In January 2013, a 26-year-old right-wing blogger named Ali Akbar joined the campaign of Curtis Bostic, a former Charleston, South Carolina, city councilman and Tea Party conservative who was running against disgraced former governor Mark Sanford in a Republican congressional primary. Bostic lost to Sanford (who served two more terms in the House before getting primaried out in 2018), and the campaign disassociated itself from Akbar, whose history as a convicted felon and hack political operative had caught up with him once again.
But over those first three months of 2013, Akbar — now known to the world as Ali Alexander, architect of the 2020 Stop the Steal movement — befriended the candidate's son, Daniel Bostic, then a 20-year-old aspiring model and actor who over the next eight years would partner with Ali in a number of failed ventures, including a cryptocurrency project, a listless consulting agency, a defunct MAGA gossip blog, and a scam donation project created with right-wing trolls Jacob Wohl and Laura Loomer. The partnership's lasting contribution to the world, however, came earlier this month, when the massive pro-Trump rally they organized on the National Mall on Jan. 6 turned into a violent siege of the U.S. Capitol, defiling the seat of American democracy and leaving half a dozen people dead, including two police officers.
Back in 2013, Akbar (as he was then known), a fast-talking aspiring strategist from the Dallas-Fort Worth region, had been casting about for a new gig after Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential bid failed, taking with it his own efforts to make inroads with mainstream Republicans. Conservatives had grown increasingly wary of Akbar's felony fraud convictions and other allegations of improper conduct, such as asking donors for personal information. Akbar's political journalism project, known as National Bloggers Club, was struggling, too, after its founder's history and conduct created complications for top advisers to the Romney campaign. (Akbar was first anti-Romney and then pro-Romney.) He claimed the site was a nonprofit but apparently never registered it as such with the IRS. Its current status is "revoked," according to federal tax records.
"Akbar was a Libertarian, a Reagan conservative, and a Tea Party journo all at the same time," said freelance reporter Ron Brynaert, whose complicated history with Akbar/Alexander stretches back more than a decade. "He's always been a delusional liar with a messiah complex, who talks out of both sides of his mouth and contradicts himself."
Under Akbar's guiding hand, Slate awarded the Bostic campaign its "social media fail of the week" during the primary, specifically citing one of Akbar's sites, ViralRead.com, as having become "a one-stop shop for #SC01 news, with a jaundiced view of Sanford." Akbar had also created a hashtag that got a shout-out from former Republican senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who had co-sponsored Akbar's CPAC "Blog Bash" parties two years in a row and flew in to campaign with Bostic for a day. Bostic did see a surge, but it was too little too late.
Notably, Akbar also created a since-deleted donations landing page "paid for by the committee to elect Curtis Bostic," which was quite likely illegal, since the campaign denied ever officially hiring the convicted felon. After Bostic's primary defeat, the campaign dismissed Akbar in the press as an overzealous volunteer.
But Akbar had grown close with Daniel Bostic, who had a certificate in theology from Appalachian Bible College and a few months experience as staff assistant to then-Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., now the state's junior senator. Bostic yearned to be a professional actor, but had only landed a few regional ads, such as for American Eagle and Nokia, and some local short films, along with an extra role in an episode of "Army Wives," which he described as something of a formative experience.
Akbar's online footprint dries up a bit after Curtis Bostic's defeat, but he re-entered the political sphere in 2014, with a hybrid PAC called the Black Conservatives Fund, which took in $150,000 from right-wing financier Robert Mercer. But for much of that spring and summer, it seems that Akbar devoted much of his time to helping Daniel Bostic convince people that he was a celebrity with a rabid, obsessive fan base.
Operation Bostic involved a coordinated lineup of fake Twitter fan accounts promoting a number of blog sites, interviews and press releases with Bostic fan content, which Bostic and Akbar most likely either commissioned or created themselves. The profile of one Twitter account, "Daniel's Lover," links out to a Wordpress site called Daniel Bostic Daily, which the account would regularly promote in hundreds of tweets at a time, drawing hardly any response from the larger world. One tweet from May 29, 2013 ("Fans are CRAZY about Daniel's Twitter!") tags Akbar's Twitter account and links to a Daniel Bostic Daily entry that itself quotes a since-deleted tweet from Akbar:
Few folks have the honest joy that @debostic has. It's fun to watch happy positive people online.
— Ali A. Akbar (@ali) May 28, 2013
Three days later, the same blog published another entry titled, "Euphoria for Ladies — Daniel Bostic posted a shirtless picture and became an Instagram sensation," which features said shirtless selfie and a quote about it from a website called Viral Read.
The news site VIRAL READ had this to say:
Walking the fine line between #hotmess and #hotness, Bostic wins the day and lands gracefully in the hotness column. Who knew this skinny kid had this hiding under his bro-tanks? He's the eventual celebrity you'll love to hate and we intend on watching him closely. All of him.
The now-defunct Viral Read was one of Akbar's blog sites, which named controversial right-wing blogger Robert Stacy McCain as editor-in-chief on March 13, 2013, while Akbar was working in South Carolina. The Viral Read article on Bostic from May is similarly titled "Daniel Bostic, Hotness or Hotmess?" and begins like this:
ViralRead was first introduced to the young actor, Daniel Bostic, during a special election run-off in April where his father, Curtis Bostic was up against now-Congressman Mark Sanford. Our Publisher and Editor even traveled down to the lowcountry district. Sadly, they came back with zero pictures of him. Epic fail.
Other Bostic fan sites include "Bostiholics," which migrated from the "allwewantisdaniel" blogspot site. "We are here for one reason and one reason alone," reads the Bostiholics tag line. "We are OBSESSED with Daniel Bostic." Other Twitter accounts include Dan Bostic Is Life and Dan Bostic Daily. It also seems that Akbar helped place Daniel-centric content in other outlets around that same time. In March 2013 alone, as Curtis Bostic was waging a vigorous campaign, posts about his fake celebrity son appeared on sites called Jakes Take, Daily Entertainment News and Entertainment Worlds, as well as in a Newswire press release titled, "Born To Be Distinguished, Daniel Bostic Has Made A Huge Difference In The World Of Acting."
"Being young has not deterred this young actor from climbing heights in this intricate acting career," the release says, then lists "exciting films" in which he has "made headlines": "From Darkness into Light," "Gone for the Day," "Crash" (no, not that "Crash"), "Secrets in the Fall." The release also says Bostic "is much into politics" and "a proud certified black belt Tae-Kwon-Do." His LinkedIn and IMDb pages boast of the 2008 black belt, but for the art of karate.
Two months later, Bostic featured in another Newswire press release, titled, "Bostic Calls on His Fans to Support Oklahoma Tornado Victims." The release is attributed to Marti Youngue, and gives a phone number and address. The address is tied to Curtis Bostic's law firm, but the phone number belongs to Marti Young, former owner of a Nashville agency called Illuminating Talent, which at one point represented Daniel Bostic. Presented with the press release, Young told Salon in a text message, "Wow that's the first time I ever saw this."
While the extent of Akbar's involvement in Bostic content creation is unclear, his prints appear to be on some of the self-promoting replies, including those aimed Dana Loesch and Michelle Malkin, who were relatively obscure at the time but would go on to become big names in right-wing political circles.
By 2014, however, Akbar had moved on from South Carolina's low country, landing himself a consulting gig in Louisiana with his new Mercer-backed PAC, the Black Conservatives Fund. According to investigative journalist Lamar White Jr., this PAC was mostly a proxy for former Louisiana State Sen. Elbert Guillory, who at the time was putting together an ultimately unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor. CNBC reported the PAC distributed money that year to a handful of successful Black conservative candidates, including Rep. Mia Love of Utah, as well as Bostic's former boss Tim Scott, who won South Carolina's special election to the Senate in 2014.
Bostic in the meantime attended Anderson University, a private Christian school with both online and in-person degrees, eventually earning a BS in international business, according to his LinkedIn page. He appears to have done some political blogging, identifying as a never-Trumper in 2016 and becoming one of the few donors to former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina's ill-fated presidential campaign.
Politico reported in 2018 that a PAC advised by Akbar had accepted $60,000 from Mercer just before the 2016 presidential election. After Trump's victory, Akbar popped up again amid the Unite the Right controversy, and in 2018 tried to help kickstart a Trump-centric alternative to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) called the American Priority Conference, which collapsed in short order.
After that defeat, Alexander (having dumped his original surname at some point) teamed up with longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone, who first conceived of the Stop the Steal movement — which, believe it or not, did not originate with the 2020 election. The name and the "movement" began with the 2018 midterms, and specifically with the Florida U.S. Senate campaign in which then-Gov. Rick Scott narrowly defeated incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. That was when Roger Stone launched the group as a kind of tribute or coda to his infamous "Brooks Brothers riot" during the Florida recount of 2000.
Alexander signed on to work for the "Stop the Steal" campaign, which was aimed at locking down Scott's victory over Nelson. In a Periscope video, as reported in Right Wing Watch, Alexander said he hoped to motivate not just Republicans, but QAnon followers, Democrats and "homeless people in all the adjacent counties" to keep an eye on the vote count in Broward County.
"Ali Alexander is a noxious political activist who often animates extremist groups and individuals to fulfill his activism goals," Jared Holt, journalist and expert in domestic extremism, told Salon. "Political groups and organizations that have turned to him for his work should be embarrassed and ashamed. The fact that he has a molecule of influence in GOP organizing is a damning indictment of the priorities of pro-Trump politics."
Alexander has associated with a number of young pro-Trump flunkies who would also seem to fit Holt's description, as with his aforementioned ill-fated 2019 joint venture in Minneapolis with right-wing personality Laura Loomer and the recently-indicted Jacob Wohl.
That scam also involved Daniel Bostic. Alexander, Loomer and Wohl directed donations to a company called Cystra Ventures Ltd., which had been created in Bostic's name just three weeks before the group met up in Minnesota. Cystra Ventures is apparently held under Cystra LLC, Bostic's "consulting company," whose website doesn't work (this archived version does) but which received $14,477 in federal coronavirus small business loans this spring — after much apparent consternation on Bostic's part.
Cystra appears to have been designed to get Bostic and Alexander in the cryptocurrency game. In late June 2017, less than two months before Unite the Right in Charlottesville, Alexander and Bostic teamed up to pitch a new cryptocurrency "focused heavily on free speech." According to the pitch, the coin would be "a medium of exchange for individuals who value free speech above all else," and would be exchanged on the Crown platform, based on the Dash network. "Our project will feature no pre-mine and a decentralized governance with the sole goal of promoting free speech," they claimed.
Nothing came of this venture, shockingly, but the duo were back at it in 2018, cranking out a series of videos pitching the Crown crypto platform, whose "overarching goal is to build a community of dedicated users who maintain a free, legally compliant, open-access and decentralized sandbox economy." Nothing came of that, either.
Then in 2019, Alexander launched a tabloid called Culttture, a right-wing organ that employed a handful of writers to write breathless gossip about MAGA-world's second-string celebs, often plugging Alexander's tweets and videos in the course of the day. The site's homepage took a hiatus the next spring, however, citing the coronavirus pandemic ("China's virus") for the need to "simplify." Although the homepage still promises a steady stream of content, that promise appears not to have materialized. Twitter suspended Culttture's account when it suspended Alexander, on Jan. 10. Bostic had claimed on his Twitter profile to be a "lead at Culttture," but deleted that sometime after Jan. 9.
Alexander also still retains control over the Black Conservatives Fund, and the group regularly promoted Stop the Steal rallies to its more than 80,000 Facebook followers. One post ahead of the Jan. 6 riots read: "D.C. becomes FORT TRUMP starting today. Fight to #StopTheSteal with President Trump." It then listed rally locations, including at the Capitol building. That post disappeared from the Facebook page after an inquiry from CNBC.
That PAC's treasurer, Patrick Krason, also happens to be treasurer for Stop the Steal PAC — the group that initially registered in November with Bostic as designated agent. During the two months prior to the riot, Bostic, who also listed himself as the media contact for Stop the Steal, helped organize rallies and sometimes addressed crowds briefly himself.
On Jan. 6, Bostic was in Washington with Alexander. The two can be clearly identified in video clips climbing the Capitol steps with Alex Jones. After the violence, Bostic tweeted, "This could've all been avoided if we were shown signatures and allowed to audit our elections. You cannot expect elections to be conducted in secret without repercussions. I do not in any way endorse violence, but path has been traversed time and time again throughout history."
Two days after the attack, Bostic's name was removed from the Stop the Steal PAC's statement of organization. Bostic told Salon that "some answers are too long for Twitter," adding that "you have slandered me, my friends, all to meet your monthly ad revenue quota."
Salon then asked Krason, the PAC's treasurer who manages compliance for a number of political committees, why Bostic was no longer a listed agent. Krason outlined a complex but plausible scenario in which he had to change bank accounts. Krason would not say what role, if any, Bostic had played in that well-timed change, and would not say whether Bostic had asked to remove his name, or why he had been listed as an agent to begin with.
After Alexander went into hiding, apparently concerned about the authorities, Bostic at first made his Twitter account private. He reopened it again this past Friday, having deleted all tweets prior to Jan. 5 (except for a New Year's Eve post), as well as a number of tweets from Jan. 6, the day of the riot, including one that called Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer "evil" for posting an image of a Stacey Abrams votive candle. Bostic has also removed two tweets that appeared to show live-streamed video which he had captioned "Storming the Capitol." Those tweets are archived here and here, but the media files appear inaccessible. He did, however post that the chants of "Stop the Steal" that day were "indescribable."
That refrain, believe it or not, can be traced all the way back to the apparent beginning of Bostic and Alexander's relationship. One of the first tweets from the "Daniel's Lover" fan account is a retweet of an uncannily prescient post from Curtis Bostic, Daniel's dad, whose underdog campaign had just hired Akbar, perhaps unofficially.
"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." - Benjamin Franklin
10:47 AM · Jan 22, 2013·Twitter for iPhone
Alexander could not immediately be reached for comment.