Many on the far right have been convinced to let go of the facts and embrace conspiracy theories about Barack Obama. Now, these same folks are being targeted by a scheme to convince them to let go of their cash. They are told in slick TV advertisements that their money will be used to defeat Barack Obama. But according to public disclosures little, if any of the money is being used for that purpose.
Two PACs, the Conservative Majority Fund and America’s Next Generation, purport to exist to help Mitt Romney become President. But the small contributions they aggressively seek in TV advertisements appear to primarily benefit an obscure company in Ohio. The firm, InfoCision Managment, was previously accused by Ohio’s Republican attorney general of improper fundraising for charities.
This summer, the Conservative Majority Fund PAC launched its first ad — a one-minute long laundry list of anti-Barack Obama conspiracy theories. The ad asked viewers to call a toll-free number to sign a “demand to disqualify Obama” and suggests that with 10,000 signatures from every Congressional district, they could “boot this guy off the ballot.” The group reported spending $185,663.46 — paid to a consulting firm called Take 2 Direct — for production and airing of these “independent expenditure” ads. The ads referred viewers to a website — whoisbarack.com which cites Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio as having “indisputable evidence” that the president’s birth certificate is “fraudulent.” The PAC also paid InfoCision Managment Corporation, an Akron, Ohio-based firm specializing in telemarketing, hundreds of thousands of dollars for telephone fundraising and voter contact calls opposing President Obama.
In recent weeks, it has begun running new ads — though it does not appear that the group has filed disclosures of the new ads within 24 hours as required by federal election law. One, currently in heavy rotation, asks for 10 million viewers to sign a pledge to support Romney to “deliver the knockout blow” to President Obama’s re-election. Another, run in recent weeks, asked for “30 million patriots” to call and sign a pledge. But while the ads suggest the effort is about a petition, the real goal appears to be fundraising. The website in the ads — which pressures visitors to donate “$45 or more” to “help elect Mitt Romney as the 45th President of the United States of America.” The group offers a “free” Romney bumper sticker to donors only.
Watch the ad:
Calls to the number are met with a computerized answering system. The pre-recorded message pressures the caller heavily to make a “modest contribution” to help “get Mitt elected.” If the person agrees, a live operator asks for a $100 or $200 contribution. One operator confirmed to ThinkProgress that she was an employee working for InfoCision on the PAC’s behalf.
Listen to the audio (ThinkProgress answers cut):
But while the ads and phone messaging make it seem like the money will be used for pro-Romney campaign efforts, nearly all of the payments reported by Conservative Majority Fund to date have gone to either Take 2 Direct for these ads and InfoCision telephone calls.
A recent Huffington Post story highlighted significant controversy surrounding InfoCision. The company agreed to pay $75,000 and change its practices after Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) alleged illegal charitable solicitation practices (the firm admitted no wrongdoing).
The story noted another group — the America’s Next Generation super PAC — running virtually the same TV ads and apparently also raising money that mostly goes to InfoCision and Take 2 Direct. Two of the officers of that super PAC are former employees of InfoCision and the address listed on its FEC registration is also in Akron.
The ads being run by America’s Next Generation super PAC are nearly indistinguishable from those being run by Conservative Majority Fund. They too ask for citizens to call a toll-free number to sign a pledge to elect Romney. They too promise a “free” bumper sticker. They too warn of “the tide of socialism that’s been taking over our country.” Their script is similar — and in some places identical — and features the same announcer.
Watch the America’s Next Generation ad:
Calls to the toll-free number for the America’s Next Generation pledge go to the exact same InfoCision computerized answering system with the identical message as the Conservative Majority Fund numbers.
R.C. Hammond, a spokesman for America’s Next Generation, told ThinkProgress that there was absolutely no association or coordination between the two political committees. “Just similar groups, using similar good ideas, to help stop President Obama,” he claimed.
But, as campaign finance expert and Colby College professor of government Anthony Corrado told the Huffington Post, those “similar good ideas” seem to more about “generating income for their company,” than defeating Obama. Donors, he observed, are “essentially giving to a fundraising operation that’s using a conservative appeal to raise money in a manner that will produce a very small percentage of its take for actual campaign activity.”
Politico observed Wednesday that numerous “scam PACs” seem to be collecting money from unsuspecting conservative donors who think they are contributing directly to candidates — and using the money for minimal political activity. Campaign finance expert Paul S. Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center frequently warns — when donating to PACs and super PACs, it is really “donor beware.”
The Conservative Majority Fund, Take 2 Direct, and InfoCision did not respond to requests for comment.
R.C. Hammond e-mailed ThinkProgress with some additional information about America’s Next Generation. He noted that the InfoCision phone calls do indeed request contributions but “do include an ‘advocacy’ message as well.” He called it a “hybrid or, how about “direct to ear advertising.” He also noted that while the group spent about $445,000 on ads requesting signatures on the petition to elect Romney but also $75,000 on “traditional” political ads.