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Don’t Forget the Lincoln Project’s Sordid Past

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Charles Krupa

With another American presidential election around the corner, infinite grifters at The Lincoln Project are back at the trough.

Founded by former Republican strategists, they achieved fame and fortune in the Trump era by viciously attacking him.


Political organizations that are created to support or oppose a federal candidate are lawful.

In our system, any group can form and support or oppose any candidate. There’s no problem with being explicitly negative. As someone who has worked on campaigns for 20 years, I know firsthand that negative ads can be the most effective.

But the Lincoln Project’s shifting mission and purpose reveal the true goal of the organization: Elect more Democrats.

There may have even been a measure of courage for once credentialed GOP consultants to go against their party leader from a place of principle.

But that cause quickly was suffocated by dishonesty, grifting and illusions of grandeur.

Whereas it might have one been solely about Trump balanced on the thin reed of ‘principle’ sworn by political operative mercenaries, this group has since become a Democratic Super PAC that has used dishonest tactics and accepted a sexual predator as one of its original founders. All while the founders made undisclosed millions.

Let’s review the record:

Much of the money the group raised, almost certainly in the hundreds of millions by this point, has gone to the organization’s founders, while they aimed to earn even more.

As the New York Times reported in 2021, Lincoln Project founder Steve Schmidt said on the eve of the 2020 presidential election, “Five years from now, there will be a dozen billion-dollar media companies that don’t exist today. I would like to build one, and would invite all of you to be part of that.”


The New York Times continued: "In fact, Mr. Schmidt and the three other men who started the Lincoln Project — John Weaver, Reed Galen and Rick Wilson — had already quietly moved to set themselves up in the new enterprise, drafting and filing papers to create TLP Media in September and October, records show. Its aim was to transform the original project, a super PAC, into a far more lucrative venture under their control."

As the New York Times reported: "This was not the only private financial arrangement among the four men. Shortly after they created the group in late 2019, they had agreed to pay themselves millions of dollars in management fees, three people with knowledge of the deal said. The behind-the-scenes moves by the four original founders showed that whatever their political goals, they were also privately taking steps to make money from the earliest stages, and wanted to limit the number of people who would share in the spoils. Over time, the Lincoln Project directed about $27 million — nearly a third of its total fund-raising — to Mr. Galen’s consulting firm, from which the four men were paid, according to people familiar with the arrangement."

The founders claimed to be fighting a principled battle to prevent the reelection of President Donald Trump – a singular mission. But their work shifted into perfect alignment with the national Democratic Party quickly. After all, that’s where the money is.


They opposed vulnerable Republican U.S. Senate incumbents like Cory Gardner (R-CO), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joni Ernst (R-IA). In the closing days of the 2021 gubernatorial campaign in Virginia, the group admitted (under pressure) that it hired actors to pose as white supremacists and have them pose next to the campaign bus of Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin.

In the current election cycle, they have aggressively attacked Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), a leading presidential contender, even though his nomination poses the greatest electoral threat to Trump according to current polling.

Most concerning are the credible reports that the organization’s leaders looked the other way while reports of inappropriate sexual messages were being sent by co-founder John Weaver to boys as young as 14.

As the Associated Press reported: "In June 2020, members of the organization’s leadership were informed in writing and in subsequent phone calls of at least 10 specific allegations of harassment against co-founder John Weaver, including two involving Lincoln Project employees, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the situation."

These allegations were known to founders as early as January 2020 and as late as May 2020. Weaver would not leave the organization until January 2021.


National reporters, donors, activists, political operatives, and elected officials who receive Lincoln Project statements and press releases or requests for donations and support must not forget this disqualifying record.

The Lincoln Project had a remuneratively beneficial run. It’s time for that to come to an end.

Matt Mackowiak is the president of Potomac Strategy Group, a Republican consultant, a former Bush administration official, a Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran and a former press secretary to two U.S. Senators.

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