Earlier this week, my website Right Wing News put out a report called 50 Million Down The Tubes: How 17 Conservative PACs Are Spending Their Money. That report was based on 170 pages of research I had commissioned into how conservative PACs are spending their money and the numbers of the 10 groups on the bottom were so bad that I was genuinely shocked, which doesn’t happen very often.
Just in case you’re wondering, those bottom 10 PACs you’re looking at spent $54,318,498, but only $3,621,896 of that money went to candidates via direct contributions or independent expenditures on their behalf.
Some people have asked why we even looked into this, especially since some of these groups are generally well thought of conservative groups that endorse great grassroots candidates.
There’s a simple answer to that question. When 54 million dollars is pouring into PACs that are cumulatively eating up 93% of it in overhead, fundraising and salaries, it has a tremendous negative impact on the conservative movement.
Just look at some of the key races Republicans lost by a hair during the last election cycle.
Republican Ken Cuccinelli was defeated by Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor's race by 2.4 points. Even though Cuccinelli was a conservative grassroots favorite, McAuliffe was still able to outspend him by 16 million dollars. How much would the money that was wasted on those bottom 10 PACs have helped in that race?
Bob Beauprez came up 3 points short in his attempt to knock off the loathsome John Hickenlooper in the Colorado governor's race. The Republican Governor’s Association was outgunned by its Democrat counterparts to the tune of $600,000 and Beauprez was outspent by 2.6 million dollars. Getting a Republican at the top of the ticket in a potential swing state like Colorado going into 2016 is no small matter and a few million dollars might have swung the race.
Republican Ed Gillespie lost to Mark Warner in the Virginia Senate race by 1 point. To pull off that victory, Warner’s campaign outspent Gillespie by 9 million dollars. Maybe even a couple of million dollars more might have been all it took to get Gillespie over the hump. In 2016, the Republicans must play defense in the Senate and that lone seat might be the difference between keeping or losing the chamber.
The same could be said of Republican Scott Brown’s race against Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire. Shaheen only beat Brown by 4 points. However, in the money race, Shaheen beat Brown by 7 million dollars. Given that Brown is about as good as you’re going to get in New Hampshire and that holding this seat could be the difference between getting rid of Obamacare or being stuck with it if we elect a Republican President in 2016, a few million more in this race could have been a game changer.
Conservative grassroots favorite Dan Bongino lost a 2 point House race against Democrat John Delaney. In a race where less than 4.1 million dollars was raised by both candidates, Bongino was outspent by a little over a million dollars. If more cash had gone into that race, we could have an outspoken former Secret Service Agent in the House instead of yet another liberal Democrat.
Key battles where we could have used more funding to get these candidates over the hump are EXACTLY the sort of races that PACs are normally expected to step into. Unfortunately, as you can see from that chart above, there are a lot of conservative PACs that have become money sponges that absorb vast amounts of cash without making much of an impact. Sure they may do some limited amount of good by endorsing candidates, but there are radio hosts and websites that fill that purpose just as well. The reason there are hardworking people digging deeply into their thinning wallets to give contributions to these groups is because they want them to have the resources to help elect candidates who can get this country back on track. PACs aren’t supposed to be job programs for activists, consultant enrichment services or handy vehicles to funnel money to vendors owned by friends, family members and surrogates. To the contrary, conservative PACs should be spending most of their money to get conservative candidates elected and there are a number of PACs that are raking in the bucks without doing much of that.
If a PAC isn’t spending a lot of money to get candidates elected, it doesn’t mean the activists who work there are crooks or bad people. However, it does mean they’re ineffective as an organization and they’re soaking up resources that are desperately needed elsewhere if we’re going to turn this country around. Just as America can’t afford to have any more of our money wasted by the government, the conservative movement can’t afford to continue pouring 50 million dollars per election cycle into PACs that are frittering it away.