Are Consultants Bilking the Conservative Movement?

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Mar 13, 2007 2:42 PM

If you gave $20 to an organization, you would certainly hope your money is going to advance a cause you care about – not line the pockets of political consultants -- right?

Granted, there are always "overhead" costs. Postage, offices, and staff -- all cost money.  And consultants have a right to be paid well. But in the last two days, I have seen two stories that make me wonder about some of the consultants who are working in the conservative movement. Consider this:

Yesterday’s Providence Journal featured a story about a former GOP congressional candidate, turned consultant. According to the story:

After losing to U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy in 2004, congressional candidate Dave Rogers and his campaign manager, Christian Winthrop, continued raising money from Republicans across the country, to build their conservative political action committee.

With written pleas for cash to help put “hard-charging, fearless, battle-tested Republican veterans in the U.S. Congress,” they raised more than $415,000 in the 2005-06 election cycle.

Two percent of that money went to federal candidates: a total of $9,000 in two years.

In that same time period, Rogers and Winthrop paid themselves $144,000 from their fund, mostly in “political consulting” fees.

Winthrop, listed in documents as the fund’s treasurer, collected more than $113,000 from the PAC — named the Special Operations Fund. Winthrop had been working in the presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. John McCain, as deputy campaign manager of New Hampshire operations. His job with McCain ended Tuesday — the day The Journal contacted the campaign about the PAC, according to a McCain campaign official.

Rogers, of Portsmouth, a Navy SEAL veteran and a former aide to Governor Carcieri, is a two-time Republican nominee for Congress in the 1st Rhode Island District. He got $31,000 in “consulting” fees.

How could so much money — given by conservatives to elect like-minded people to Congress — have ended up in the pockets of two political associates running a PAC from a P.O. box in Middletown?

Today’s Washington Post features a similar story about how the Minutemen Project (an anti-illegal-immigrant organization) is in turmoil. According to the article:

“The dispute centers on $750,000 in donations raised for the Minuteman Project by HSP Direct, a now-defunct Herndon direct-mail firm hired by Gilchrist. After the company deducted expenses, the project received about $100,000.”

(If HSP is defunct; it is funny that just yesterday I received an email from them titled: “HSP Direct introduces new Vice President of Creative Services …”)

As a conservative who has also worked as a consultant, I have no problem with consultants making an honest living.

But I do have a problem with consultants bilking organizations or idividuals who are trying to advance the movement. These stories concern me greatly...

If you are a candidate or part of an organization who is thinking of hiring a consultant, make sure to read this Campaigns & Elections Magazine article I authored, a while back.  It's titled, "Political Consultants 101 (PDF), Things you must know before making a hire."