The Corner

The Right Wing Scam Machine

I’ve been saying for a while now that too many scammers and opportunists have been taking advantage of the Tea Party and conservative grassroots. I said so again a couple weeks ago when guest hosting on Bill Bennett’s radio show and I got a lot of grief for it. Well, here’s the latest proof. The folks at Rightwing News have a new report out showing that grassroots donors have been bilked of tens of millions of dollars that never went to the candidates they thought they were helping. For instance:

It’s also worth noting that there were a lot of interesting details our researcher turned up that won’t be shown in the numbers. For example, did you know that despite the fact that it raised a staggering 13 million dollars, The National Draft Ben Carson for President isn’t affiliated with Ben Carson and the small percentage of money they spent on independent expenditures didn’t go to him? Now you know why Ben Carson’s business manager, Armstrong Williams wouldn’t allow the group’s campaign director to take a picture with Carson and said, “People giving money think it’s going to Dr. Carson and it’s not. …Our hands are tied. We don’t want people exploited.”

The report found a whole bunch of interesting stuff, including the fact that the Republican Main Street Project gets a whole pile of money from labor unions. But the most illuminating thing in the piece is simply this table:

It shows what each organization spent on 2014 cycle “followed by how much each PAC gave to politicians either directly or through independent expenditures on their behalf. Then, last but not last, we have the percentage of their money they spent that actually went into independent expenditures & direct contributions.”

The footnotes are worth reading, and there are some legitimate caveats in the piece, but the general thrust is unmistakable. For example, the “Tea Party Army” spent zero money. Tea Party Express did better (though better than zero is not a high bar), but I doubt the average donor was under the impression that only a nickel out of every dollar he or she gave went to getting tea-party-friendly candidates elected.

John Hawkins concludes:

How many conservative candidates lost in 2014 because of a lack of funds? How many of them came up short in primaries, lost winnable seats or desperately tried to fight off better-funded challengers? How much of a difference would another 50 million dollars have made last year? That’s a very relevant question because the 10 PACs at the bottom of this list spent $54,318,498 and only paid out $3,621,896 to help get Republicans elected. If that same $54,318,498 had gone to the Club for Growth Action PAC and it had been as efficient with it as it was with the money it had, $47,800,278 would have gone to Republican candidates instead of the meager $3,621,896 that those candidates received from those 10 PACs during this cycle. The conservative movement has a right to expect more than this from the PACs that are representing it.

Update: Erick Erickson has some useful critiques, corrections and addendums to the RWN report.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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