- The Trump-aligned lawyer Sidney Powell has been subject to sanctions and a disbarment effort.
- A Texas legal ethics practitioner said this kind of case should lead to “automatic disbarment.”
- Even if her law license is yanked, her dark-money group Defending the Republic has millions on hand.
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Sidney Powell’s guilty plea might finally spell the end of her legal career — but a dark-money political group she runs still has a multimillion-dollar war chest.
Powell flipped on Donald Trump and pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor counts related to the 2020 election in Georgia on Friday morning. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis charged her, Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and several other people with illegally trying to overturn Joe Biden’s win in Georgia.
Bob Bennett, a Texas lawyer with experience defending other attorneys in disciplinary cases, believes she should finally be disbarred.
“If the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel can’t address this, then they ought to get a new chief disciplinary counsel,” he said.
Experts have said since shortly after the 2020 election that Powell could be in legal jeopardy for carrying water for Trump, who falsely claimed that he lost to Biden only because of a complex, multistate conspiracy to change votes or enable massive voter fraud. Powell was sanctioned in Michigan, and Wisconsin officials unsuccessfully sought a similar penalty.
Texas bar officials have tried to yank Powell’s law license before. But a University of Houston Law Center legal ethicist, Renee Knake, Jefferson wrote that the guilty plea could be “a new basis for disbarment.”
Texas is going after Sidney Powell’s license
Attorney ethics rules in Texas require disbarment for “serious crimes,” a category that includes “any misdemeanor involving theft, embezzlement, or fraudulent or reckless misappropriation of money or other property; or any attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation of another to commit” such a crime.
Bennett, the disciplinary lawyer, said he had kept tabs on Powell for years because both of them worked in the US attorney’s office for the Western District of Texas decades ago. He thinks it’s time for her to stop practicing law.
“If you can’t disbar somebody like Sidney Powell, who are you disbarring?” he said.
Claire Reynolds, a representative for the Texas Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel, said the Georgia case shouldn’t have any impact on the pending effort to disbar Powell. But she was mum on whether it would lead to new charges.
“We are required by statute to keep all pending disciplinary matters confidential, so I wouldn’t even be able to confirm whether anything was pending,” she told Insider in an email.
Powell’s ‘Defending the Republic’ has raised over $17 million
It could take months or years for bar officials to go after Powell’s law license. Since she went to work on behalf of Donald Trump and his supporters, she appears to have done little else; based on a docket search for her name using Westlaw, her last appearance in federal court as a lawyer appears to have been an effort to avoid sanctions in the Wisconsin case earlier this year.
She’s involved in many other cases — not as a lawyer, but as a defendant. Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems, both voting technology companies, have brought defamation lawsuits against her, claiming that she and other Trump supporters devastated their business by falsely claiming that they helped rig the 2020 election.
In the meantime, she’s running a nonprofit with more than $5 million in the bank that has paid her $120,000 a year in rent.
Powell runs Defending the Republic. a political nonprofit that doesn’t have to disclose its donors. The Washington Post reported in 2021 that it had raised over $14 million; its tax return for the year ending in November 2021 says it raised nearly $16.4 million.
Donations fell sharply. According to its 2021 tax return, which is on file in Florida, DTR raised only $1.1 million that year. It spent nearly $4.5 million, putting a significant dent in its war chest. Still, the group had more than $5 million on hand as of November 2022, the filings show.
While the group has spent millions on legal fees for January 6 defendants, among others, it’s not clear whether they directly benefited Powell. Financial statements for the group say the only related-party transaction is paying an LLC owned by Powell $120,000 for rent.
The financial statements list that entity as 524 Old Towne LLC, which Politico reported housed an old antique store in Virginia that Powell turned into a law office.