Tea Party Consultants, Sarah Palin, Herman Cain Fleecing Right's Small Donors
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Despite reporting at least some spending to the FEC, the total amount CDBO spent in Wisconsin or raised during that period is not known because the group never registered with Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board. Only expenditures relating to a federal candidate are reported to the FEC, but amounts raised and spent in support of state-level candidates are supposed to be reported to state election authorities. CDBO told the FEC that its ads in Wisconsin were in opposition to President Obama, without reporting that the same ads also supported Walker, and never disclosing to any election agency about the other ads that supported Walker exclusively. This means CDBO could have raised even more than what has been reported, and that even more of the funds raised might have gone into the pockets of Wierzbicki, Russo Marsh, or Gill.
In June, the Center for Media and Democracy filed a formal complaint against CDBO for apparently violating Wisconsin election law by failing to register with Wisconsin's elections board and disclose its funding and spending. The group has still not reported its expenditures.
Although CDBO has focused much of its activities on Wisconsin, it also waded into the special election in New York's 9th Congressional District last fall and ran ads opposing Mitt Romney in the GOP presidential primary called "Liberal Mitt's Latest Hits."
FEC Filings Show Wierzbicki, Other Officers Lining Their Pockets with Fees
A review of CDBO's filings with the FEC from January 1 through June 31 of this year demonstrate that the PAC's leaders are profiting significantly from the group's aggressive fundraising.
During that half-year period, Wierzbicki received $227,032 from CDBO (18.3 percent of what was raised). Of that total, he received $114,892 in fundraising commissions -- which means he took a 9.25 percent cut from the dollars raised during that period. He was also paid consulting fees. And he was reimbursed for travel and lodging, plus given several thousand for "Facebook advertising." His fees appear to be in addition to whatever salary he may earn as Executive Director of the organization.
Other CDBO leaders are also profiting from CDBO's aggressive fundraising. In just the first half of 2012, CDBO Vice-President Ryan Gill has received $183,468 in consulting fees, fundraising commissions, and payments for online advertisements, which is almost 15 percent of the total raised in that period.
Additionally, Russo Marsh & Associates, where Wierzbicki is a principal/partner, has been paid $500,504 for the first half of 2012, or 40.3 percent of the amount raised. This includes $164,368 in payments for blast fundraising emails (many of which support or oppose candidates but are not classified as independent expenditures), and $252,185 in payments for advertising, plus payments for travel and consulting fees.
"That kind of self-dealing raises red flags about possible lax oversight and excessive fees for the firms," campaign finance experts told the New York Times about the nearly identical relationship between Russo Marsh and the Tea Party Express in 2010.
Of the $1,242,360 raised so far in 2012, Wierzbicki has taken an 18 percent cut, Gill has taken 15 percent, and Russo Marsh has received 40.3 percent -- which, all together, means they took more than seventy-three percent of the total amount raised.
Cain, Palin Operating Similar Ruse
Former presidential candidate Herman Cain appears to be operating a similar scheme. The Washington Times reported last week that "Cain Connections," the Super PAC operated by Cain and his former campaign manager Mark Block, had been soliciting donations to support Governor Walker in his recall election, but never reported any expenditures on Walker's behalf or to support any other political causes or candidates. Sarah Palin's PAC did the same thing, raising $600,000 in the second quarter of this year, mostly from small donors, but giving only $15,000 (less than 3 percent) to support candidates, while spending $355,000 to mail out fundraising appeals that brought in those donations.