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Tim Ballard considers run for Senate amid renewed controversy

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Friday it ‘never endorsed, supported or represented (Operation Underground Railroad), Tim Ballard or any projects associated with them’

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Tim Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad, testifies before the House Homeland Security Committee in Washington.

Tim Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad, testifies before the House Homeland Security Committee in Washington on Sept. 13, 2023.

House Homeland Security Committee

Tim Ballard, founder and former CEO of Operation Underground Railroad, an anti-child sex trafficking organization, is reportedly considering a 2024 U.S. Senate run amid a new report from Vice media revisiting a closed investigation into the nonprofit’s operations.

Rumors of Ballard’s potential Senate bid started after Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who is close to Ballard, said Wednesday he was looking forward to supporting “a great conservative, patriot, and warrior” who would be announcing a Senate run “in the days to come.”

Multiple sources close to Ballard have confirmed he is considering a run.

Ballard, whose career was the inspiration for recent box-office hit “Sound of Freedom,” has also been the source of controversy and the subject of an investigation that did not result in any charges. Vice reported on Friday that Tim Ballard had allegedly claimed his work and other projects were endorsed by President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The two men share the same last name but are not related.

Vice News’ article was based on records obtained from a now-closed Davis County investigation. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement in response to the report, first published by Vice. The full statement from the church reads:

President Ballard and Tim Ballard (no relation) established a friendship a number of years ago. That friendship was built on a shared interest in looking after God’s children wherever they are and without regard to their circumstance. However, that relationship is in the past. For many months, President Ballard has had no contact with the founder of Operation Underground Railroad (OUR). The nature of that relationship was always in support of vulnerable children being abused, trafficked, and otherwise neglected. Once it became clear Tim Ballard had betrayed their friendship, through the unauthorized use of President Ballard’s name for Tim Ballard’s personal advantage and activity regarded as morally unacceptable, President Ballard withdrew his association. President Ballard never authorized his name, or the name of the Church, to be used for Tim’s personal or financial interests.

In addition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints never endorsed, supported or represented OUR, Tim Ballard or any projects associated with them.

President Ballard loves children, all over the world. It has been his mission and life’s work to look after them, care for them, and point them to their Savior.

Tim Ballard founded OUR but left the organization earlier this year. He has since started a new organization, although it is unclear if he would keep that organization going if he decides to run for Senate. Ballard also served as a member of the Public-Private Partnership Advisory Council to End Human Trafficking under President Donald Trump.

This week he testified to the House Homeland Security Committee about the international exploitation of children.

When the Deseret News reached out for comment, Tim Ballard said he had just seen the Vice News story and would reach out through a representative.

The Deseret News broke the news in May that the Davis County Attorney’s Office had closed its investigation of OUR and would not pursue any potential charges related to the organization.

The end of the investigation, dated March 28, 2023, in the document, marks roughly 212 years since Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings first publicly confirmed he was looking into the Utah-based nonprofit.

The reviewed charges by Rawlings’ office included communications fraud, witness tampering and retaliation against a witness, victim or informant, according to a declination statement which Rawlings confirmed was authentic.

The determination to close the investigation came after Rawlings’ office received and reviewed financial audits of Operation Underground Railroad and information supplied by law enforcement agencies, including the Utah Attorney General’s Office, the document says.

Tim Ballard told the Deseret News in May the investigation harmed OUR’s reputation. 

“The Davis County investigation into our organization lasted nearly three years and —unfortunately — was made public when it never should have been,” Ballard said in a statement to the Deseret News. Operation Underground Railroad’s reputation, he said, “was dragged through the mud.”

OUR provided a statement to Vice that read, in part, “At O.U.R., we are proud to support law enforcement in liberating any person in the grips of human trafficking or exploitation and we strive to ensure ongoing aftercare for all those affected. Our resources have contributed to the arrest of over 7,400 suspected predators and have impacted the lives of over 7,800 individuals. Currently, we are carrying out an average of five missions per week worldwide. We are committed to this important work until everyone in need is safe.”