The Right’s Grifter Problem

Ken AshfordRepublicans, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

God help me. I’m linking to National Review

Back in 2013, Conservative StrikeForce PAC raised $2.2 million in funds vowing to support Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign for governor in Virginia. Court filings and FEC records showed that the PAC only contributed $10,000 to Cuccinelli’s effort.

Back in 2014, Politico researched 33 political action committees that claimed to be affiliated with the Tea Party and courted small donors with email and direct-mail appeals and found that they “raised $43 million — 74 percent of which came from small donors.

The PACs spent only $3 million on ads and contributions to boost the long-shot candidates often touted in the appeals, compared to $39.5 million on operating expenses, including $6 million to firms owned or managed by the operatives who run the PACs.”

Back in 2015, RightWingNews reviewed the financial filings of 21 prominent conservative PACs and found the ten 10 groups at the bottom of their list spent $54.3 million only paid out $3.6 million to help get Republicans elected.

Back in 2016, campaign finance lawyer Paul H. Jossey detailed how some of the PACs operated and lamented, “the Tea Party movement is pretty much dead now, but it didn’t die a natural death. It was murdered — and it was an inside job. In a half decade, the spontaneous uprising that shook official Washington degenerated into a form of pyramid scheme that transferred tens of millions of dollars from rural, poorer Southerners and Midwesterners to bicoastal political operatives.”

In 2016, Roger Stone founded the Committee to Restore America’s Greatness. It raised $587,000 and spent $16,000 on independent expenditures supporting Trump.
In 2016, Great America PAC raised $28.6 million from donors. They donated $30,125 to federal candidates. In 2018, Great America PAC raised $8.3 million from donors.

They donated $31,840 to federal candidates.

In 2017, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke said that despite the actions of a PAC that claimed to be raising money for a Clarke bid for U.S. Senate, he was not running. That PAC raised $2 million.

In 2018, a federal indictment declared grassroots conservatives across the country gave  $23 million to scam PACs run by William and Robert Tierney from 2014 to 2018, believing they were supporting conservative groups like “Republican Majority Campaign PAC,” “Americans for Law Enforcement PAC,” and “ PAC.” Only $109,000 went to candidates.

In the 2018 cycle, Tea Party Majority Fund raised $1.67 million and donated $35,000 to federal candidates. That cycle, Conservative Majority Fund raised just over $1 million and donated $7,500 to federal candidates. Conservative Strikeforce raised $258,376 and donated nothing to federal candidates.

Put Vets First PAC raised $3.9 million in the 2018 cycle; they gave $9,000 to federal candidates.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that David Bossie’s group, Presidential Coalition, had raised $18.5 million in 2017 and 2018 to support state and local candidates in furtherance of the Trump agenda. Only $425,442, or 3 percent, went to direct political activity.

Not every non-donation expense is illegitimate; legit political action committees have to pay for rent, electricity, computers, the phone bill, etcetera. But when such an exceptionally small portion of the money they raise goes to the candidates they’re allegedly designed to support or measurable efforts on their behalf, one can fairly ask what the true purpose of the organization is.

Politico didn’t specify which 33 PACs they reviewed; if their list overlaps entirely with the RightWingNews list, then the total sum listed above would be $127 million; if they don’t overlap at all, it would be $177 million. That is money that could have gone directly to candidates’ campaigns or other actions that would have advanced the conservative cause in recent cycles. But instead it went into more fundraising expenses, more overhead costs, or into the pockets of those running these PACs.

The column actually is a defense of columnist David French, but it also points out how the GOP is a party of grift, and that the victims of the grift are often Republicans themselves.

What French ignores, of course, is Jon Chait’s critique:

An unstated irony behind Geraghty’s complaint is that there is an agency tasked with overseeing the kind of misconduct he denounces: the IRS. When the first wave of tea-party scam PACs appeared, the IRS did look into them. Republicans insisted the agency was “targeting” the right for political reasons, probably at the behest of the Obama administration. While they spent years investigating the agency and making wild charges, a series of investigations by the agency’s inspector general, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Department of Justice refuted all their claims. The Obama administration had no involvement in the IRS’s enforcement priorities, and the agency was not even targeting the right at all — its criteria for regulating donors included keywords to search for activists on the left as well as the right.

But the grift goes all the way to the Trump Administration, as a new NY Times article says: