayPal’s stated ban, it appears some, including two of the most prominent figures who participated in last year’s deadly rally, have found a workaround. These two white supremacists are continuing to take advantage of PayPal’s platform by using a one-person, far-right friendly law firm in California to raise money on their behalf.

When ThinkProgress brought the fundraising to PayPal’s attention, however, the company said raising money for legal defense, even if it’s for white supremacists, does not violate its policy.

Make that money

The website for Zyniker Law is sparse. Based out of California, the site’s “About” section is limited to discussing only one man: managing partner Corey J. Mahler. The page lists Mahler’s educational and professional qualifications, but gives no indication of the type of law or cases that Mahler specializes in.

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But its “Client Donations” page sheds a bit more light on the type of business Zyniker Law is interested in. There are only two names listed among the “Client Donation” campaigns: Christopher Cantwell and Jason Kessler.

Both Cantwell and Kessler rose to prominence during last year’s Charlottesville rally, and have only grown in ignominy since. Kessler acted as the primary organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally, and later called Heather Heyer — who was killed by a white supremacist at the rally — a “fat, disgusting communist” after her murder. He’s also facing a handful of lawsuits, at least one of which pertains to his role in Charlottesville.

Cantwell, meanwhile, became infamous after VICE documented his time in Charlottesville, which resulted in him earning the moniker “Crying Nazi” for his on-camera emotion. Cantwell, who is now claiming that he’s working with the FBI in order to “get back at antifa,” is also facing legal threats for his role in the Charlottesville violence.

The two white supremacists have, much like white supremacists elsewhere, watched their fundraising efforts falter in the face of payment processing companies like Stripe cutting off access.

But both seem to have found a way of working around those prohibitions.

On Zyniker Law’s site, users can provide one-time or recurring donations for both Cantwell and Kessler, including the option of giving up to $10,000. And on the checkout page, users can pay with either check, cash, or PayPal, which is listed as the “safer, easier way to pay.”

And the funds raised won’t be fully dedicated to the white supremacists’ legal defense, either. Kessler has posted that fans can support his “journalistic work” via Zyniker Law, linking to the fundraising page. And on Cantwell’s fundraising page, the campaign says that some of the funds will go to support both Cantwell’s “artwork” and “activism.”

It’s unclear how much money Kessler and Cantwell have managed to raise with this PayPal workaround.

PayPal spokesperson Kim Eichorn told ThinkProgress that “PayPal has a long-standing policy to allow fundraising for legal defense purposes, so long as the account holder has a pending trial or appeal in process. In reviewing the solicitation, this activity is currently compliant with PayPal Acceptable Use Policy.”

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When ThinkProgress specifically asked about the funds being used for the white supremacists’ artwork, journalism, and activism, Eichorn said, “If we learn that funds are used for anything other than legal defense that is guided by the soliciting law firm, the accounts will be subject to immediate closure.”

Representing white supremacy

While there’s little on Zyniker Law’s “About” section that points to any far-right proclivities, Mahler doesn’t hide his leanings on his social media accounts.

Mahler maintains a prolific, premium account on Gab, the social media site saturated in white supremacists. On the site, he has called former President Barack Obama a “crypto-Muslim” and Democrats “traitors.” His website also has a post entitled, “Killing Abortionists Is Moral.”

Two months ago, he even posted a DNA profile showing his Western European ethnicity — along with a link to a Nationalist Party Forum, a website where he also serves as a moderator.

Although not heavily trafficked, the forum is clearly designed as a gathering point for a movement of burgeoning American nationalists. One thread asks where it would be best to set up a Nationalist base of operations, accompanied by an ethnic breakdown of half-a-dozen states, including Idaho and New Hampshire. Meanwhile, on an infrequently used blog, Mahler talks about how those on the far-right must pursue “family, faith and Volk.”

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Mahler also routinely plugs the fundraising campaigns on his sites, recently saying he’s “seen a month-over-month increase in the number and the amount of donations being processed for clients.” One April post also alludes to an “Alt-Right Legal Fund,” where “donations will go almost exclusively toward legal fees.” While that fund is not featured on the Zyniker Law site, another “Right-Wing Legal Fund” exists, which Mahler said will help in “building infrastructure for the Right.”

Cantwell has admitted that he has been retaining Mahler as counsel, and that “Mahler has been accepting donations for me on his firm’s website to fund my political activism and artwork.” In a separate blog post, Cantwell says that Mahler has set up a funding system on his website on Cantwell’s behalf.

“When ethnic monopolies of the financial industry conspire against their political opponents, legal action becomes necessary.” Cantwell wrote in March. “Mr. Mahler is knowledgeable in antitrust law, and finds this apparent politically motivated collusion against me by the banking elite to be very troubling.”

In a response to ThinkProgress, Mahler maintained that his support for Cantwell and Kessler stems from an unshakable belief in free speech.

“I am merely facilitating others in donating on behalf of Mr. Cantwell and Mr. Kessler because they have been routinely shut out of the system in a way that [is]… in my assessment, illegal,” Mahler said. “The free speech guarantees enjoyed by US citizens are meaningless if their exercise results is having one’s life systematically destroyed.”

Mahler emphasized that he would continue to try and fund Cantwell and Kessler, regardless of whether or not his current payment processors choose to cancel his account. He said that he did not believe “financial entities should be gatekeepers for who may and who may not exercise the freedom of speech.”

Finally, Mahler said that he was not familiar with the “political intrigue” surrounding the death of Heather Heyer. “If she were, in fact a Communist, however, then I would decline to break with decades of sentiment on the political Right,” Mahler said. “Better dead than red.”

This post has been updated with a statement from Corey Mahler.