Last July, a largely anonymous group of political activists formed a super PAC aimed entirely at waging a “war on Hillary Clinton’s image by exposing her past and analyzing her would-be presidency.” Soon after, the group, officially called “The Hillary Project,” posted a video game on its website in which players were encouraged to slap Clinton across her face. While the site garnered considerable media attention, voices on both the left and right condemned the game as “reprehensible.” And after fundraising apparently fizzled, the group all but vanished.
This appears to be typical of the sort of extreme fringe groups that have recently sought to garner attention with sexist attacks on candidates, aimed at the lowest common denominator of American political discourse: They arrive, alienate even those who would be inclined to agree with them, and quickly disappear.
In 2011, Turn Right USA registered as a super PAC for citizens who were “outraged by their liberal benefactors like George Soros, and angered that their opposition is too cowardly to fight back!” It invited unlimited contributions from “individuals, corporations and labor unions.” Soon after, the group launched what some called the “most offensive political ad ever produced.” Their spot, entitled, “Give us your cash, b–ch!” smeared now-Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA) for allegedly hiring gang members with taxpayer money to be “gang intervention specialists.” It featured a scantily-clad pole dancer and African American men holding guns and rapping: “give me your cash, bitch, so we can mess up the streets.” The ad was condemned by Hahn’s Republican opponent, the California Republican Party, and even the super PAC’s own treasurer.
Watch the spot:
The ad cost the group several thousand dollars to produce. Rather than spur fundraising, the offensive spots alienated donors across the political spectrum. Left with thousands of dollars in debt (and just hundreds of dollars in donations), Turn Right USA vanished and stopped filing its mandatory disclosures with the Federal Election Commission.
And it is not just groups on the right that have undermined their cause with sexist attack ads. In late 2012, two progressive activists in Kentucky formed Progress Kentucky, a super PAC dedicated to defeating Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) in 2014. Last February, Progress Kentucky tweeted a photo of McConnell’s wife, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, a Taiwan-born American immigrant. “This woman has the ear of” McConnell, the tweet warned, “she’s his #wife. May explain why your job moved to #China!” The attack was swiftly condemned by the Kentucky Democratic Party and, after Progress Kentuckyapologized, one of the co-founders stepped down from the group.
Last year, a spokesman for The Hillary Project told ThinkProgress that, in December 2012, “a group of national organizations and consultants got together to plan a defense against a potential Hillary presidential run. The months of meetings and research identified a variety of strategies to be deployed, first with the creation of a stand-alone organization that could keep the focus on Hillary and not on the publicly interpreted motives of the ‘sponsor’ organizations and individuals.” But despite the group’s attempts promises of an opposition research “central repository” and other anti-Hillary Clinton resources, the super PAC has not posted a tweet, Facebook update, or website item since November. The group would have been legally required to file a disclosure statement last month if it had raised $5,000 or more in 2013; it has not done so. A ThinkProgress inquiry about the group’s disappearance, sent to the super PAC’s e-mail address, received no response.