Roger Stone hired by Utah Rep. Curtis’ GOP challenger, internal memo shows

Jason Preston also adds several staffers with links to the far-right Proud Boys.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jason Preston, a candidate for Utah's 3rd Congressional District joined activists pushing for a forensic audit of the 2020 election in Utah at a rally at the Capitol on Oct. 20, 2021. The rally occurred prior to the 1pm Judiciary Interim Committee's meeting on election integrity, to "hear presentations on perspectives regarding election integrity" according to the agenda.

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Congressional candidate Jason Preston is swinging for the fences to win the Republican nomination in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District against incumbent John Curtis. He has hired veteran Republican political consultant Roger Stone to help boost his campaign nationally and ultimately bring in small-dollar donors ahead of the Republican convention on April 23, according to a campaign document.

Preston’s campaign has also hired several staffers from out of state who have direct connections to the far-right Proud Boys militia and a scandal swirling around Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, the same document shows.

According to a campaign strategy memo obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune, Stone is listed as a “strategic advisor” for the campaign and is responsible for the “overall campaign strategy.” He is scheduled to endorse Preston with an article published on the Gateway Pundit website, notorious for disseminating COVID-19 misinformation and conspiracies about fraud in the 2020 election. Two election workers in Georgia who became the target of conspiracy theories in the aftermath of the presidential election are suing Gateway Pundit and owners Jim and Joe Hoft alleging a “campaign of lies” that resulted in harassment and threats.

Stone has worked on the campaigns of several prominent Republicans, including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, and famously has a tattoo of Nixon covering his back. In 2019, Stone was arrested by the FBI during an indictment in Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign. He received a full pardon shortly before Trump left office in 2020.

Most recently, Stone defended Congressman Madison Cawthorn’s allegation of cocaine-fueled orgies involving members of Congress, claiming he could confirm members of Congress engaged in the practice. Stone also defended Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine by claiming the military action was defensive.

According to the document, Stone’s written endorsement will kick off a planned three-week publicity blitz which includes a personal appearance by Stone the day before the GOP convention and at the convention itself. Stone also plans to conduct a tele-town hall for GOP delegates and a video endorsement.

The strategic campaign plan lists a $21,500 cost for the “Campaign M Team” but does not detail how, if anything, was paid to Stone.

Jason Preston campaign document by The Salt Lake Tribune on Scribd

The document was on a publicly accessible social media account used by members of the campaign team. Preston’s campaign has not confirmed or denied the authenticity of the document. Neither Preston nor his staffers have responded to multiple messages seeking comment. Several attempts to reach Stone or his representatives seeking comment were unsuccessful.

The document highlights several new staffers who have joined Preston’s campaign team. They include Adrienna Dicioccio as executive director, Jacob Engels as an advisor and Luke Rofhling to handle digital strategy for the campaign. Those three have several links to the far-right Proud Boys militia.

The Proud Boys are a self-described “Western chauvinist” organization that has been called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Proud Boys reject that label. Stone has deep ties to the group and often uses the Proud Boys for his personal security when in public.

The Proud Boys played a role in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. Enrique Tarrio, the organization’s former leader, was charged with conspiring with other leaders as a part of the attack.

Engels, a prominent alt-right blogger in Florida who contributes to Alex Jones’ InfoWars program, is a known Proud Boys associate. Engles has denied he is a group member, claiming he is a journalist embedded in the organization. Engels has repeatedly been photographed wearing the black and gold Proud Boys uniform and has used “we” when referring to the group. Engles did not respond to a message seeking comment for this article.

Engels appears to be close to embattled Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz. When Engels was banished from Twitter in 2019 after posting a tweet on Islam, Gaetz defended Engels, using the hashtag #FreeJacob.

Engels has recently helped stir up outrage over sex education books in schools. At a recent Orange County School Board Meeting, he read aloud from the book “Gender Queer: A Memoir.”

Engels is also assisting U.S. Senate candidate Jackson Lahmeyer in his primary election challenge to Oklahoma Republican incumbent James Lankford.

Luke Rofhling, who is assisting email fundraising efforts for Preston, is a “third-degree” member of the Proud Boys group and helped organize a 2019 rally in Washington, D.C., which featured several prominent figures from the far-right fringes, including anti-Muslim activist Laura Loomer.

Rofhling was also in attendance with other members at rallies for former President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign.

Adrienna DiCioccio assisted in planning the July 2019 rally in Washington. She was also part of a pre-rally showdown between members of the Proud Boys and a Republican congressional candidate. She also organized Laura Loomer’s 2019 protest at Twitter headquarters following her banning from the social media platform.

The campaign document also lists DiCiocco as a national director at Bonds for the Win, a bogus legal effort championed by several prominent figures in the QAnon movement. Bonds for the Win claims all government officials must have a private surety bond to hold office — they don’t — and private citizens can file claims against those bonds — they can’t — if those officials pursue policies they believe are “unconstitutional.”

DiCiocco is listed as the organizer for a virtual town hall featuring Preston on Wednesday night.

Preston has tacked hard to the right politically in his effort to rip the Republican nomination away from incumbent John Curtis at the state convention. He’s compared mask and vaccine mandates to the extermination of Jews by the Nazis and partnered with the far-right Utah Patriots militia group for a copycat “trucker convoy” in February.

Preston has made the “Big Lie” falsehood that the 2020 election was fraudulent and stolen a centerpiece of his campaign. In a January interview with The Tribune, Preston refused to answer whether Joe Biden was the winner of the 2020 election and if that election was free and fair.

“It appears by all accounts he (Biden) won that he’s in office. Was the election free and fair? I think there’s a lot of questions along those lines,” Preston said.

Preston has gone out of his way to pander to Utah election conspiracy theorists who wrongly insist there was massive election fraud, despite no actual proof. He has become a regular fixture at events focusing on “election integrity” and has repeatedly shared the stage with former state Rep. Steve Christiansen, who pushed election fraud falsehoods before he resigned from the Legislature. He also gave public comment at a February Utah County Commission meeting asking for an audit of the election results.

In addition to Curtis and Preston, three other Republicans are vying for the party’s nomination in the 3rd District on April 23.

Former state representative Chris Herrod is running for the seat for the third time. Businessman Tim Aalders was defeated by Curtis at the GOP convention in 2020 and is running again. Aalders also ran as the Constitution Party nominee for U.S. Senate in 2018 but lost to Mitt Romney. He was an independent candidate for Utah’s 4th Congressional District in 2014, grabbing 1.4% of the vote, and ran for U.S. Senate as a Republican in 2012 but was defeated in the convention. Lyman Wight is also on the ballot.

None of the candidates used the signature route to qualify for the ballot this year. That means if any of the five Republicans in the race get 60% of the vote, they win the nomination outright. If no candidate reaches the 60% threshold, the top two advance to the June primary election.