Man who went by “James Fortune” was a gateway to network of far-right operatives
Shortly after dawn on a recent steamy July morning, a man who said his name was James Fortune showed up off NC Highway 12 in Cape Hatteras. He had flown in from New York City and rented a car for a rendezvous with an employee of a North Carolina nonpartisan election education organization for a long day of deep-sea fishing.
“I told him this was not a pleasure boat,” the employee told Policy Watch. “We were going to be out in the Gulf current, rough seas.”
Policy Watch is not naming the employee or the organization because of concerns over security and safety.
No worries, Fortune said, he was an experienced deep sea fisherman, having been to Hatteras many times as a youth.
But Fortune caught nothing except a bad case of seasickness. He spent the next 12 hours 30 miles at sea, alternating between heaving over the side of the boat and sleeping next to his sea sickness bag.
This was one of many indications that the mysterious man from New York City might not be who he claimed to be — and that he was on a different type of fishing trip. A Policy Watch investigation has found links between Fortune, who progressive organizations in the state say has tried to infiltrate their groups, and many far-right political operatives, some as high-level as a one-time member of the Trump White House.
The tactic is similar to that used by Project Veritas, which for years has tried to infiltrate progressive organizations and Democratic campaigns in hopes of catching them in violating election law.
Earlier this week, the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal reported that Project Veritas had deployed people who misrepresented themselves as documentary filmmakers to gain access to several progressive and nonpartisan voter education organizations.
Fortune could not be reached via Direct Message on Twitter or email. His phone number is no longer valid.
There is no evidence the organizations took the bait; instead they reported the activity to law enforcement. Now the State Bureau of Investigation has reportedly launched inquiries into Fortune and his tangle of connections. As part of its standard protocol, the SBI does not confirm the existence of investigations.
Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause, told Policy Watch that his group contacted Wake District Attorney Lorrin Freeman and that her office has started a preliminary review into whether a criminal inquiry is warranted.
Fortune has since disappeared. But he left behind a crucial thread that could unravel what appears to be a sprawling scheme by far-right groups with ties to the Trump administration to entrap several North Carolina nonpartisan voter education nonprofits into violating election laws.
These connections begin with a $3,000 wire transfer to the employee’s North Carolina nonprofit from Fortune’s “business partner,” Blue Sky Med Labs, based in Georgia. Policy Watch received a copy of the transfer receipt and verified the name.
Blue Sky Med Labs, which is located in a dull office park in the suburban Atlanta town of Roswell and has no website, is run by Jason Boles, according to Georgia Secretary of State records. Those same state records show Boles is entwined with more than 50 organizations and political campaigns, including that of Marjorie Greene, the controversial QAnon candidate for a Georgia congressional seat; and a political action committee headed by Stefan Passantino, the former deputy White House Counsel under President Donald Trump. (Scroll down for a spreadsheet and networking maps of the players.)
Most important, Boles runs several organizations with Rick Thompson, a member of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (an agency formerly known as the Georgia Ethics Commission). He is also employed by Thompson at Thompson’s political management firm, RTA Strategy. Neither Boles nor Thompson responded to an email submitted by Policy Watch through the website.
Among the catchphrases on the RTA Strategy’s website: “You don’t know what you can get away with until you try.”
About two weeks before the fishing trip, Fortune had called the NC nonprofit organization’s election protection hotline. The staff person fielding calls forwarded Fortune to the employee, who would laker take him on the fishing trip. Fortune said he had about $20,000 to donate to various groups, and wanted to know about partner organizations, the employee told Policy Watch.
Even though Fortune lived 600 miles away, he said he was fond of North Carolina, and allegedly owned a business, Equality Gym, and that he planned to return to the state and open a location here — even though all such facilities were closed by executive order because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Equality Gym set up its Twitter account in June, around the same time that Blue Sky Med Labs incorporated.
Equality Gym has 35 Twitter followers and follows 1,062 accounts, including several North Carolina journalists, politicians and progressive groups. There are no original posts, and the account generally retweets sports and political news. Similarly, Equality Gym’s Instagram account has just one post. The website offers no contact information other than an email address, and is vague about its services.
Blue Sky Med Labs does not have a website, nor a social media presence.
The employee connected Fortune with other nonpartisan voter-education groups. Those included the North Carolina Black Alliance, which spoke to Fortune on a Zoom call. The employee told Policy Watch he was on that call, and that when Black Alliance members asked Fortune questions about the purpose of his donation, “he fumbled with his answers.”
NC Black Alliance declined Fortune’s offer, the employee said, and told him to get back to them when he had a firmer idea of his donation goals.
In July, Fortune flew from New York City to Raleigh and met the employee at My Way Tavern in Raleigh’s Glenwood South neighborhood because Fortune said he was staying in a nearby Airbnb. Throughout the conversation Fortune asked the employee about “strategies for targeting voters, as if he were naive.” The employee said he told Fortune the nonprofit used publicly available data.
Fortune also asked the employee about contacts at the campaign of Cal Cunningham, who is running for the US Senate against Republican incumbent Thom Tillis. The employee said he told Fortune he did not have contacts at the Cunningham campaign.
At the end of the meeting, the employee took a call from a family member about a planned fishing trip to the coast. After the call, Fortune told the employee that he enjoyed deep-sea fishing. So they agreed to meet on an upcoming Sunday.
The employee said that at the time, he was unconcerned about his safety on the boat trip. Now, he said, he is worried about his security. He wonders what Fortune’s plan was had he not become seasick.
In early August, Fortune contacted Common Cause of North Carolina. Bob Phillips told Policy Watch that he had five conversations with Fortune, four of them on Zoom. Fortune told Phillips a similar story to the one he told other election education organizations: that he was moving back to North Carolina to open a gym.
Fortune donated $1,000 to Common Cause, and again the wire transfer came from Blue Sky Med Labs.
Phillips said Fortune also asked him, “If we gave you $10,000 what would you do with it?”
“I was getting a little suspicious,” Phillips said. “It didn’t feel quite right not me.”
The last time Phillips communicated with Fortune was about a month ago, Phillips said. In an email, Fortune introduced Phillips to a woman who said she was living in Cumberland County, Selena Rodriguez. She said she had moved to North Carolina from New York and wanted to volunteer with Common Cause. She knew Fortune, she said, because he had been her personal trainer.
Phillips declined her offer.
Meanwhile, Fortaleza, a Raleigh-based nonprofit that specializes in leadership development work with Wake County’s Latinx population that had also interacted with Fortune, became suspicious. It connected Blue Sky Med Labs, which allegedly was in business with Fortune, to Jason Boles.
A Policy Watch analysis of Georgia Secretary of State records show Boles is involved with a vast and sometimes confusing network of political campaigns, conservative advocacy organizations, far-right front groups:
- Boles is the registered agent for Marjorie Greene, a QAnon supporter who is running for Georgia’s 14th District Congressional seat. In addition to her support of QAnon’s unfounded and outlandish conspiracy theories, Greene has a history of racist comments. According to Politico, she said Black people “are held slaves to the Democratic Party,” called the elections of Representatives Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota an “Islamic invasion” and called billionaire George Soros a “Nazi.” Boles is also the registered agent for the political action committee, Save America Stop Socialism, which is run by Perry Greene, the husband of Marjorie.
- The other registered agent for Greene’s campaign, according to state records, is Stefan Passantino, former Deputy White House Counsel for ethics policy in the Trump administration. He is now part of a new pro-Trump coalition preparing for the possibility of a contested election, according to the Washington Post. Passantino also provided legal advice to the U.S. Postal Service this spring. A bio on his law firm’s website says that in the 2015-2016 election cycle, Passantino “helped form, and served as counsel to, some of the largest and most influential and innovative “SuperPACs” and 501(c)(4) advocacy groups in the presidential campaign, including the Trump Presidential Transition Team.
- Boles is a co-officer and/or registered agent of at least 16 organizations with Rick Thompson, Georgia’s state ethics officer. Among those are the Access to Credit Coalition, which appears to advocate for payday lending and other predatory lending practices; several Republican political campaigns for state office; and two for-profit companies that specialize in election software.
- Boles also is the registered agent for what appear to be environmental groups, including Citizens for Clean Water. However none of these organizations has a website, so it’s difficult to ascertain their true motives.
- He is also a co-founder of a ministry, Audacious Faith. Its purpose, according to Boles’s LinkedIn Page “is to create and facilitate environments, events and activities that align with Biblical directives and meet the specific needs of our community.”
Phillips told Policy Watch that it’s a vulnerable time for voter education groups, especially because of existing concerns about election security, absentee ballots and the possibility of a protracted vote count.
“It’s a shameful attempt by extremists to cast doubt on election integrity,” Phillips said. “We want to expose them and let the world know it’s happening.”
[Editor’s notes: 1) The North Carolina Justice Center — parent organization to NC Policy Watch — is a partner organization with the NC Black Alliance. The Justice Center has not been approached by James Fortune or any of the other individuals described in this story. 2) The story has been updated to clarify that Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman is conducting a preliminary review into whether a full criminal inquiry is warranted.]
The Jason Boles Connection.xlsx
|Business Name||Mailing/ Street Address||City||State||Zip||Registered Agent||Registered Agent Address||City||State||Zip||Member 1||Member 2||Member 3||Date of Incorporation||Date of Dissolution||Nonprofit or LLC|
|1859 Fund||191 Peachtree Street NE, Suite 3400/ PO Box 818||Atlanta||GA||30303||Jason Boles||10719 Alpharetta Highway, #1483||Roswell||GA||30077||Ben Harris||Dave Collins||Jack Murphy||43052||NP|
|A Georgia for Georgians||PO Box 500884||Atlanta||GA||31150||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||Rick Thompson||Jason Boles||5/16/2018||NP|
|Access to Credit Coalition||PO Box 1483||Atlanta||GA||30077||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||Rick Thompson||3/8/2013||11/20/2019||NP|
|Americans for America||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||Rick Thompson||1/7/2020||NP|
|ATL One 2017||PO Box 500091||Atlanta||GA||31150||Jason Boles||US Hwy 19, #1483||Alpharetta||GA||30077||Jason Boles||Rick Thompson||10/19/2017||3/26/2019||NP|
|Audacious Faith||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||Carrisa Boles||6/16/2011||NP|
|Blue Sky Med Labs||5055 Old Ellis Pointe, A7||Roswell||GA||30076||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||6/17/2020||LLC|
|Bob Barr Company||900 Circle 75 Pkwy, Ste 1280||Atlanta||GA||30339||Stefan C Passintino||303 Peachtree St NE, Suite 5300||Atlanta||GA||30308||David Brown of McKenna Aldridge||9/28/2004||10/30/2009||LLC|
|Boles Land Co. LLC||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Roswell||GA||30009||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Roswell||GA||30009||Jason Boles||42823||LLC|
|Brian Stover for Post 4 Commissioner||PO Box 380||Dallas||GA||30132||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Brian Stover||NP|
|Chris Erwin for Georgia||PO Box 501029||Atlanta||GA||31150||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Ann Hopkins||Wes Whitfield||2/1/2018||NP|
|Citizens for Clean Water||PO Box 500824||Atlanta||GA||31150||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||Rashad Taylor||2/11/2020||NP|
|Committee to Elect Justice Charlie Bethel||PO Box 501029,||Atlanta||GA||31150||Bryan Tyson||1600 Parkwood Circle, Ste 200||Atlanta||GA||30339||Jason Boles||Rick Thompson||43629||NP|
|Committee to Protect Paulding County||PO Box 501029||Atlanta||GA||31150||Rick Thompson||10719 Alpharetta Highway, #1483||Roswell||GA||30077||Rick Thompson||Harry Lake III||Chip Lake||12/10/2013||NP|
|Community Development and Health PAC of Georgia, Inc||PO Box 501029||Atlanta||GA||31150||Rick Thompson||10719 Alpharetta Highway, #1483,||Roswell||GA||30077||Rick Thompson||Jason Boles||7/19/2017||NP|
|Doubletake Designs||1076 Canton Street, Lower Level||Roswell||GA||30075||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||8/28/2013||4/22/2015||LLC|
|Economic Growth Through Transportation||1076 Canton Street, Lower Level||Roswell||GA||30075||Jason Boles||1076 Canton Street, Lower Level,||Roswell||GA||30075||Jason Boles||Vance Smith||7/23/2014||8/24/2017||NP|
|Fly Sentry||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||Rick Thompson||7/8/2013||LLC|
|Friends for Donna Sheldon||PO Box 841||Dacula||GA||30019||Jason Boles||10719 Alpharetta Highway, #1483||Roswell||GA||30077||Donna Shelton||3/16/2018||8/26/2019||NP|
|Friends of Marty Harbin||130 Ellison Road||Tyrone||GA||30290||Jason Boles||170 Jade Cove Drive,||Roswell||GA||30075||Maurice Harbin||8/13/2020||NP|
|Friends of Pruitt||1062 Dublin Highway||Eastman||GA||31023||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Kelly Pruitt||Robert Pruitt||Neil Spradley||3/9/2020||NP|
|Friends of Will Wade||23 Nugget Lane||Dawsonville||GA||30534||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Will Wade||2/5/2020||NP|
|Front Runner LLC||PO Box 1||Roswell||GA||30077||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||Rick Thompson||Todd Hickerson||12/4/2014||LLC|
|Georgia First, Inc.||PO Box 1575||Roswell||GA||30077||Cheryl Fournier||303 Peachtree St NE, Suite 5300||Atlanta||GA||30308||Rick Thompson||2/8/2015||12/31/2018||NP|
|Georgia Grows||PO Box 501029||Atlanta||GA||31150||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Chris Maddox||Rick Thompson||Lee Greene||9/25/2015||4/30/2020||NP|
|Georgia Hemp Advisory Council||1185 Hightower Trail, #50884||Atlanta||GA||30350||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||8/28/2019||8/7/2020||NP|
|Georgia Leads on Education||PO Box 501029||Atlanta||GA||31150||Cheryl Fournier||303 Peachtree St NE, Suite 5300||Atlanta||GA||30308||Rick Thompson||5/21/2015||12/31/2018||NP|
|Georgia Outdoor Stewardship||100 Peachtree St NW, Ste 2250||Atlanta||GA||30303||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Andrew Schock||Deron Davis||George Dusenbury||6/26/2017||11/20/2019||NP|
|Georgians for Affordable Health Care Options||PO Box 1||Roswell||GA||30077||Stefan Passantino||303 Peachtree St NE, Suite 5300||Atlanta||GA||30308||Rick Thompson||redacted||Chip Lake||8/20/2014||12/7/2016||NP|
|GingrichTV, LLC||4501 North Fairfax Drive, Ste 900,||ArlingtonÂ||VA||22203||Stefan Passantino||303 Peachtree St NE, Suite 5300||Atlanta||GA||30308||Stefan Passantino||6/4/2013||12/7/2016||LLC|
|Green Tea Coalition||PO. BOX 2356||Roswell||GA||30077||Stefan Passantino||303 Peachtree St NE, Suite 5300||Atlanta||GA||30308||Rick Thompson||redacted||7/12/2013||12/31/2015||NP|
|Greene for Congress||413 Shorter Avenue, Ste 103||Rome||GA||30165||Jason Boles/Stefan Passantino of McKenna,Â et.al||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Marjorie Greene||Perry Greene||6/24/2019||NP|
|John McCallum for Congress||PO Box 20097||St Simons Island||GA||31522||Stefan Passantino||303 Peachtree St NE, Suite 5300||Atlanta||GA||30308||John McCallum||Regina Mabry||11/21/2013||NP|
|Kurt (Wilson) for Congress||5655 Atlanta Highway, Ste 102B-480||Alpharetta||GA||30004||Jason Boles||170 Jade Cove Drive,||Roswell||GA||30075||Jason Boles||Stan Beecham||Bart Chandler||3/25/2016||2/16/2018||NP|
|Leading Georgia Fund||PO Box 501029||Atlanta||GA||31150||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||Rick Thompson||10/12/2016||NP|
|Leading the Way GA PAC||PO Box 1483||Roswell,||GA||30077||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||Rick Thompson||3/14/2019||NP|
|Matt Laughridge for State Senate||PO BOX 2433||CARTERSVILLE||GA||30120||Jason Boles/initially Benjamin Keane w. McKenna, Long & Aldridge||1076 Canton Street, Lower Level,||Roswell||GA||30075||Jason Boles||redacted||9/3/2013||12/7/2016||NP|
|Let Us Decide||1600 Parkwood Circle, Ste 200||Atlanta||GA||Bryan Tyson||1600 Parkwood Circle, Ste 200||Atlanta||GA||30339||Jason Boles||Rick Lackey||NP|
|Michael Dugan for State Senate||106 Champion Driv||Carrollton||GA||30116||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||Michael Dugan||9/20/2019||NP|
|Mobilization Labs||3384 Peachtree Rd, Ste 605||Atlanta||GA||30326||Stefan Passantino||303 Peachtree St NE, Suite 5300||Atlanta||GA||30308||STEFAN C. PASSANTINO||1/7/2005||12/31/2015||LLC|
|New Voters Alliance||825 Fairways Ct, Ste 303||Stockbridge||GA||30281||Stefan Passantino||303 Peachtree St NE, Suite 5300||Atlanta||GA||30308||Hermain Cain||Gloria Cain||Karleen Smith||12/13/2004||9/7/2010||NP|
|Opportunity for All Georgia Students||5655 Alpharetta Hwy Ste 102B-215||Alpharetta||GA||30004||Cheryl Fournier||303 Peachtree St NE, Suite 5300||Atlanta||GA||30308||Rick Thompson||7/18/2016||9/7/2018||NP|
|PoliticaLabs||PO Box 1||Roswell||GA||30077||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||Rick Thompson||4/24/2015||LLC|
|Preserving America's Judiciary||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||Rick Thompson||10/8/2019||NP|
|Promoting Republican Ideals and Conservative Ethics PAC, Inc.||2700 Cumberland Pkwy, Ste 150||Atlanta||GA||30339||Stefan Passantino||303 Peachtree St NE, Suite 5300||Atlanta||GA||30308||Diana Kincaid||redacted||Elizabeth Barton||9/2/2016||08/24/2017||NP|
|Property Rights Advocacy||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||7/6/2020||NP|
|R Thompson & Associates||PO Box 1483||Roswell||GA||30077||Rick Thompson||10719 Alpharetta Highway, #1483,||Roswell||GA||30077||Rick Thompson||Jason Boles||8/18/2009||LLC|
|Responsible Gaming||1185 Hightower Trail, #501029,||Atlanta||GA||30350||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||Rick Thompson||8/17/2020||NP|
|Responsible Majority Fund||PO Box 389||Atlanta||GA||30301||Stefan Passantino||303 Peachtree St NE, Suite 5300||Atlanta||GA||30308||Rick Thompson||1/7/2013||12/7/2016||NP|
|Save America Stop Socialism PAC||413 Shorter Avenue, Ste 103,||Rome||GA||30165||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Perry Greene||8/14/2020||NP|
|Stand for Principle PAC||4780 Ashford Dunwoody Rd, Ste 540-340||Atlanta||GA||30338||Rick Thompson||1076 Canton Street, Lower Level,||Roswell||GA||30075||Maria Strollo Zack||redacted||Robert Bender||10/10/2014||9/7/2018||NP|
|Stop Socialism Now||1185 Hightower Trail, #501029,||Atlanta||GA||30350||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||8/14/2020||NP|
|Taxpayers for Health Care Choice||303 Peachtree St NE, Ste 5300||Atlanta||GA||30338||Stefan Passantino||303 Peachtree St NE, Suite 5300||Atlanta||GA||30308||Rick Thompson||7/10/2013||12/31/2015||NP|
|The Georgia CAN||5055 Old Ellis Pointe, A7,||Roswell||GA||30076||Jason Boles/Paul Booth||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||5055 Old Ellis Pointe, A7, Roswell GA 30076||3/16/2018||LLC|
|Tobacco Row||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||5/22/2020||LLC|
|Transparency Pro of Ga||PO Box 1||Roswell||GA||30077||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||Rick Thompson||6/19/2014||LLC|
|Vance Smith for State Senate||PO Box 171||Pine Mountain||GA||31822||Jason Boles||290 Jayne Ellen Way||Alpharetta||GA||30009||Jason Boles||Morris Mullin||Mike Jolley||10/19/2017||NP|
|The Boles Companies||PO Box 767322||Roswell||GA||30076||Jason Boles||118 Teal Ct||Roswell||GA||30076||Jason Boles||40420||40997||LLC|