Don’t forget to include Overstock.com founder Patrick Byrne on the small but embarrassing list of home furnishing magnates milking every last penny from Donald Trump supporters who are convinced Biden can be retroactively tossed out of office.
Byrne—one of several wealthy conspiracy theorists who crowded around Trump in the final days of his presidency, advising him to simply seize power as he was abandoned by his political allies—has been on the road for months at rallies promoting a hoax that Joe Biden, election tech manufacturers, and China or another foreign power schemed to steal the 2020 elections. But his generosity has reached a limit, according to the Daily Beast. Now Byrne wants his audience to chip in $5 a month each to see paywalled content about his travails across the country to pull the wool from the sheeple’s eyes.
Byrne is following the lead of MyPillow gremlin Mike Lindell, another pro-Trump conspiracy theorist, in insisting that unstoppable revelations are around the corner while quietly siphoning funds from the gullible. In recent weeks, Lindell launched Frank Speech, a site he described as a social media network to contest the dominance of Twitter and YouTube but in reality, is mostly a series of conspiracy livestreams boxed in by pillow ads. Byrne has skipped trying to build his own site and is instead using Locals, the Daily Beast reported, which is a sort of Patreon knockoff primarily used by streamers and pundits popular among right-wingers—pundits like Fox News’s Greg Gutfeld, former Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard, and Dilbert creator turned self-declared “master wizard” Scott Adams. Locals is run by Dave Rubin, a former commentator for progressive network The Young Turks who now styles himself as a MAGA-friendly exile from the “regressive left.”
The former Overstock CEO previously released a slapdash book on Amazon, Deep Rig, that soared to the top of sales charts despite being largely copy-pasted posts from his blog. (The Kindle version is $3.99, while a paperback goes for $7.99.) Now he’s stopped posting many of his updates to chat app Telegram and instead has locked them behind Locals’ paywall, where the Daily Beast wrote he is already making in the neighborhood of seven figures annually:
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.
Note that Byrne’s net worth is not a matter of public record, but Overstock.com is valued at over $3 billion. When Byrne resigned in 2019 after news broke of his relationship with accused Russian spy Maria Butina, according to the Daily Beast, he sold his remaining stock in the company to the tune of $90 million. One could surmise it is unlikely Byrne is really scraping for funds.
The vast majority of the comments on Byrne’s two Telegram channels, one of which has over 127,000 subscribers and the other nearly 63,000, appeared to be from true believers who didn’t mind throwing the millionaire some change. Many could be described as exhilarated at the opportunity. Yet at least some of his audience was split, sensing something was off about the request. One user wrote, “It feels like everything you say now is behind a paywall.” Another added, “So many scams and we are learning to approach with caution.”
“I do not spend I dime on farbucks”, one wrote. “Or scamozon. Ever. I simply do not believe that the public should have to pay for information. That’s it.”
“well, do you beleive in this country & what Patrick is doing,” one user questioned a complainer. The other user responded, “I do, but being forced to pay for it doesn’t seem very patriotic.”
Others in Byrne’s Telegram channel didn’t mind chipping in but grew suspicious of the number of separate election conspiracy channels on Locals and the site’s efforts to keep content within its walled garden: “If it grew like Telegram has, the math is not that complicated. Multiple monthly subscriptions would add up quickly, and it turns people away. Account deleted. Also, no ability to share links... basically limiting important distribution. Locals is counterproductive to force multiplying news about election fraud developments.”
One Byrne follower commented that it was rather convenient that while Byrne was charging $5 a month, Locals runs on an internal economy powered by “coins” that are purchased via a monthly subscription. The minimum monthly purchase is $7.99, meaning that it’s difficult for someone to subscribe to just Byrne’s Locals feed without racking up excess charges.
“My problem is that I am required to buy a ‘coin’ subscription by the site,” the user wrote. “The lowest is $7.00 per month. So I have $2.00 per month accumulating for nothing. I would prefer to subscribe directly to you.”
Byrne told the Daily Beast that all of the funds are going to fight the so-called “soft coup” against Trump and that he has personally spent $5.5 million investigating the elections (and $45 million “investigating corruption” in general since around 2006). The site noted that much of the content uploaded to Byrne’s Locals page appears to be re-uploads from elsewhere, often in lower quality, such as footage of a Michigan press conference he reposted using a “snowflake” filter.
When he’s not urging people to sign up for recurring charges to their credit cards, Byrne is keeping busy continuing the election fraud grift in other ways, such as promoting fake ballot recounts designed to undermine the legitimacy of the 2020 election results. ABC News reported he is one of the individuals bankrolling a fanciful “audit” of election results in Arizona run by a firm called Cyber Ninjas that has been plagued with reports of security lapses, deliberate partisanship, and massive incompetence. It’s supported by Republicans in the state Senate despite the impossibility of the recount reversing Biden’s victory there in 2020.
Byrne claims to have donated half a million to the effort and is raising millions more via his website, the America Project. That organization is reportedly handling background checks and non-disclosure agreements for audit volunteers.
Correction: A prior version of this article failed to mention that Byrne is no longer Overstock.com’s CEO. We regret the error.