Wasn’t It Obvious That The Lincoln Project Was An Unethical Scam?

Lincoln Project

If not, why not? It sure was obvious to me. Even more than the rest of the Never-Trumpers, the Lincoln Project had the stench of insincerity and ethics rot all over it. Why would alleged Republicans and conservatives set out to defeat their party’s incumbent President and hand over power to the most radical and irresponsible incarnation of the Democratic Party since the Confederacy? The most visible member of the cabal for those who are not political junkies (founders Mike Madrid, Rick Wilson, Steve Schmidt, Reed Galen above are the ultimate D.C. insiders, aka “swamp creatures”) was Kellyanne Conway’s lawyer hubby George, who used the news media’s hatred of President Trump to get publicity for his relentless attacks on his wife’s boss, embarrassing her and putting her family life in conflict with her responsibilities to the President. Who does that? Answer: a self-serving, untrustworthy creep like George Conway, that’s who.

Organizations led by unethical people behave unethically and eventually self-destruct; the Lincoln Project was a lesson in signature significance waiting to be taught. Now it is falling apart in chunks, as ploys by arrogant and awful people always do, even if they thrive for a while because, as P.T Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” The suckers in this case were Trump Deranged progressives, who were so thrilled to have alleged conservatives linking arms with them to bring down an elected President with lies and abuses of power that they never asked the crucial ethics inquiry question “What’s going on here?

Glenn Greenwald, in a no-holds-barred excoriation of the group, answers that question with a tasty mix of disgust and brio:

That the primary effect of the Lincoln Project was to personally enrich its key operatives by cynically exploiting the fears of U.S. liberals has long been obvious. Reporting throughout 2020 conclusively demonstrated that the vast majority of the tens of millions of dollars raised by the group was going to firms controlled by its founders. One of its most prominent founders — GOP consultant Rick Wilson — personally collected $65,000 from liberals through GoFundMe for an anti-Trump film he kept promising but which never came; to this date, he refuses to explain what he did with that money.

A study conducted after the 2020 election found that the group’s effect on the election’s outcome was trivial to non-existent — not surprising given its penchant for spending money on ads that aired in electorally irrelevant places such as Washington, D.C. or which circulated almost exclusively in liberal cable news and social media venues, and thus had no purpose other than to enable its consultants to take large commissions from the ad spending. They were producing ads solely for liberals, with the overriding intent not of defeating Trump but inflating their net worth. And it worked: until they were no longer needed.

Heading into the 2020 election, most of the U.S. media was uninterested in, if not outright hostile to, any reporting that might have helped President Trump’s re-election bid. As a result, the Lincoln Project continued to enjoy media veneration even as the magnitude of its scam became increasingly obvious. But with Trump now safely vanquished, the Lincoln Project is dispensable, and the protective shield it enjoyed against any real journalistic scrutiny is — like its reputation and prospects for future profiteering — rapidly crumbling.

On Monday, the Associated Press published a comprehensive exposé with new facts about two of the group’s growing scandals. It reported that “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” — directly contradicting the group’s emphatic denial that it knew nothing about Weaver’s misconduct until the New York Times reported on them at the end of January. As AP delicately put it, these new materials “raise questions about the Lincoln Project’s statement last month that it was ‘shocked’ when accusations surfaced publicly this year.” The gay news outlet The Washington Blade on Tuesday published emails and other correspondence similarly demonstrating the high likelihood that the group’s denials regarding its past knowledge of Weaver’s misconduct were false, as did New York Magazine.

From the AP report:

For the collection of GOP consultants and former officials, being anti-Trump was becoming very good for business. Of the $90 million Lincoln Project has raised, more than $50 million has gone to firms controlled by the group’s leaders….

Since its creation, the Lincoln Project has raised $90 million. But only about a third of the money, roughly $27 million, directly paid for advertisements that aired on broadcast and cable, or appeared online, during the 2020 campaign, according to an analysis of campaign finance disclosures and data from the ad tracking firm Kantar/CMAG.

That leaves tens of millions of dollars that went toward expenses like production costs, overhead — and exorbitant consulting fees collected by members of the group.

“It raises questions about where the rest of the money ultimately went,” said Brendan Fischer, an attorney with the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center in Washington. “Generally speaking, you’d expect to see a major super PAC spend a majority or more of their money on advertisements and that’s not what happened here.”

The vast majority of the cash was split among consulting firms controlled by its founders, including about $27 million paid to a small firm controlled by Galen and another $21 million paid to a boutique firm run by former Lincoln Project member Ron Steslow, campaign finance disclosures show.

Naturally George Conway quickly turned on his supposed colleagues, not because he was shocked–shocked!—at the conduct of the organization that he helped found and shilled for, but because he’s a born betrayer.

Today, co-founder Steve Schmidt joined several other Lincoln Project principles in resigning from the group in the wake of the John Weaver scandal. This was an organization of rats, and the fact that they are fleeing their sinking metaphorical ship was pre-ordained.

8 thoughts on “Wasn’t It Obvious That The Lincoln Project Was An Unethical Scam?

  1. I don’t know who’s more disgusting ooze, them or the pessimistic Never Trumpers over at National Review who did not a damn thing to help Trump and a LOT to hurt him. I just figured the Lincoln Project was more of the same, elitists who would rather sip Chablis and remark how uncouth ordinary folks were, except minus the jokes about Sarah Palin, who couldn’t stand this blustering blowhard.

    • Snobs and bigots are better than crooks. The Never-Trumpers among the conservative “imtellientsia”—Kristol, Will, Jim Treacher,the National Review crowd, David Brooks—they are classist bigots. Still better than fakes and crooks, however.

      • Marginally, I suppose. What really bugged me about the Lincoln Project was when they started talking about how they had to also punish Trump’s allies in the Senate by knocking them out of the majority and as many as they could out of office. That’s when I said “what the devil is going on here?” I mean, if you really hate what the GOP has become to the point where you want to destroy it, then why are you still a part of it? You can register as an independent, you can cross the aisle, you can do a lot of more honorable things than try to stab your own party in the back while running interference for the other one.

        I figured that maybe some of them liked being in the minority because it means you can just write scathing editorials without really having to DO anything about them, but bringing down your own president seems like an awfully high price to pay for that. To do it to stuff your own pockets makes you the lowest of the low. Now you’re going to take the money you fleeced from trusting liberals and probably have in some untraceable place earning interest in the double digits, and jet on out of town, leaving the rest of us to try to put things back together. Oh, what’s there to get upset about, you think, Biden won’t last, and what kind of damage can he do? In two years he’ll lose one or both houses of Congress and he won’t be able to do anything. Is that the scribble of a pen signing executive orders?

        • It gets you more attention, too. There’s a liberal around every corner willing to write an anti-Trump screed so good luck getting your own personal rant published. But, ahhhhh, a so-called conservative willing to admit that Trump is the Antichrist and work against him and his party is useful. Like everyone used by the Democratic Party to win this thing, they are no longer needed and can be dispensed with.

          To me, though, the real crime was using Lincoln’s name.

    • The Trump administration has taught me a lot about the GOP. What they say they care about, and what they actually care about, are two entirely different things.

      What they actually care about is not something I think I can vote for, as it runs counter to my interests. Open borders, outsourcing jobs, big corporations acting as fascist oligopolies, big government, deficit spending… that is all I see either party representing at this point. They are the same, in varying degrees of extremism.

      Basically, I have recognized that my interests are not being represented at all. There is no one I can vote for, no one who cares about people like me. There is no journalist reporting news that people like me care about. There is no activist groups, no academic institution, no legal entity who cares about the things I care about. There is only opportunists, liars and thieves in power who pretend to have my best interests at heart. What now?

      People wonder why millennials are so screwed up. There is a simple answer. Government and oligopolies have conspired to crash the economy over and over again, since we came of age. The dot com bust. The real estate crash. The bank bailout. We have no outlets but the ones they agree to give us to express our frustration. Those outlets are basically social justice bullshit and propaganda power plays. Was the whole Trump administration some big conspiracy to show us how meaningless we are? We know you want jobs, but fuck off? We know you want to buy houses and live the American dream, but you are a peon who will never amount to anything, no matter what you do! Your vote is irrelevant. Enjoy your shitty apartments and your non existent children that you cannot afford to have because we gave all the jobs and welfare handouts to foreigners, and we are going to keep doing it right in your faces. We will hand money to big banks and Wall Street, shut down small businesses on a whim, and make you wear a mask while we are at it. Hahaha. We win, you lose, and if you whine we will call you domestic terrorists. Agree to communism, or else!

      That is how it feels.

      • An interesting comment, NP. Here’s how I see it.

        Trump, for all of his flaws (and God knows, that’s quite a list) understood exactly what you’re talking about: the idea that the game was rigged seventeen ways to Sunday, that the entrenched elites in government (both elected and bureaucratic) were in cahoots with the entrenched elites in finance, technology, academia and media in order to maintain a comfy status quo. Whether by study (which I doubt) or gut instinct (much more likely, IMO), he understood that a LOT of people feel the same way.

        Now, I honestly don’t know if Trump shared that view at the outset (if he didn’t, I imagine he surely does now). Candidly, I’ve got my doubts. Trump is all about being adored – and I suspect that among the people most surprised by his win was Donald J. Trump himself.

        It was fascinating to watch. During the run-up to 2016, Trump did an amazing thing: he co-opted the news media in a really intriguing way – and again, I’m not sure if this was calculated or just a combination of zeitgeist or pure dumb luck. But he could get on the airwaves almost any time he wanted, simply by calling in in the middle of a live broadcast, no slotting required. The media loved it because he seemed like a buffoon and full of bluster. He spent a fair amount of time attacking the party he theoretically belonged to. They thought he was a clown, but what they didn’t realize was that Trump was giving voice to all of the angst that you – and millions of other Americans – describe. He wasn’t just mirroring their concerns – he was offering simple (often naively so) solutions to these problems. That the news media gave him so much free time early on is, I think, one of the major reasons it’s been so vicious to him ever since: they think they helped create the monster, and they thought it thus necessary to kill it (at least, they did until it became obvious that he was great for business).

        Look at the slate of Republicans Trump beat out in the primaries. A lot of them were stiffs, some of them were just plain not ready for prime time, but there were some competent politicians in that gang. And Trump rolled all of them. Jack has noted here in the past that the Republican Party should have somehow prevented Trump gaining the nomination. I would argue that they tried and failed – lacking, for whatever reason, the willingness or ability to blatantly put the party’s thumb on the scale for someone else, like the Dems did with Hillary Clinton. Remember, she was facing an unexpectedly strong challenge of her own in the person of Bernie Sanders, whose supporters were motivated in no small part by the same basic angst and concerns that drew Trump’s fans. Trump and Bernie tapped into precisely the same vein. They differed only in their prescribed medications.

        But of course, the fact that the Clinton machine controlled (literally, by way of funding) the DNC made her coronation inevitable. So the final pitted a blowhard rodeo clown, who argued that power in this nation was rigged and corrupt vs. an opponent who actually drove home that very idea every time she opened her mouth.

        I’ll give the Republican Party credit for this much: I think it’s safe to say that Party leadership and many of its most visible members (which are not necessarily the same thing) were as aghast at Trump as the Dems were. But they’re not completely stupid; they recognized that Trump represented a wave and that for their own survivals, they’d better start paddling and ride that sucker, or get overwhelmed and end up underwater. Whatever else may have happened backstage, Trump’s was the name on the marquee – and loathe him as they might, they still had a show to run.

        Trump has never been a conservative. He’s a populist – that adoration thing, again. But what he set in motion is actually something that the Republican Party – and, quite frankly, the nation – is going to have to think about going forward. I think back on the news media shortly after Trump won, in which numerous outlets published navel-gazing essays about how they’d gotten it wrong, how they needed to spend time out in the heartland instead of their coastal bubbles, and really understand how the common man thinks. For a brief while, I suspect they actually meant it (until they realized the chaos was good for business). But then, they promptly forgot about it, and every new “Trump is a DISASTER” story generated the clicks and tweets that made the bean counters very, very happy.

        Trump often talked about “draining the swamp.” In his hubris, he underestimated both its size and its tenacity. The swamp managed to drain him, instead. But the Republican establishment had better not make the same mistake the media did and forget about what happened. The anger is still there – and is largely warranted.

        The Democratic Party has a dramatically split base – those who think government should take care of them cradle to grave, and the wealthy and connected who are only too happy to give lip service to doing just that. That leaves a broad middle of just plain ordinary folks, and it really doesn’t matter if they’re titularly Dems, Repubs or unenrolled. They’re out there, they’re still pissed off, and if the Republicans are smart they’ll start developing a standard bearer who can connect like Trump could, without all the baggage that comes with it. That’s purely for survival. And maybe, over time, the Republican party will gradually come to understand that that’s what’s best for the nation – and their own political futures.

  2. The old adage of if you lie with the dogs you wind up getting fleas (or fleeced). When unethical people conspire with other unethical people the two negatives remain negative.

    The Lincoln project was exactly what it claimed Trump to be: a bunch of grifters. Progressives that funneled money to them who wanted to use them as “credible Republicans” who, detested Trump and therefore so should you, deserved to be fleeced. Kind of like condign justice. I would like to see the money men and women sue the bunch for fraud and have the whole thing play out in a public trial . It would be like watching piranhas feeding upon themselves.

  3. The Lincoln Project being in a free fire zone now reminds me of Harvey Weinstein being turned into a pinata as soon as the Clintons had been kicked to the curb by the Dems. It’s amazing how quickly people turn on other people in Washington. And how about Nicky Haley turning on Trump today? It’s as if now Trump has been banned from Twitter, every former ally and supporter is pretending he never existed. I just don’t think that’s a good strategy. Pols really think the electorate is going to simply forget about what Trump accomplished? Elephant? What elephant?

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