Erick Erickson and Scam PACs

Politico has an article about the rise of what they call “scam PACs,” which I’ve been writing about for a while now too. These are PACs that take in large amounts of money, spend very little of it on their ostensible purpose and pay out lots of money in contracts (usually “consulting fees”) to those who organized the PACs.

The efforts bear some of the hallmarks of a phenomenon that watchdogs say is threatening the integrity of the campaign funding system, and that conservative leaders worry could seriously undermine their interests headed into 2016. Since the tea party burst onto the political landscape in 2009, the conservative movement has been plagued by an explosion of PACs that critics say exist mostly to pad the pockets of the consultants who run them. Combining sophisticated targeting techniques with fundraising appeals that resonate deeply among grass-roots activists, they collect large piles of small checks that, taken together, add up to enough money to potentially sway a Senate race. But the PACs plow most of their cash back into payments to consulting firms for additional fundraising efforts.

A POLITICO analysis of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission covering the 2014 cycle found that 33 PACs that court small donors with tea party-oriented email and direct-mail appeals raised $43 million — 74 percent of which came from small donors. The PACs spent only $3 million on ads and contributions to boost the long-shot candidates often touted in the appeals, compared to $39.5 million on operating expenses, including $6 million to firms owned or managed by the operatives who run the PACs. POLITICO’s list is not all-inclusive, and some conservatives fret that it’s almost impossible to identify all the groups that are out there, let alone to rein them in.

“These groups have the pulse of the crowd, and they recognize that they can make a profit off the angst of the conservative base voters who are looking for outsiders,” said the influential conservative pundit Erick Erickson, who has taken it upon himself to call out PAC operators and fundraisers he sees as scams. They are “completely a drain,” said Erickson, whose assessments of candidates and groups carry particular weight among tea party activists and the Republicans who court them. “The conservative activists feel like they’ve contributed to a cause greater than themselves, but the money goes to the consultants, and eventually the activists get burned out and stop giving money, including to the legitimate causes.”…

A couple of days after receiving the anti-Bush email from the Conservative Action Fund, Erickson took to his Red State blog to lament the trend. “It is a terrible blight on the conservative movement and on the tea party in particular that the hucksters have come up to cash in,” he wrote. “From the groups claiming to represent Ben Carson to the groups raising money for Allen West to now a group claiming to raise money to ‘Stop Jeb Bush,’ I think more and more older conservatives are getting scammed by con men living well off other people’s money. I doubt very much that much, if any, of the money is going to support these causes.”

How amusing that Erickson is suddenly concerned about conservatives being scammed. This is the guy, after all, who rents his mailing list and lends his endorsement to financial scams. In fact, he has no problem erasing Ann Coulter’s name from a sales pitch and replacing it with his own on behalf of scammers. Here’s his excuse:

Singling out Erickson in particular, Backer pointed out that the pundit’s own email list is routinely rented for fundraising by PACs, including some represented by Backer. (Erickson said he has no control over to whom his email list is rented by the company that owns it, “and it horrifies me that the list sometimes get rented to some of these guys.”)

And why would that be, Erick? Oh right, because you cashed in by selling your blog to Eagle Publishing, which also happens to own the website of the financial scammers. Did you also sell the right to have them use your name in endorsing other products and services? Or are you just full of shit? And either way, how does that make you any different from the people you’re criticizing who are also getting rich by fleecing credulous conservatives?

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
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  • davek23

    a phenomenon that watchdogs say is threatening the integrity of the campaign funding system

    Quirk objection!

  • eric

    …the integrity of the campaign funding system…

    Ha!

    Wouldn’t that be rich – if campaign contributions declined and people became disillusioned about it, due to the presence of con artists in the deregulated system. Hoist by their own petard.

    On a more serious note, I would have absolutely no problem with rules that require political campaign organizations to report how much money goes to actual candidates vs. overhead – prominently, in ways easily accessible to the public. Don’t most charities already have to do that?

  • raven

    Time magazine had this as their cover story a few months ago. The example they used was Ben Carson, MD.

    You know when it hits Time that it is common knowledge.

    People who add things up, claim that much of the money spent by the GOP in the 2012 election was just wasted, skimmed off in a variety of dubious but legal ways.

    Of course, I don’t have the slightest problem with the GOP doing that. Waste away!!! Fast cars, mansions, private jets, fine wines and drugs, whatever costs lots of money!!!

  • Al Dente

    threatening the integrity of the campaign funding system

    Is he talking about the Citizens United decision?

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    I’m gonna sue. These “scam PACs” are trading on the good name of my PAC, SCAMPAC!* And my PAC does actual good, standing firm against everything America stands for!

     

    Combining sophisticated targeting techniques with fundraising appeals that resonate deeply among grass-roots activists…

    Making emails that scare old white people isn’t hard. They’re scared of everything from socialists to communists to atheists to Muslims.

     

    * Socialist Communist Athiest Muslin PAC.

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    @MO

    They’ve reduced the fundraising letter to a minimum:

    Boo! Send money!

  • illdoittomorrow

    Looks an awful lot like the Free Hand of The Market ™ has made its decision. Why does Erickson hate competition so much?

  • http://www.facebook.com/den.wilson d.c.wilson

    Probably the one saving grace of the unlimited floodgates opened up by Citizend United was that they made setting up these scams ridiculously easy. Imagine if all that money actually was spent on campaigns. Well consevatives, you wanted a system of zero accountability where no one had to reveal where they got their money from or what they spent it on. Enjoy flushing your money away.

  • coffeehound

    Simple.

    Big Corporate/Wall Street scams= beautiful shiny free market.

    Small time individual/small group scams= shameless dirty hucksterism.

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org Area Man

    I wonder how many of those fund-raising appeals are predicated on all the supposed waste, fraud, and abuse in the Federal budget?

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    You wouldn’t think you could loathe these guys any more, but then they lower themselves to the challenge.

  • LightningRose

    Every dollar scammed out of a Reich Wing bigot is a dollar not spent on causing actual harm to the country. I fail to see a down side.

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org Area Man

    @12:

    Every dollar scammed out of a Reich Wing bigot is a dollar not spent on causing actual harm to the country. I fail to see a down side.

    From the link @11:

    Elderly donors, many of whom relatives say are too senile to make financial decisions, have said they feel swindled and abused.

    That sounds like a downside to me.

  • D. C. Sessions

    SRSLY? Complaints about scams in the industry pioneered by Richard Viguerie?

  • thebookofdave

    standing firm against everything America stands for!

    Better reserve that as the byline for your sex video, Modusoperandi, before someone else takes credit for it.

    they lower themselves to the challenge.

    Same for you, Ray Ingles. Just please don’t produce the movie.

  • se habla espol

    rules that require political campaign organizations to report how much money goes to actual candidates vs. overhead – prominently, in ways easily accessible to the public. Don’t most charities already have to do that?

    Real charities are required to do this. Religious “charities” don’t.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    … 33 PACs that court small donors with tea party-oriented email and direct-mail appeals raised $43 million — 74 percent of which came from small donors. The PACs spent only $3 million on ads and contributions to boost the long-shot candidates often touted in the appeals, compared to $39.5 million on operating expenses, including $6 million to firms owned or managed by the operatives who run the PACs.

    $43M? $6M? Small change in the campaign industry even before Citizens United.

    Not very much in general-purpose suckeristan either – Pat Robertson harvests >$43M every few months and has for decades; Jerry Falwell Jr at Liberty “Univesity” averages about that every month from federal online-tuition programs; probably the collective entrepreneurs of online Nigeria exceed that in a good year.

    In terms of “threatening the integrity of the campaign funding system” [trigger warning for campaign-funding-system-appropriate-language], the Tea Party™ quick-buck artists don’t add up to a wart on Sheldon Adelson’s butt.

    In terms of their toxicity to the body politics, something more like an equivalent mass of cottonmouth venom makes a better analogy.

    *sigh* Talkin’ ’bout my generation…

  • Nemo

    The conservative activists feel like they’ve contributed to a cause greater than themselves, but the money goes to the consultants, and eventually the activists get burned out and stop giving money, including to the legitimate causes.

    Best news I’ve heard all day.

  • lpetrich

    Those scam-PAC organizers likely believe that greed is just plain good, and they are certainly practicing what they preach there.