A political action committee that raised more than $1 million from tea party and conservative activists in the last election cycle spent very little of that money actually supporting candidates.
Instead, RightMarch.com — which has ties to perennial political candidate Alan Keyes and has supported the campaigns of Republican Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) — spent the bulk of its cash on fundraising, often through vendors with close ties to the PAC.
The PAC reported raising $271,000 from April 1 to June 30. During that same period, it paid out $237,000 to an Arizona-based company called Political Advertising, whose business is described in corporate filings as “telephone fundraising.” The PAC reported no political donations for the quarter.
Run by frequent tea party speaker and libertarian activist William Greene, RightMarch.com is influential in the world of online conservative activism. The PAC regularly writes letters to Congress with groups such as Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity.
It runs primarily on small contributions from its mailing list of 350,000, which formed from a petition started in 2003 to “counter the well-financed antics of radical left-wing groups like MoveOn.org.”
While RightMarch.com is outspoken on issues such as illegal immigration and taxes, it doesn’t appear to put much money behind them. During the 2010 cycle, less than 3 percent of the total $1.2 million RightMarch.com spent went to candidates and their campaigns, according to the group’s Federal Election Commission reports.
Greene — whose own company Strategic Internet Campaign Management has received more than $93,000 from RightMarch.com for copywriting, creative fees and advocacy — initially agreed to be interviewed for this story. But he did not respond to multiple follow-up attempts to conduct an interview.
Of its $1.2 million total, the group paid almost $1.1 million to Political Advertising.
It’s unclear who runs Political Advertising or how it operates. Job openings listed by its owner, Political Call Center, describe the business as “outbound fundraising for nonprofit conservative issues.” Neither firm responded to interview requests, and the registered agent for the parent company declined to comment.
During the 2008 elections, RightMarch.com paid Political Advertising more than $500,000 to make phone calls opposing Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, which the PAC reported as independent expenditures.
But none of $1.4 million paid to Political Advertising since has been listed as an independent expenditure for or against any candidate. Lawrence Noble, a campaign finance expert with Skadden law firm, said that kind of spending is “very unusual.”
“If a PAC has been around for a while, you don’t expect it to spend 90 percent of its money on fundraising,” Noble said. “Whenever you see money going to one company, it obviously raises questions about what’s happening to all that money.”
Since it formed eight years ago, RightMarch.com has consistently spent most of its money on overhead costs, including payments to its president and his colleagues.
The PAC has given more than $42,000 to Diener Consultants, a company run by former RightMarch.com media director Phil Sheldon, and about $26,000 to Response Enterprises, another firm with ties to Sheldon.
A 501(c)(4) nonprofit associated with RightMarch.com PAC paid Greene $76,000 in 2006 for advertising and promotion work. Tax forms list a director for the nonprofit, William Smiley, and a secretary treasurer, Ronald Smedley. Neither could be reached for comment.
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