Terpsehore Maras and Trump

Evan El-Amin/ShutterStock Ohio capital Journal (Licensed)

A QAnon podcaster raised $50,000 to file an amicus brief in Trump’s Supreme Court case—she plans to spend it on slime facials and slippers

She said she didn't need to explain where the money went.

 

Aneela Mirchandani

Tech

Posted on Jan 30, 2024   Updated on Jan 30, 2024, 10:02 am CST

Notorious MAGA podcaster Terpsehore Maras filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court earlier this month in support of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to remain on the 2024 ballot. 

The case is an appeal of the Colorado Supreme Court’s December ruling disqualifying Trump from the state’s primary ballot under the 14th Amendment, based on a lower court finding that his actions at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot constituted an insurrection.

Maras’ amicus brief came after an intense 48-hour fundraising drive kicked off on her podcast, the Tore Says Show. In it, she invited followers to have their names “etched in history” by joining her, calling for donations that she couched in doublespeak. 

The funds would go towards legal fees for the brief, she said, but never divulged exactly what she needed.

The fundraising campaign had no target amount set and, at the same time, Maras added a disclaimer that she could be pocketing the excess.

“I don’t have to explain shit to you,” she said.

The gambit appears to have worked. Her followers, believing in her fight to save Trump and America, gave Tore at least $56,000 in a two-day span. 

That’s far beyond what it could reasonably cost to file such a brief, experts said, and far beyond what many of her supporters could afford—as users pleaded for more time to donate until their Social Security checks came in.

All for a brief that will likely have little impact on the case and puts forward a legal theory experts find dubious at best. 

Maras, who goes by Tore, is a QAnon-believing, rabble-rousing conspiracy theorist bent on bending the nation to Trump’s will and rule. 

She ran for Ohio Secretary of State in 2022 to help ensure its electors remained red. She lost, gaining just 1% of the vote after a checkered campaign, first being disqualified from the Republican primary in May, then having her eligibility as an independent candidate challenged.

Maras got her start as a MAGA influencer by running a Christmas charity drive to benefit homeless shelters that landed her in court.

She has claimed to be a medical doctor, an intelligence contractor, and a “crypto-linguist.” In 2020, she provided an affidavit filled with falsehoods to Sidney Powell’s election challenge lawsuits. 

Despite this track record, she collected a rabid set of fans who follow her on a number of niche platforms after she was banned from YouTube and Twitch. 

She has amassed over 35,000 followers on Rumble, and over 50,000 on Telegram.

Her followers think of her as an “American hero” who “speaks things into reality” and who now believe she has the ear of the nine justices on the Supreme Court. 

The main argument in her brief is one of Maras’ own devising. The Ninth Amendment of the Constitution, she argues, guarantees citizens the right to vote for a candidate of their choice—a right that the Colorado Supreme Court violated by disqualifying Trump from the primary ballot. 

The Ninth Amendment entitles people to rights not enumerated in the Constitution. However, it has never been used as an independent source of rights by the Supreme Court.

Indeed, no other brief out of the dozens on the docket so far makes a similar argument.  

This argument, and the rest of the Maras brief, were derided by two constitutional scholars who spoke to the Daily Dot as “not worth taking seriously” and “a whole lot of nothing.” 

Maras is fully aware of the radical nature of her argument but also considers that the selling point. 

Maras did not respond to Daily Dot inquiries about her brief or her fundraising efforts.

In her announcement video, she said the Ninth Amendment was an “underused” amendment of great importance to the people, and thus, her amicus brief was imbued with historical significance. 

Many of her followers ate it up. 

“GODSPEED, GOD’S FAVOR and BLESSINGS be upon this historic case,” one follower said on Telegram on the day it was filed. 

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Thousands of Maras followers who have signed on to the brief—including Roseanne Barr—have been led to believe that if their brief attracts the attention of one of the justices, and the Ninth Amendment argument gets taken seriously, it would open the door not just to keep Trump on the ballot but regain rights they believe they lost due to the pandemic—such as COVID-19 vaccine mandates. 

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But it is clear from the various forums where Maras’ followers gather that few have any notion of what an amicus brief is or the minimal impact it’s likely to have. 

Amicus curiae,” meaning “friend of the court,” can be filed by anyone who has a strong interest in a case but is not party to it, offering analysis or data that may have been missed. 

They are often filed by legal scholars or experts who have specific knowledge to share or a strong interest in the outcome. When substantive, they have on occasion been cited by the courts or shaped the judges’ thinking. 

Several of the three dozen or so amicus briefs filed in this case are from parties with heft: one by 179 sitting members of Congress, another by the Republican National Committee—both in support of the former president’s position. More are expected to be filed arguing in favor of his disqualification.

However, amicus briefs can be filed by anyone, as a marketing tool or for any reason at all, and have no legal bearing. 

Vivek Ramaswamy filed one in this case. The court is not required to cite amicus briefs, take them seriously, or even read them. 

This is not how Maras’ followers see it.

“This is the greatest thing I have done in my life,” one man who added his name to the brief said in a Twitter Space Maras and her attorney held the day after it landed on the docket. 

They are eagerly awaiting the Feb. 8 hearing at the Supreme Court, hoping to hear justices cite Maras’ Ninth Amendment argument. 

However, despite the fervent, almost apocalyptic excitement the amicus brief generated among Maras’ followers, the argument it makes is being panned by constitutional and other legal experts. 

The Maras amicus brief argues that her and followers’ Ninth Amendment right to vote was usurped by the Colorado Supreme Court.

Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law and a constitutional scholar, said that arguments based on rights granted by the Ninth Amendment are not worth taking seriously. 

“Never has the Supreme Court used the Ninth Amendment to protect rights,” he said in an email. “It would be radical for the Court to accept this argument.”

Stephen Vladeck, at the University of Texas School of Law, pointed out in an email: “This argument is clearly belied by the existence of other qualification provisions in the Constitution, which prevent anyone who is less than 35 years old or doesn’t meet citizenship or residency requirements from eligibility for President.” 

Another constitutional scholar, Lawrence Tribe, stated in his book “American Constitutional Law” that the amendment does not confer substantive rights: “It is a common error, but an error nonetheless, to talk of ‘Ninth Amendment rights.'” 

When the Supreme Court has used the Ninth Amendment, it is to bolster rights inferred from other amendments. In Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 case on contraceptives, the majority opinion found that the right to due process granted by the 14th Amendment implied a right to privacy. A concurring opinion by Justice Arthur Goldberg found that the Ninth Amendment bolstered such unenumerated rights inferred from other amendments. 

Even so, Justice Goldberg said, the Ninth Amendment could not be used as an independent source of rights.

This right to privacy inferred from the 14th Amendment was later cited in Roe v. Wade. Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Dobbs v. Jackson case in 2022—however, the court left the right to privacy as conceived by Griswold untouched. 

Both Maras and the attorney who wrote the brief, Warner Mendenhall, fully admit that the Supreme Court has never granted a right solely based on the Ninth Amendment before. 

In their Jan. 19 Twitter Space, Maras and Mendenhall celebrated the uniqueness of their argument. “All briefs will be read,” Mendenhall said, “and I hope ours will stand out. As far as I know, we are the only ones making these arguments.” 

On top of the questionable nature of using the Ninth Amendment, “the brief is all over the map,” said California attorney Eric Kirk.

It argues that the state of Colorado is usurping the role of the federal government in ruling on the eligibility of a candidate to run for president. While the Tenth Amendment, it argues, gives states any rights not delegated to the federal government nor expressly prohibited to the states, the right to rule on eligibility is explicitly given to the federal government.

However, both Chemerinsky and Vladeck reject that argument. “The issue is whether Trump should be on the ballot in Colorado,” Chemerinsky said. “Of course, that is in the jurisdiction of the Colorado courts.”

Another argument conflates a civil ruling with a criminal determination.

“It was inappropriate for the Colorado Supreme Court to accept the quasi–criminal conclusion President Trump engaged in an ‘insurrection’ when the events of January 6, 2021 took place thousands of miles away in another jurisdiction,” the brief says. 

Overall, Vladeck said, the brief is a “whole lot of nothing.”

But Maras and Mendenhall see exciting possibilities ahead if an argument based on the Ninth Amendment is taken seriously by the justices, establishing a precedent to seek justice for vaccine mandates, mask mandates, and other COVID measures.

During the Twitter Space, Mendenhall rattled off other unenumerated rights that would manifest: the right to raise your family, the right to work, and health freedom.

But more interesting than the brief itself is how quickly Maras was able to fund it. 

Maras’ “Amicus SCOTUS” fundraising campaign on GiveSendGo started on Jan. 14 around the same time as her podcast announcement. Donations were requested from people who wanted their names on the brief. 

But she was not forthcoming about what amount she needed. Maras threw out some figures in a Locals video that suggested, without being explicit, the costs would include legal fees, printing fees, and hinted at an additional $20,000 needed for unspecified reasons, a number she has well surpassed.

She added a couple of revealing caveats. Donors were not entitled to a refund if their names didn’t make it onto the brief before the deadline. As for any excess funds after legal and printing fees, she would pocket it. 

“Those who donate but are not part of AMICUS by name will not have their money returned and I will see if I can quickly refund it or do as I wish without providing any justification or receipt,” she said on Telegram.

At one point in the announcement, she mentioned a $180 “slime facial that I’m dying to get” and might splurge on with excess funds.

One fan leaped at the opportunity to help her pay for it.

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Maras noted that if people didn’t include their names in their donations, she couldn’t add them to the brief.

“Only individuals who are parties by their legal name in the amicus curiae filing can contribute financially to this fund,” she said, so “our legal funding remains compliant with relevant legal standards of the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Those who donated but didn’t include their name? Their money would go to the facial and “weird slippers.”

Over 3,200 petitioners drawn from all 50 states and Puerto Rico signed on to Maras’ brief. A list of the petitioners’ names, categorized by state, makes up 70 of the 94-page document. Listed without fanfare under “Hawaii” is a familiar name: Roseanne Barr. 

Barr’s unannounced presence on the list caused a flurry of excitement in the Telegram channel for Maras’ followers.

Roseanne Barr notwithstanding, most of her fans are regular people who worry about medical bills and having money for dental fillings. Despite this, a couple years ago, they banded together to buy her a Tesla. 

Fans fretted about receiving their Social Security checks and overtime pay in time to donate, racing to add their names to history before the fundraising deadline on Jan. 17.

The amount on her GiveSendGo campaign quickly rose, jumping to $8,000 in the first hour.

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The next day, Jan. 15, comments from her fans make it clear that they hit $56,000. Shortly thereafter, the amount was hidden and the GiveSendGo made private. 

Printing an amicus brief to the specifications of the Supreme Court does require upfront costs. It involves paper of a specific weight, size, and typesetting. Shops in the D.C. area specialize in this. One such typesetting shop, Legal Printers, was asked to estimate the cost of a 100-page amicus. They quoted around $2,000.

Maras has hinted printing would cost $15,000, saying that “I’m sure the bill for the printing will be more than half [of the $33,000].”

As for legal fees, an email to the Mendenhall Law Group asking about their charges for such a brief did not receive a response. However, a survey of experienced lawyers all came up with similar numbers. A brief like this would take around 15-20 hours to research and write; given a $300-an-hour fee, the total could be around $6,000 at the upper end. 

While Maras encouraged her followers to think of their names appearing in a historic Supreme Court document as a family heirloom to hand down, they won’t actually receive a copy of the amicus. Maras said she would work with the printing company to offer the chance to “buy a commemorative booklet.”

Within 48 hours, the campaign was done, and the amicus brief appeared on the docket on Jan. 18. 

“They can say we are just a bunch of keyboard warriors,” one Maras follower celebrated. “But sorry no, we are the American People! And we will bring the STORM.”

While the court may not feel the “STORM,” or even read the brief, Maras will certainly be able to afford a facial.

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*First Published: Jan 30, 2024, 9:06 am CST