The mystery behind the Mike Lindell Foundation's miraculous funding of the evangelical movement

The MyPillow guy says he has nothing to do with his own charity. So how is it able to donate so much?

Published September 3, 2021 5:54PM (EDT)

Mike Lindell (Patrick McMullan/Getty Images)
Mike Lindell (Patrick McMullan/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared at The Young Turks. Used by permission.

The Young Turks; TYT; logo

One of a series about the Fellowship Foundation, the secretive religious group that runs the National Prayer Breakfast and is popularly known as The Family. This series is based on Family documents obtained by TYT, including lists of breakfast guests and who invited them.

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell started his charity, the Lindell Foundation, in 2012, to help addicts and substance abusers.

It was dissolved and then born again in 2013. It relaunched in 2015. In January 2018, Lindell told Don Imus that he was getting ready to start to launch and in October 2018 told Laura Loomer, "We're not completely launched."

This week, Lindell told TYT he hasn't done anything with the Lindell Foundation in four years. The Lindell Foundation URL redirects to his personal site. But tax records show it was still taking in money -- and distributing it to evangelical causes -- as of 2019, its most recent filing.

As TYT reported, insiders from The Family have been involved with the Lindell Foundation since 2016, the year Lindell attended his first National Prayer Breakfast. As his connections with The Family deepened that year, traditional lines between Lindell's politics, religion, commerce, and philanthropy began to fade.

Related story: How Mike Lindell Found Jesus Christ…and Donald Trump

Against internal advice, Lindell turned MyPillow explicitly political. He began to see his company as a platform to do what he believed to be God's work -- including supporting Donald Trump. Then, after Trump won, Lindell writes,

"I began to understand what God might intend for the 'platform' He had provided, and that the Lindell Foundation and our focus on helping people might be a vessel for that. Throughout 2016, I had asked myself why a guy like me would be invited to participate in high-profile, nationally watched events. Now I was beginning to think that maybe God had opened those doors in order to expand whatever good the Lindell Foundation might do."

Tax filings show that, after The Family got involved with the Lindell Foundation, the charity's focus shifted from addiction toward evangelism. When Imus asked him in 2018 about helping addicts, Lindell responded, "No, no. That was originally what I was gonna do."

(Lindell has maintained some focus on addiction elsewhere. Another philanthropy, the Lindell Recovery Network, allows addicts to view videos pertinent to both their age and substance use.)

In Lindell's media appearances, however, the Lindell Foundation has provided him with valuable publicity. Christian actor Stephen Baldwin got Lindell an award for the Lindell Foundation's work.

Related story: Stephen Baldwin's Other Family

Lindell tells interviewers he's put $6 million of his own money into the foundation, to cover overhead, so that every dime donated goes to the beneficiaries. In 2017, Lindell's niece told the city of Chaska, MN, MyPillow's headquarters, that the foundation had committed $2 million for housing.

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But Lindell Foundation filings show no sign of any such expenditure. And the charity's total revenues since it was formed add up to only $2.6 million, well below the $6 million Lindell says he donated. Its total expenses, including employee salaries, grants, and charitable distributions, total only $2.6 million.

In 2017, the charity reported having 12 employees -- but only disclosed $201,211 in salaries and compensation. Subtracting the $55,385 paid to its president, that would leave the remaining 11 staffers making an average salary of $13,257.

Lindell has said he wanted donors to select their recipients. In 2018, Lindell told Imus, "You're gonna go on [the site] and you're basically gonna be able to pick your need, like pick your square. You'll hear a story about whatever it is, and then whatever you wanna give, even if it's five dollars…you'll hear back from them online the difference you made."

As Lindell told TYT, however, he hasn't done anything with the Lindell Foundation in four years. Someone apparently has, though. Because although the foundation's footprint shrank, it has continued funding evangelical causes under the leadership of Family insiders and friends.

Family Values

By 2017, three Family insiders or allies were helping to run Lindell's charity: Lindell Foundation Pres. Wilfred Job and board members Bob Dees and A. Larry Ross. With The Family's hands on the wheel, Lindell's charity went in a new direction, that included the Philippines.

Ross is both a board member of The Family's legal entity, the Fellowship Foundation, and its spokesperson. In December 2016, Ross and Lindell flew to the Philippines on "matters related to the Lindell Foundation," according to Lindell's book.

The foundation's filings indicate having no one working outside the United States, and Lindell says only they were "invited" to go, not by whom. But The Family had connections in the Philippines. While they were there, Lindell and Ross met with Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, who had been invited to the 2016 National Prayer Breakfast prior to becoming president.

Just a mayor at the time, Duterte had been invited to the breakfast by a Pennsylvania real estate developer named Todd Hendricks, a Family insider who has invited scores of people to the breakfast. Hendricks had his own Philippines connections -- he attended a 2015 meeting there with Family members and Filipino leaders. And although Americans are told that it's Congress that invites foreign leaders, Filipino politicians knew to thank Hendricks and Job by name for their invitations. Job, the Lindell Foundation's new president, also had connections to the Philippines.

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Lindell, however, told TYT he "had no idea" who Wilfred Job was. Asked about the salary the Lindell Foundation reported paying Job, Lindell said he was not aware of that. Lindell added, "Go to jail. Go somewhere and find yourself a nice jail cell, because that's where you're going to end up. Goodbye."

During the brief call, Lindell several times referred to the reporter as a "scumbag" and at one point said, "Where do you get these lies?"

Job's position and his salary are listed on the Lindell Foundation's 2017 tax filing. According to the filing, Job worked five hours a week for the foundation, and received $55,385 in compensation.

Lindell, Job, and Ross are also listed in Texas business filings as directors of two other charities. Giving Grace Church was formed in July 2016, while Encircle was formed in March 2017. It's not clear whether Lindell is even aware of these entities, as he denied knowing Job, the filings have Texas addresses for Lindell, and both entities were short-lived.

Although Lindell's book says Ross was on the board of the Lindell Foundation in 2016, the first time the foundation discloses the existence of a board is 2017, the first year Family involvement is documented. That same year, the filing says, the Lindell Foundation's mission expanded beyond addicts to include the "homeless, poor, [and] veterans." The foundation would do this, in part, by funding evangelical organizations.

The Lindell Foundation's 2017 beneficiaries included:

  • Detroit Blight Busters ($10,000 to "help those in critical need")
  • Togetherworks ($25,000 to "help those in critical need"
  • Somebody Cares America ($15,000 for "displaced families")
  • One Mission ($15,000 for "displaced families")
  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes ($5000 for "displaced families")

Like most charities, the evangelical organizations funded by the Lindell Foundation do good work, helping people who need it. Many, however, view a personal relationship with Jesus as a fundamental need, and incorporate proselytization into their work to meet that need.

One Mission, for instance, builds homes in Mexico, but has also supported missionaries. Somebody Cares America, a part of Turning Points Ministries, also proselytizes. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) has been banned from some schools for coercive proselytizing -- "illegal," according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The FCA also reportedly prohibits same-sex relationships among its staff and volunteers.

Detroit Blight Busters builds and renovates homes, but also razes homes seen as blights on their neighborhoods. "Get the city safe, get the city clean," its founder told The Guardian. "The capitalists will take care of the rest."

Then there's Togetherworks. The Georgia charity got $25,000 from the Lindell Foundation in 2017. Bob Dees, the Lindell Foundation board member and Family friend, joined the Togetherworks board that same year.

Lindell met Dees and Ben Carson -- who had recently made Dees his campaign manager -- through The Family, at the 2016 National Prayer Breakfast. Dees, a retired Army major general, was active across a constellation of right-wing Christian organizations.

Dees is also the founder of Resilience God Style (RGS), a program to build individual and national resilience through the communication of "Biblical truth." RGS endorsers include Franklin Graham, Col. Oliver North (Ret.), and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), who compares Dees to Robert E. Lee.

When Dees joined the board in 2017, Togetherworks reported that he did 25 hours of work per week, and received compensation of $9000. Dees told TYT that the money was "reimbursement for goods and services provided in conduct of the Resilience God Style (RGS) conference and speaking ministry." Togetherworks had also started funding RGS directly in 2016 and continued to do so, before drastically cutting its funding for Dees' program in 2019.

The Lindell Foundation, however, appears to have begun funding RGS directly. In 2018, the Lindell Foundation reported a $10,000 "scholarship" for something called RGS Emmanuel. The tax ID number for RGS Emmanuel is the same as the tax ID for Emmanuel College, a small, Christian college in Georgia that made Campus Pride's list of "absolute worst" colleges for LGBTQ students.

Dees, however, said Emmanuel College had nothing to do with it. (A spokesperson for Emmanuel College said the college had no such scholarship.)

Instead, Dees explained, the money was part of a scholarship funded by the Lindell Foundation in 2018 and 2019 to send a Liberian student named Emmanuel to study at Liberty University.

The Lindell Foundation filing does say that the nonprofit "donated toward education through Liberia 2 Liberty, an approved 501(c)3." The IRS, however, has no record of a charity called Liberia 2 Liberty. No such entity appears in Virginia state records.

In an email, Dees said, "The flow of the Lindell donation went to Together Works (501c3)- Resilience God Style (RGS) Project Liberia2Liberty (or what [the] Lindell 990 calls 'RGS Emmanuel'). Subsequently, Together Works used the donation proceeds to sen[d] to Liberty University for academic costs for [the student]," who "has now returned to serve in her home country."

The Lindell Foundation did not disclose why it donated to bring a student from Liberia to attend Liberty University, the second-largest online school in the country, with 85 percent of its students remote in 2017. Liberty University did not respond to a request for comment, but awarded Lindell an honorary doctorate in 2019. Liberty, another school on Campus Pride's worst list, was sued earlier this summer for policies that allegedly make sexual assault more likely.

And it wasn't just evangelical charities now getting Lindell money.

In 2017, the Lindell Foundation paid $18,000 to Development Services Group -- a Christian, anti-abortion company -- for fundraising consulting (Lindell Foundation revenues went from $950,125 that year to $497,801 in 2018).

By 2019, the Lindell Foundation's board had changed somewhat. Wilfred Job isn't listed on any filings after his first year there. Dees and Ross, by now a Lindell spokesperson, remain, however, and they've been joined by another Family friend.

Paul Lavelle was a military veteran who ran a Christian program to help troubled veterans. It was Lavelle's program, Operation Restored Warrior, that got Mike Lindell to drop to his knees and surrender to Jesus in 2017. In 2019, Lavelle became the treasurer of the Lindell Foundation.

Other foundation leaders at this point include Lindell, his niece, and a Minnesota Republican named Doug Wardlow. Wardlow, also general counsel for MyPillow, who reportedly had worked for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is known for its opposition to LGBTQ rights, including banning trans children from using the restrooms where they feel most comfortable.

Wardlow, Lindell said, "worked for this Christian organization that backs my Christian beliefs." Wardlow also reportedly once bullied a gay classmate to the point of attempting suicide.

By this point, the MyPillow executives who once sat atop the Lindell Foundation were long gone -- although it appears MyPillow employees continued to perform administrative duties for the nonprofit.


Lindell's claim that his foundation hasn't done anything for four years has some truth to it. It reported having fewer employees in 2018, just five, and none in 2019. Nevertheless, even in 2019, with zero employees, the Lindell Foundation still reported $60,000 in expenses. And somehow, whether Lindell knew it or not, money kept flowing, miraculously, to evangelical organizations.

Until its 2021 tax filings are released, we won't know what the Lindell Foundation spent its money on, if anything, during Lindell's post-election crusade to restore Trump to the White House. Nonprofit expenditures in political areas can potentially violate the law, but Lindell has frequently blurred the lines between his various endeavors.

Like much of The Family, Lindell dismisses the separation of church and state as an absurdity. When God's will is clear, checks and balances are literally against God. Lindell has applied that same thinking to virtually all of his endeavors, including the Lindell Foundation.

Of the three board members of the Lindell Legal Offense Fund, the nonprofit entity for his "election integrity" efforts, two also sit on the Lindell Foundation board: Lindell himself and Lavelle.

Another Lindell Foundation board member, Doug Wardlow, is also very much engaged in the election issues. In his capacity as MyPilow general counsel, Wardlow must fight the legal battle that arose from Lindell's false election claims -- because MyPillow pushed them. And Ross, the Family board member, doesn't just represent Lindell and his foundation, he also represents MyPillow.

As TYT reported earlier this year, a number of Family leaders and financial backers were early supporters of the Big Lie -- donating after Election Day to Trump and other Republicans actively trying to convince millions of Americans that Joe Biden had stolen the election. Three weeks after that report, Biden delivered the traditional presidential speech at the breakfast anyway

Just a month after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, Biden said in a video address to the breakfast's remote attendees, "We know now we must confront and defeat political extremism, white supremacy and domestic terrorism."

Calling this "a dark, dark time," Biden asked, "So where do we turn?" His answer: "Faith."

By Jonathan Larsen

Jonathan Larsen is the creator of The F**king News.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Investigation Mike Lindell Mypillow Republicans Right-wing Politics The Family