Hey kids! Looking for a nifty new way to scam people that is completely legal? Just raise money in the name of any prominent, well-liked member of Congress. According to the Federal Elections Commission, you do not even have to actually spend a single dime of that money on the candidate as long as you include the right disclaimers on your website.
Tim Edson, the treasurer of Allen West for Congress, alleged that the Republican Majority Campaign and three other political committees — the Coalition of Americans for Political Equality PAC, Patriot Super PAC and the Conservative StrikeForce — used intentionally misleading fundraising tactics in order to fleece conservative donors of cash they thought was going to help West’s re-election efforts, citing emails and websites that asked potential donors for help in supporting West.
In Edson’s view, the motivating factor for RMC was profit, not politics. From the complaint: “[w]e can find no evidence the [RMC] has spent any money on actual, non-fundraising public communications since sometime in 2008…The Republican Majority Campaign is a scam. With respect to the solicitations at issue in this Complaint, RMC seeks to profit from the name and reputation of Congressman Allen West.”
Ultimately, the FEC’s lawyers recommended the agency find no reason to believe that the faux Allen West committees violated federal law, as the respondents were all registered political committees that made clear they were independent of the West campaign by including disclaimers.
Almost all of the donations that went to these “Allen West” committees got spent on fundraising consultants instead of advertising or media, and as unfair as it seems, this is perfectly legal. Once a political committee takes your money, the FEC has no laws or rules to govern how they can spend it — a case of ‘buyer beware.’ Fraudulent political fundraising is a problem for both parties, but conservative politics are particularly rife with profiteering. Remember the birther infomercial? Or Glenn Beck’s gold coins? Or Allen Baler’s survival foods? Or Think Freely Media? These are wingnut welfare programs that turn credulous right wing donors into revenue streams, often in order to support people who are unemployable in the real world. It is great work if you can get it.
One of the most rambunctious and outspoken Republicans in the country says that the conservative Circle of Scam has gone too far. Whatever we may think of Mr. West, we agree with him that there ought to be a law about this.