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What We Know About the VDARE Legal Situation That They Say ‘Finished’ Them

Four years after purchasing a castle in rural West Virginia intended as their headquarters, the white nationalist outlet VDARE has said that an investigation by New York Attorney General (AG) Letitia James has “crucified” the site and left it “on life support.”

Peter Brimelow quote from March 2024 featured on
Peter Brimelow quote from March 2024 featured on

A New York state judge in March found the VDARE Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the digital publication, in civil contempt for failing to produce hard copy and electronic files related to an AG investigation into the group’s business practices. The ruling has required VDARE to pay a $250-per-day fine, totaling over $20,000 as of June 17, until the group complies with a subpoena that the AG issued in 2022. Brimelow announced the court’s decision in a March 29 post on VDARE’s website, in which the group’s logo, a white doe, is depicted as wearing a crown of thorns like the one the Bible says Jesus Christ wore when he was crucified.

“To hell with Letitia James,” VDARE’s founder Peter Brimelow, 76, said during the group’s annual conference, where multiple speakers expressed concerns about possible political repression and civilizational collapse. VDARE hosted the event, which took place on April 26-28, at a castle it has owned since 2020 in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, a town located approximately two hours outside Washington, D.C.

The AG has alleged that VDARE “violated New York law” after it purchased the Berkeley Springs castle for $1.4 million without the help of a loan, as Hatewatch previously reported. Among the possible instances of misconduct that the AG identified is the fact that Peter and Lydia Brimelow, 39, who are the married couple behind VDARE, have misused nonprofit resources by residing on castle grounds since March 2020, per court records and multiple people-finding databases.

Peter Brimelow has described the AG’s subpoena demands as “massive and crippling,” and contributors have referred to the investigation as a “lynching.” In a May episode of the far-right livestreaming show “The Killstream,” Brimelow said the proceedings might force him “to close the website.”

“Presumably you’ve seen that our pace of posting has slowed dramatically,” Brimelow told Hatewatch in an email.

“All our resources are being consumed by NYAG regulatory harassment. We just don’t know what the future holds,” he added.

Charitable organizations in New York that wish to dissolve require a plan approved by the AG's office prior to doing so.

Prominent supporters, including Daily Wire host Matt Walsh, Turning Point USA head Charlie Kirk and former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, have portrayed the investigation as ideologically motivated, a charge the AG has repeatedly denied.

Hatewatch reviewed court records and other documents related to the case. From VDARE’s counsel working with a former dues-paying member of a neo-Nazi group, details about the Brimelows’ residence on castle grounds, to offering the names of some its vendors, here is what we found.

An attack on free speech? Or an investigation into bad business practices?

VDARE is embroiled in multiple legal proceedings in state and federal courts in New York. These cases include a federal lawsuit that VDARE filed against the AG’s office in December 2022; a special proceeding that the AG’s office initiated against VDARE in New York state court in December 2022 for failing to abide by the subpoena; and multiple appeals.

In a March 29 post on the VDARE website, Peter Brimelow estimated that the proceedings have cost his group “up to $1 million” over the course of three years.

The state and federal cases involving VDARE are tied to an investigative subpoena from the AG’s office, which regulates and oversees the activities of nonprofit organizations in New York where VDARE is registered. The AG first issued a subpoena in June 2022 to Facebook for records related to VDARE, and later to VDARE itself, after observing “a possible pattern of self-dealing, misleading donor solicitation, misuse of charitable assets, and false reporting,” per court records. The investigation is focused on “potential financial improprieties, including unlawful related party transactions between VDARE and affiliated entities, officers and board members, excessive compensation, private inurement, and violations of statutory and common law governance standards,” the AG’s office has said in court reports.

The subpoena sought records from 2016 to 2022 related to VDARE’s corporate structure, internal governance, sales documents for its castle in Berkeley Springs, financial records, compensation and information identifying current and former employees, volunteers, independent contractors, officers and directors.

In a complaint filed on Dec. 12, 2022, VDARE accused the AG of violating its rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association. Specifically, regarding the AG’s request for information about its contractors, VDARE said “the disclosure of which would violate First Amendment protections and risk VDARE’s existence.”

An array of legal proceedings – and lawyers

At least six lawyers have represented VDARE or its pseudonymous authors since 2022, court records show.

Frederick C. Kelly, a lawyer from Goshen, New York, who has represented VDARE in multiple lawsuits and appears to have attended the group’s spring 2024 conference, first contested the subpoena on the group’s behalf in summer of 2022, calling it “incredibly unlawful.”

In August 2022, VDARE hired Andrew Frisch, another New York-based lawyer, to represent the group. In addition to VDARE, Frisch has represented Douglass Mackey, a racist social media influencer who used the name “Ricky Vaughn” online. In March 2023, a jury in New York found Mackey guilty of conspiring to interfere with potential voters’ rights to vote in the 2016 election, after he shared fake messages on Twitter, the social network now known as X, encouraging people to vote via text message.

Between September and November 2022, Frisch helped VDARE turn over 6,000 pages of documents that the AG said bore inconstant and unexplained redactions, as well as many duplicates. VDARE’s counsel also told the AG that the group had identified 40 gigabytes of emails and other electronic data as related to the subpoena but requested time to review it.

Instead of providing material from the 40-gigabyte cache of files and a log detailing the legal rationale behind the redactions VDARE made to the physical documents it sent the AG, Frisch filed a lawsuit on VDARE’s behalf against Letitia James in federal court.

In late December 2022, Kelly withdrew as counsel in VDARE’s federal lawsuit against the AG. Frisch followed suit in April 2023. In late April 2023, Marc Randazza, whose past clients include neo-Nazi publisher Andrew Anglin and other radical-right figures, and Jay Wolman, another attorney at Randazza’s firm, began representing VDARE in its federal case.

A 2018 investigation from Huffpost detailed Randazza’s past violations of ethics rules while working for pornography companies.

After the federal court rejected VDARE’s lawsuit challenging the subpoena, Wolman and Randazza filed an appeal on the group’s behalf in July 2023.

Wolman, Kelly and Frisch have represented the group in a special proceeding that the AG initiated in New York County Supreme Court to ensure VDARE abided by the subpoena in December 2022. Frisch served as counsel for the group from 2022 to late 2023. Kelly joined the case in late 2023, shortly before the court granted VDARE “one final opportunity” with the AG’s subpoena by Jan. 3, 2024.

Hatewatch reached out to Wolman, Kelly and Frisch for comment over email. None of the three men responded. After Hatewatch reached out to Wolman, Randazza sent this staffer an email saying: “We are First Amendment lawyers. That means we take clients who have First Amendment cases. We do not discriminate on the basis of their ideology nor what their speech happens to be.”

On Jan. 2, Kelly informed the AG’s office via email that his client would be unable to “meet the deadline for tomorrow under any circumstances,” citing a need to “salvage some of the Christmas Holiday after being sick.” Kelly included a link to a Wikipedia page for the Twelve Days of Christmas, which refers to the 12-day period from Christmas through the Epiphany.

In February 2024, David Hoffman and Charles Miller of the Institute for Free Speech joined the special proceedings on behalf of VDARE’s pseudonymous contributors.

VDARE’s lawyer worked with a neo-Nazi

New York and federal court records indicate that Frederick Kelly, one of VDARE’s lawyers, worked on multiple court cases with a man whom Hatewatch previously identified as a dues-paying member of and lawyer for the neo-Nazi National Alliance.

Court records show that Kelly and Glen Allen, the longtime National Alliance member, served as counsel on multiple cases together, including a defamation lawsuit that Peter Brimelow filed against The New York Times in 2020 and subsequently lost.

Neither Kelly nor Allen responded to Hatewatch’s request for comment over email.

Kelly has represented VDARE in multiple state and federal court cases since 2020. At VDARE’s spring 2024 conference, which Kelly appeared to have attended, Peter Brimelow introduced him as “our lawyer who doubles as our barkeeper and bagpiper.”

“Yes, Attorney Keely is also our piper. He played ‘Dixie’ in honor of Jared Taylor and ‘The Minstrel Boy’ in honor of Steve Sailer,” Peter Brimelow told Hatewatch in an email, referring to two speakers at VDARE’s spring conference.

In 2016, Hatewatch identified Allen as a dues-paying member of the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group founded by the late William Luther Pierce. Pierce wrote the violent, dystopian novel The Turner Diaries, which has inspired dozens of terrorist attacks and hate crimes since its publication in 1978, including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Court records show that Kelly and Allen filed a writ of certiorari petition on VDARE’s behalf with the Supreme Court in January 2022, encouraging the court to take up Brimelow’s defamation case against The New York Times. In the petition, Kelly and Allen argue that The New York Times “assailed” Brimelow and cite pseudoscientific research about race and IQ to support their argument.

“Any educated man knows full well that there is solid evidence for innate racial differences in intelligence, as well as other traits,” Kelly and Allen wrote in the petition.

Kelly and Allen are currently representing Warren Balogh, a co-founder of the now-defunct National Justice Party (NJP). Balogh’s father, like Allen, has been identified as another longtime member of the National Alliance.

The case seeks to overturn a U.S. district court’s decision to dismiss a case that Balogh, along with former NJP co-founder Greg Conte, filed against state and local authorities in Virginia, as well as several antifascist activists. Conte and Balogh alleged that the defendants deprived them of their First Amendment rights during the Aug. 12, 2017, “Unite the Right” rally in Virginia through failing to ensure that the event went as planned, as well as the city of Charlottesville’s decision to declare the event an unlawful assembly after violent clashes between white supremacist activists and antiracist protesters.

The appeals court heard oral arguments for the case on May 9.

Kelly served as co-counsel with Allen in the former National Alliance member’s 2018 lawsuit against the Southern Poverty Law Center in federal court in Maryland. Allen filed many of the briefs in that case himself, per records. Kelly also helped represent Allen in an appeals case after the court dismissed his client’s lawsuit in late 2019. In a recording of a Jan. 26, 2021, appearance before the appellate court, Allen identified Kelly as his “co-counsel.”

The appeals court upheld the circuit court’s decision to dismiss Allen’s case in 2021.

Both Kelly and Allen appear to have provided legal representation to Mike “Enoch” Peinovich, a white nationalist podcaster who founded, and later dismantled, the pro-Hitler NJP. Leaked emails show Allen providing Peinovich guidance in the Sines v. Kessler lawsuit targeting “Unite the Right” organizers, as Hatewatch previously reported. Though other “Unite the Right” organizers and attendees faced trial in 2021, Allen’s shadow legal assistance led to Peinovich being dropped from the case in 2018.

In 2020, Kelly filed multiple briefs on Peinovich’s behalf, seeking to withdraw him from discovery obligations on the grounds that he was dropped from the lawsuit in 2018.

A home for the Brimelows

One of the issues at the heart of the AG’s investigation is the charge that Peter and Lydia Brimelow may have misused donor funds when they chose to use the West Virginia castle that they purchased with donor funds as their primary residence.

Court documents, information from multiple data brokers and public statements indicate that multiple adult members of the Brimelow family have lived on castle grounds at various points since March 2020.

These records indicate that Peter and Lydia are living in properties on a street called Stucco Drive, a private roadway on castle grounds that is adjacent to the building’s main entrance. Multiple people finding databases also placed Hannah Claire Brimelow, Peter’s daughter from his prior marriage who currently works as a writer for conspiracy theorist Tim Pool, at one of the properties at Stucco Drive.

The VDARE Foundation purchased the Stucco Drive properties with donor funds in early 2020.

Hannah Claire regularly appears on Tim Pool’s livestreaming show, which he films at his podcast studio about 40 minutes away from the castle. She is also listed as board member on public tax filings for the Berkeley Castle Foundation in 2021 and 2022. The foundation, which is run by Peter and Lydia Brimelow, oversees operations for the castle proper and owns the parcel of land it is located on.

Hatewatch reached out to Hannah Claire over email. She did not respond. Peter Brimelow told Hatewatch that she “has not lived on Castle grounds since March 2022.”

“When she did, independently-determined rent was paid. We do not need specific Board approval to rent Castle facilities, but generally the Board strongly supports the Castle project,” Brimelow told Hatewatch.

Hatewatch was able to identify the Brimelows’ association with these properties through West Virginia real estate records and a residential lease agreement for two properties on Cacapon Road between Lydia Brimelow, who is identified as the tenant, and BBB LLC, which is listed as the landlord. BBB LLC is a for-profit limited liability corporation (LLC).

In New York, the transfer or sale of “all or substantially all” of the assets from a nonprofit must be approved by the AG’s office or New York Supreme Court, Hatewatch previously reported.

West Virginia corporate records list Lydia Brimelow as BBB LLC’s “incorporator” and its date of incorporation as of July 21, 2020. Yet in a May 2023 interview, she described the company as “100% owned by the VDARE Foundation” and “not ... by an individual.”

The lease, which was active from April 1, 2021, to April 30, 2023, lists the rent for both properties as $1,800 per month, as Hatewatch previously reported. Lydia Brimelow signed as the tenant and landlord.

“Because Lydia Brimelow is both the party and the counter-party, the transaction is by definition self-dealing,” the AG said of the lease in a May 2023 filing in VDARE’s federal lawsuit against James’ office.

Hatewatch was unable to determine if BBB issued another lease after the April 30, 2023, expiration date, although databases tie Peter and Lydia Brimelow to the properties well into 2024.

Neither home on Cacapon Road appears in West Virginia real estate records under that address. However, parcel data from prior owners of the Stucco Drive properties indicate that someone changed the address for these three residential properties from Cacapon Road to Stucco Drive. BBB LLC is identified as the owner of the three parcels.

A representative from Morgan County’s addressing department told Hatewatch that it was unclear when someone changed the address from Cacapon Road to Stucco Drive. A county mapping and addressing ordinance requires that roads, which it defines as “any public or private thoroughfare ... that provides access to more than two parcels or lots,” need to be named.

Hatewatch was unable to determine why the residential lease used an out-of-date address to refer to the properties.

Brimelows acknowledge living in castle and on grounds

The Brimelows have not denied residing on castle grounds, with Lydia Brimelow referring to the complex as her “home” in a March 15 interview.

Additionally, neither Brimelow has denied purchasing the property with funds given to the VDARE Foundation.

“Because Lydia and I knew no commercial bank could be trusted not to cave to political pressure and pull a mortgage in the most inconvenient way ... we had to gamble on pouring all of an unprecedented and wonderfully generous 2019 gift to the VDARE Foundation into buying the castle for cash,” Peter Brimelow wrote in a May 22, 2023, post on the VDARE website, referring to one of the large donations his group received in 2019.

“(The prudent and self-interested course would have been to invest it and live off the proceeds.) We uprooted our little daughters and moved into a small rental cottage on the Castle grounds here in Appalachia,” he continued.

Though the Brimelows have referred to the castle as “not our home” but “our office,” both have acknowledged in public statements and court records that they lived in the complex for some period of time after purchasing the property with donor funds.

In a Jan. 23 deposition before the New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, Peter Brimelow said that he and his family paid rent to live in the castle itself “for a brief period.”

“We did so because the cottage on the castle grounds where we planned to live was not habitable. Once renovated and habitable, we moved out of the castle and into the cottage. And again, we paid fair market rent for the entire time, for use of both the castle and the subsequent use of the cottage,” Peter Brimelow said.

In a March 15 interview, Lydia Brimelow estimated her family lived in the castle for “about five months.”

AG repeatedly accused VDARE of mismanaging documents prior to contempt ruling

Prior to finding VDARE in civil contempt in March, James’ counsel repeatedly accused VDARE of evading and delaying the AG’s investigation.

In records from 2022, 2023 and 2024, James’ office repeatedly accused VDARE of turning over numerous documents with redactions that “appear to be applied haphazardly,” as well as holding on to 40 gigabytes of email and electronically stored files that VDARE’s counsel identified as relevant to the investigation.

State and federal courts permit legal personnel to redact public documents to remove personal identifiable information, such as social security numbers, addresses and birthdays.

As early as Dec. 2, 2022, Catherine Suvari, a lawyer for the AG’s office, relayed “serious concerns” to VDARE’s counsel regarding missing and redacted documents. She cited multiple hard-copy documents that VDARE had submitted with unnecessary redactions, such as contact information for an architectural firm that the Brimelows had hired to review possible renovations to the castle property, as well as information on a magazine subscription form that Peter Brimelow received.

“These redactions are accompanied by the unredacted disclosure of numerous other VDARE contractors, vendors, and employees identified in VDARE’s records,” Suvari said in the Dec. 2 letter.

When asked about the redactions and duplicates, Peter Brimelow said, “This is entirely NYAG’s fault.”

Some of these issues appear in court documents that VDARE has filed publicly.

In two of four affidavits filed by VDARE pseudonymous contributors in federal court, the person who redacted the documents blacked out the name of the person’s pseudonyms in addition to personal identifying information. Both anonymous contributors appear to use multiple pseudonyms. The authors used notary publics in different counties in Virginia.

In an earlier batch of affidavits, whoever completed the redactions did not remove the pen names of the authors. One submission, “VDARE Lady Reader,” was notarized in Morgan County, West Virginia, where VDARE is located. Another from “Federale,” a longtime contributor who describes himself as a “veteran of federal law enforcement,” was notarized in Collier County, Florida.

VDARE’s lawyer offered names of vendors to AG

VDARE and its supporters have cited the possibility of revealing the identities of some its key contractors and contributors as one of its main objections to abiding by the AG’s original subpoena. However, court documents indicate that the white nationalist group’s lawyers may have provided the names of some vendors to the AG and offered to identify contractors who earned over $10,000 per year in 2022.

In an email dated Oct. 20, 2022, Andrew Frisch, one of VDARE’s lawyers, wrote to two members of the New York AG’s office, offering an update on the documents the state requested in their subpoena. In the email, Frisch included a proposal to pass along some information about “vendors” who provide services to VDARE.

“There are some where producing their names is a substantial problem: either they fear retribution because of the political viewpoints of the client and/or the client fears losing the services of these vendors,” Frisch wrote.

“What I propose now is that, with regard to vendors with which there are these concerns after my continuing review, for those that are paid in excess of an estimated $10,000 per year, to certify that they are not related entities, identify the service they provide and estimated annual payments,” Frisch wrote elsewhere in the same email.

The same email includes a PDF attachment that Frisch describes as “a preview of and which will be part of the production.” By “a preview,” it is unclear if he is referring to the general business-related documents that the AG requested, or specific material related to contractors making over $10,000 a year.

Frisch later added in a Jan. 3, 2023, document requesting to dismiss or hold proceedings in the AG’s case against VDARE that he and his client would “consider identifying other employees or contractors involved in specific transactions with which your office might be concerned.”

In a May 2023 court filing, the AG said that “VDARE still has not explained how subpoena compliance will cause the injury that it fears,” particularly given that the group had “already disclosed many vendor names” to the AG’s office.

In court documents, the AG has argued that vendors do not “have a freestanding ‘expectation of privacy’ for their paid submissions to VDARE, a regulated entity.” Nevertheless, a New York state judge accepted two motions related to protecting the identities of its contributors in late March.

The first details a protocol for redacting personal identifying information, such as full names, addresses and phone numbers, for “qualified pseudonymous authors.” The other ruling appoints a neutral party to conduct these redactions. To be considered “qualified,” VDARE would have to attest under penalty of perjury that the pseudonymous author is not related to the Brimelows or other board members.

Though Peter Brimelow lauded the decision in a March 29 post on VDARE’s site, the group’s lawyer filed two appeals in late April on the grounds that these motions “fail to effectively safeguard VDARE’s confidential information.”

VDARE paid employees through separate LLC

The records that Hatewatch reviewed shed light on how the white nationalist website has paid its leadership and contributors.

In court documents, Andrew Frisch, one of VDARE’s lawyers, said that Peter Brimelow established a separate company to pay writers so they would not have to list VDARE as their employer.

“VDARE created an entity called ‘Happy Penguins LLC’ for the sole purpose of paying VDARE’s employees so that they could identify a non-controversial entity (Happy Penguins) – and not VDARE – as their employer,” Frisch said, per court records.

IRS tax records for the VDARE Foundation describe Happy Penguins’ purpose as “leased employees.” In 2019, the year that VDARE received the donation that it used to purchase the castle, it reported paying $411,003 to Happy Penguins. After the Brimelows moved into the castle, VDARE paid Happy Penguins $351,188 in 2020, $500,558 in 2021 and $231,274 in 2022.

Prior news reports and tax returns have described Peter Brimelow as one of Happy Penguin’s “leased employees.” As with VDARE’s payments to the LLC, the Brimelows’ reported salaries have fluctuated throughout the years.

In a May 2023 signed declaration filed in VDARE’s federal lawsuit against the AG’s office, Lydia Brimelow said, “In 2020, with donations down, Peter and I together were paid only $270,000.”

VDARE’s tax filings from 2020 indicate that Peter and Lydia earned a salary of $264,700 and $41,500, respectively. Their total earnings amounted to $306,200, approximately $30,000 more than Lydia Brimelow estimated in her deposition.

In 2021, Peter reported receiving a salary of $340,000, while Lydia received $8,300. The next year, tax records indicate that Peter reported a salary of $150,000 while Lydia received $10,000.

In the same statement, Lydia Brimelow stated that as of May 2023, she and her husband “have not taken any salary at all as of this writing.”

Hatewatch was unable to confirm this statement via available financial records.

An uncertain financial future

Despite support from prominent right-wing figures such as Tucker Carlson and Matt Walsh, tax filings and public fundraising campaigns seem to indicate an uncertain financial future for the VDARE website.

Tucker Carlson tweet
Tucker Carlson tweet from February 2024

Throughout 2024, VDARE has struggled to secure a payment processor to handle donations. In February, Lydia Brimelow announced that the group was turning to Gab Pay, a payment processor associated with the white nationalist-friendly social media site Gab. Yet as of April 1, “Patrick Cleburne,” a longtime pseudonymous contributor to the site whose name comes from a Confederate general, said that “several sources” told VDARE “that a number of banks have refuse to handle our credit card business, including three approached by Gab Pay.”

“The likely culprit is likely some element of the Federal bank regulators,” “Cleburne” explained.

VDARE then began using a payment processor called Greenpay, which markets itself as a “high risk solution provider service.” Greenpay’s website advertises several different industries that use its services on its website, including sex clubs, adult cruise lines, porn sites, cannabis dispensaries, debt collectors and firearms sellers. Instead of processing credit cards, VDARE requested donors’ bank account information.

On May 17, Peter Brimelow announced on X, formerly Twitter, that VDARE would no longer be accepting e-checks “because of relentless, apparently unstoppable cyberattacks.”

“Anyone have any idea about legal recourse? We don’t want to give FBI access to our back end; and (2) they’re probably doing it,” Brimelow wrote in a follow-up post.

When Hatewatch asked Brimelow why he blamed the failure of their e-check system on cyberattacks in an email, he said: “Because the vendor and our techies told us so. You will be happy to know that similar cyber attacks crippled our 2023 year-end appeal.”

Since 2019, VDARE does not appear to have garnered any other significant large donations. Between 2020 and 2022, contributions to the site totaled $631,559, $727,161 and $582,929. In 2022, VDARE reported receiving another $736,077 in investment income – a marked uptick from prior years. A GiveSendGo page that VDARE set up for challenging the AG’s investigation received a little over $12,000 of its $100,000 goal as of May 20.

Peter Brimelow has said the website will “continue publishing on a reduced schedule for as long as it can.” The group’s April conference continued as planned. Two high-profile speakers – shock-jock radio host Anthony Cumia and right-wing film director Amanda Milius – that VDARE advertised in the run-up to the event did not appear to address attendees, according to footage of the event that Hatewatch reviewed.

“Every dollar that we’re spending in order to protect these First Amendment rights was donated to the VDARE Foundation to help us fulfill our mission, to educate people on the negative effects of mass immigration, and to defend the American national identity,” Lydia Brimelow said in an April 6 video that VDARE shared on multiple platforms.

“And paying lawyers and fending off Attorney General Letitia James is not why people donated money to us,” she added.

Photo illustration by SPLC

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