DC-based Fundraising Firm Raises Campaign Cash, And Keeps A Lot of It

June 30, 2008 12:11 p.m.

The Boston Globe found an exceptionally good story this weekend nestled inside an anonymous office tower in downtown Washington.

They drilled down into the details of a company called BMW Direct, which bills itself as a “full service creative agency” for national political candidates and conservative groups.

Here’s what the Globe found: the firm mounts massive nationwide direct mail fund-raising efforts, urging self-styled conservatives to contribute to help defeat “ultra-liberal” lawmakers by pushing hot-button right-wing issues such as getting the U.S. out of the United Nations, cracking down on immigration, outlawing abortion, and protecting gun laws.

And here’s the catch, according to the Globe: The firm takes most of that money to pay for its own fund-raising expenses.

The Globe looked at the example of Charles A. Morse, a little-known Republican from suburban Boston who tried to run against longtime Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) in 2006. The Washington firm took control of Morse’s campaign. A BMW Direct staff member became the campaign treasurer and signed the Federal Election Commission filings for the candidate.

In short, Morse had no idea how much money was being raised — and spent — in his name. The firm raised more than $700,000 for Morse, mostly from donors across the country who were told defeating the Massachusetts liberal was critically important.

Ultimately, Federal Elections Commission records show, $30,000 was devoted directly to Morse’s campaign expenses in the Fourth Congressional District. And Morse said he was shocked when told by the Globe how much BMW Direct had raised and spent in the name of his candidacy.

“That is craziness,” he said. “I am really amazed. It is really way above and beyond what I was made aware of.”

Morse didn’t get enough votes in the primary to qualify for the general election, but BMW Direct kept on raising money in his name anyway.

On the firm’s Web site, BMW Direct’s list of clients includes the Black Republican PAC, Black Republican Freedom Fund, Republican National Hispanic Assembly, Bob Barr Leadership Fund. the RNC Senate Fund and Citizens Committee to Defeat Hillary Clinton (Project).

BMW Direct also raises money for Veterans for Victory, a Texas-based group that touts its efforts to publicize Sen. John Kerry’s “disgraceful military record.”

During the 2006 congressional election campaign cycle, Veterans for Victory’s committee raised almost $1 million and actually donated about 3 percent of that to candidates, according to the Globe.

With people like BMW Direct on the job, it is really a surprise that the GOP is having fund- raising problems this year?

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