This election is sure to see its share of attack groups like Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. But while most of the attention will be on the billionaire-backed attack organizations, there are also sure to be a number of smaller groups operating under the radar.
Read More →
A group called the Republican Majority Campaign is a good example. Since January, the group has disclosed spending a total of $350,000 on phone calls against both of the Democratic presidential nominees. The FEC filings show a number of expenditures in equal amounts on the same day against both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama throughout February and March. It's an oddly unfocused strategy and one that the group declines to describe publicly in any detail.
But that's not all that's curious about the group. It's operations resemble those of groups formerly run by Linda Chavez and Christopher Gersten, although those associated with the group deny any connection with Chavez and Gersten.
Chavez, a former Reagan administration official and President Bush's one-time nominee for Secretary of Labor (derailed by the revelation she'd housed an illegal immigrant), and Gersten, a former Bush administration official, ran a stable of conservative political action committees together for many years. But that stopped not long after a front-page Washington Post story, under the headline "In Fundraising's Murky Corners," exposed a troubling trend in those groups. Only about one percent of the funds were used for actual political activities such as contributions to politicians or independent political activity. The rest was cycled back into fundraising costs, "a modest but steady source of income for Chavez and four family members," and various expenses for the family associated with the groups. "I guess you could call it the family business," as Chavez put it.
Because of individual contribution limits, PACs rely on a large number of contributors for support. In the case of the Chavez groups, which raised funds largely through telemarketing, the Post reported that some donors, who'd given funds without knowing anything more about the groups beyond their names and stated goals, felt like they'd been taken.
When I contacted Republican Majority Campaign's chairman Gary Kreep about the group, he could tell me little about its activities. Kreep, a Californian, runs the United States Justice Foundation, a conservative non-for-profit. His bio on that organization's website says he also runs a PAC associated with the United States Justice Foundation, another PAC called the California Justice Political Action Committee, and a not-for-profit called the Family Values Coalition. None of those groups appear to be active, according to FEC, IRS, and California state records. Kreep and the United State Justice Foundation are behind a recent Hillary attack website called HillCAP, the Hillary Clinton Accountability Project, a site dedicated to educating "the public about the largest federal election campaign fraud ever reported," the case of former Clinton contributor Peter Paul.
The Republic Majority Campaign had first begun with a campaign against Hillary Clinton in late January, he said, but then started going after Obama, too. And the campaign had been limited to phone calls, but would soon include mailings as well.
But when I asked about the details of that campaign (how many calls, in what states, what did the calls say), he didn't have answers.