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February 19, 2015

Trust, but Verify — Even Conservative PACs

Are scam conservative PACs “a wide scale problem”?

We’ve all seen the post-election map showing that, despite concentrations of blue, America remains overwhelmingly red. Why, then, don’t we see even more conservative candidates elected to office? If one recent report is to be believed, much of the blame lies at the feet of inefficient and, in some cases, downright dishonest faux conservative political action committees (PACs) that are capitalizing on Americans’ passion for Liberty but using funds for other purposes.

According to Right Wing News (RWN), scam conservative PACs have become “a wide scale problem that is unquestionably having an enormous negative impact on the conservative movement.” The article, by John Hawkins, cites a research report Hawkins commissioned that focuses on how several conservative PACs spend money, along with whether those PACs represent themselves accurately. According to the report, some PACs, such as Club for Growth, direct the bulk of their spending to electing conservatives – in Club for Growth’s case, 88%. Others, however, such as the National Draft Ben Carson for President Super PAC – which, incidentally, isn’t actually associated with Dr. Carson – spent nearly $13 million in 2014, but less than $600,000 went to candidates and none of it went to Carson. Therein lies the problem.

Hawkins writes that some PACs pay large amounts to vendors that, curiously, are owned by individuals working for the PAC. While this practice is not necessarily bad, it opens the door to shifting funds in a way that keeps donors in the dark and avoids FEC reporting requirements. Additionally, some PACs use money for things like research, media and volunteer organization not directly tied to candidates.

After highlighting several good – and several supposedly questionable – PACs, RWN alleges that “perhaps the biggest reason grassroots candidates have been having trouble breaking through in recent years is because such a large percentage of the money that was intended for them is being siphoned off to vendors, wasted, and just plain old pocketed by people in these PACs.”

(As a note, The Patriot Post is not a PAC, nor do we raise funds for political candidates. All donations support our operations and mission – fanning the flame of Essential Liberty.)

Is the moral of the story, then, that Americans should throw their hands up (while keeping their money in their pockets) and not support conservative PACs? Far from it.

As Red State’s Erick Erickson notes in an interesting counterpoint, while the RWN report highlights some important things, it also misses several. For example, several of the PACs which RWN lumps in with scam PACs are those that have legitimately not only helped elect candidates but also helped conservative candidates stand up to Establishment Republicans.

Take for example the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF). Erickson says while RWN claims this PAC spent only 22% on candidates, in reality, it spent more than 70% on candidates and issue advocacy. Part of the discrepancy is that RWN’s report leaves out $4.7 million that SCF raised and gave directly to candidates and more than $2.5 million that SCF’s super PAC expended on behalf of those candidates. Additionally, Erickson notes that RWN counts $3.5 million SCF spent as “wasted” on overhead costs, when in reality it was spent on issue ads. RWN addresses some of these discrepancies in a footnote, but not every one reads footnotes.

Erickson wonders, “If the Right Wing News report missed all these facts about SCF, including by subjectively deciding its commercials promote itself more than its cause, what else did it miss?”

So what’s a conservative to do? Simply, our first goal should always remain standing up for First Principles and Essential Liberty. And the more we can thoughtfully work together to do so and to elect conservative candidates who will do so, the better. That said, just as with contributing to charities, it’s always wise to research organizations and evaluate how they use donated funds, as well as whether they represent themselves accurately. In other words, read the fine print – and we don’t mean the print in publications like Mother Jones and Politico that will latch onto any anti-conservative story, real or imagined, and cry foul.

When all is said and done, the reality remains that solid conservative candidates benefit greatly from the help of solid, conservative and well-managed PACs that honor donor intent and invest in advancing Liberty. And these types of organizations are worth our contributions.

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