• The executive director of the Democrat-friendly Majority PAC, Monica Dixon, is married to one of the consultants doing work for the super PAC. Her husband is David Dixon, one of two partners running the Dixon/Davis Media Group.
• Another Majority PAC vendor is Ralston Lapp Media, co-founded by John Lapp. He’s married to Ali Lapp, executive director of another pro-Democrat super PAC, the House Majority PAC, which works closely with the Majority PAC. John Lapp is also a consultant for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is required by law to operate at arm’s length from the super PAC.
• Longtime Republican operative Carl Forti holds an official post at both the GOP super PAC American Crossroads and at the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future. Forti’s consulting firm, the Black Rock Group, gets paid by American Crossroads. That super PAC also has steered millions in ad contracts to the consulting firm Crossroads Media, where Forti’s business associate Michael Dubke is a partner. Dubke is a partner at both the Black Rock Group and at Crossroads Media, which share the same address in Alexandria, Va.
Consultants and super PAC organizers downplayed these close relationships. Democratic consultant J.B. Poersch, a strategist for Majority PAC, said the super PAC was simply looking for a vendor with experience in Nebraska, and Dixon/Davis Media fit the bill.
“Dixon/Davis is one of several firms that we use,” he said. “I wanted to use them in part because of their past success in Nebraska.”
At House Majority PAC, Ali Lapp said her husband’s work for the DCCC does not raise coordination questions because the two observe strict professional rules as a married couple: “John and I simply don’t talk about House campaigns that he is working on,” she said.
Asked whether super PACs can profit for their organizers, Forti responded: “I don’t operate that way.”
He argued that independent spending is nothing new, and that super PACs are not so different from the issue groups that preceded them.
“It strikes me that people are blowing it out of proportion,” he said of the super PAC phenomenon. “Outside groups have been involved for years.”
Some, such as McCarthy, did not respond to requests for comment. One Republican associated with a major super PAC said political action committee leaders and consultants who violate ethics standards won’t stay in business long.
“Accountability comes from your reputation,” said the consultant, who asked not to be named. “There will be scrutiny on how PACs spend their money and how effective their activities are. And that reflects on the individuals running them.”
But super PACs are operating in new and even dangerous territory, some consultants warn. While the American Association of Political Consultants asks its members to sign an ethics code, the industry remains largely unpoliced.
“When you have the wild, wild west of money, are there going to be more opportunities for conflict? Absolutely,” said Democratic media consultant John Rowley, president of Fletcher Rowley. “There’s no doubt about it. But if something illegal isn’t done, there’s not really a way to police political consulting propriety.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.