Propublica and Politico have teamed up for a long, beautifully reported expose on the Conservative Majority Fund and other PACs that senior Republican operators founded to solicit millions from donors (many of them elderly and on low, fixed incomes), allegedly to combat racist, far-fetched Obama plans they claimed were in the offing, but almost all of the money ended up in their own pockets.
At the heart of the scandals is Kelley Rogers, a top Republican operator whose past is shot through with other fundraising scandals, whose Infocision Management Corp raised more than $10m for the Conservative Majority Fund but only dispersed $48,000 to campaigns and committees, keeping the rest to pay for its boiler-room phone-banks and massive executive salaries.
Infocision worked on behalf of the American Conservative Union, pushing racist conspiracy theories about Barack Obama through direct email, mail and phone solicitations, often to elderly conservatives on fixed incomes (the scripts included special pitches for low-income prospects). Eventually, the ACU and Infocision parted ways, though there’s evidence that Infocision continued to invoke the ACU’s name in its fundraising for some time and stopped after legal threats from the ACU.
Infocision went on to back its own, unaffiliated PAC, the Conservative Majority Fund.
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision (which reclassified political spending as a protected activity under the First Amendment, effectively equating money and speech) opened the door to grifty, deceptive PAC fundraising, and neither law nor regulations offer meaningful protection to people targeted by scammy fundraising appeals.
“At the time they called, it seemed like such an important thing,” Miller said in a phone interview. “I was assuming they were legitimate.” When told about the group’s lack of spending on disqualifying Obama from the ballot, he said, “If they did this, and didn’t use it for intended purposes, I want my money back.”
On the day after Obama won reelection, the PAC changed its call scripts, telling donors that Obama’s “immediate plans are to pardon the terrorists at Guantanamo, give full amnesty to illegal aliens and give the United Nations the authority to tax Americans,” according to a fundraising script in the emails. There is no evidence that any of those plans were under consideration by the Obama administration. Donors were told that the PAC had hired a team of investigators and lawyers to press for impeachment. There is no evidence in FEC records that it ever did.
The fundraising scripts included suggested responses if the prospective donors said they were unemployed, on a fixed income or had significant medical bills to pay, encouraging them to give a smaller amount. When recipients asked not to be called again, the script instructed the telemarketers to offer to place them on a “restricted list” so that they would not get more than one call every 30 days. If recipients insisted, they would be added to a no-call list.
How Fundraisers Convinced Conservatives to Donate $10 Million — Then Kept Almost All of It [Derek Willis and Maggie Severns/Propublica and Politico]
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