Overstock.com founder Patrick Byrne became a political star in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election defeat, joining a cast of MAGA allies who gained new prominence on the right by insisting that the election had been stolen. The idiosyncratic tech figure even made it to Trump’s inner circle in the last days of the administration, scarfing down snacks in a bizarre White House meeting where he told Trump that the president’s top staffers had abandoned him.
With Trump out of office, Byrne has appeared at rallies alongside similar Trump boosters like MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and pro-Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, promising that bombshell revelations about election fraud are just around the corner.
After a few months running down leads for the MAGA cause, though, Byrne says it’s time for fans to pay for his wisdom. As he insists that the country will soon be rocked by “hand grenades” and “Mother of All Bombs”-level revelations about voter fraud, Byrne has started putting some of his updates on his fight to prove election malfeasance behind a paywall, charging his supporters $5 a month to see the “truth” about the election.
As other election-fraud falsehood promoters like Wood and Powell solicit donations for nonprofits that they control, Byrne’s private election updates mark a new step toward making a permanent, well-funded industry on the right out of denying that Joe Biden legitimately won the election.
For many of his fans, Byrne’s sales pitch has clashed with the urgency of his message. If the facts Byrne is revealing about the election are so vital, with the fate of American democracy itself at stake, why is he charging for it?
“I’m really disappointed,” one Byrne fan posted Saturday on Byrne’s page on Telegram, a social network that’s become popular with the far right. “If this is the make or break revolution we are told it is, why are we paying for information?”
Another Byrne commenter pointed out that, as the founder of a company now valued at more than $3 billion, Byrne is not exactly hard up for cash. Byrne’s net worth isn’t public, but he sold the entirety of his Overstock for around $90 million in 2019, after resigning from the company following revelations of his relationship with Russian agent Maria Butina. Byrne no longer has any affiliation with Overstock.
“The fact that the former CEO of Overstock needs our monthly donation to do what you’re doing still makes me suspicious,” the Telegram user wrote.
Byrne has won over plenty of devotees, though, and is set to pull in more than $1.1 million annually from his paywalled election updates, according to a Daily Beast analysis of his following.
Byrne set up his paywalled election-fraud feed this spring on Locals, a subscription site founded by right-wing comedian Dave Rubin that is also used by Fox News host Greg Gutfeld and Dilbert creator Scott Adams. So far, Byrne has amassed more than 19,100 subscribers, each paying either a $5 monthly fee or a $55 annual subscription. At the monthly rate, that means Byrne can expect to pull in $1.15 million annually, minus credit card processing fees and a 10 percent cut taken by Rubin’s company.
Byrne claims he also moved many of his updates from Telegram to Locals because he likes the site’s format, dubbing it “OnlyFans for intellectuals,” in a reference to the subscription-based adult entertainment site.
In an email to The Daily Beast, Byrne defended charging for updates on his hunt for election fraud, insisting that all of the money goes toward his efforts to fight what he’s called a “soft coup.” Byrne claimed he has spent $5.5 million of his own money so far investigating election fraud, part of $45 million he claims to have spent over 15 years “investigating corruption in USA.” In the run-up to the election, Byrne has claimed, he funded a team of “various odd people” he dubbed the “Bad News Bears,” investigating election fraud.
“100% of the FUNDS people are paying me on Locals are going to help fight this fight,” Byrne told The Daily Beast. “People say they want to help. Well OK, here’s a way to sign up for five dollars per month.”
Byrne declined to say exactly how the money he makes from Locals will be spent.
Whether Byrne’s fans are getting their money’s worth, however, is unclear. Many of the videos used in Byrne’s members-only posts are available elsewhere free and often in better quality. For example, Byrne posted footage from a Michigan press conference featuring a lawyer trying to audit that state’s ballot totals. But Byrne’s version of the video is undermined by the use of a “snowflake” filter, which makes the entire press conference look like it took place in a blizzard, with howling-wind sound effects added to what was meant to be a serious event.
Byrne, like other promoters of the idea that the election was stolen from Trump, is fond of predicting a massive change in the election result is just around the corner, a “mother lode” of evidence about to be unleashed. On May 3, Byrne claimed that his ally, pillow magnate Mike Lindell, would soon reveal voter-fraud proof that would “force the Supreme Court to weigh in.” With the month nearly finished, though, that moment hasn’t arrived.
Not everyone is complaining about the fee. In Byrne’s Locals comment section, people who have already paid Byrne $5 a month are often thrilled to pay. One Byrne subscriber described the payment as a fee meant to ensure “against libtards joining.”
“That’s a steal for TRUTH!” wrote another.
This isn’t the first time Byrne has made money from his association with claims that the election was stolen. Sales of Deep Rig, his book about the election and its aftermath, reached the top of the Amazon sales charts. The book succeeded even though much of it was taken directly from Byrne’s blog, produced in such haste that the printed version included hyperlinks and video embeds, rendered useless by being printed out in book form.