Millions raised by Lincoln Project goes to companies run by group’s founders, records show

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Out of roughly $90 million the anti-Trump Lincoln Project has raised, more than half has gone to firms run by the group’s founders, according to open records data reviewed by Fox Business.

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The records show that about a third of the money – roughly $27 million – raised by the super PAC, directly paid for advertisements that aired on broadcast and cable, or appeared online, during the 2020 campaign.

The vast majority of the cash was split among consulting firms controlled by its founders, including about $27 million paid to a small firm controlled by Galen and another $21 million paid to a boutique firm run by former Lincoln Project member Ron Steslow, campaign finance disclosures show.

In this Jan. 20, 2016 file photo, John Weaver is shown on a campaign bus in Bow, N.H. (AP)

That leaves tens of millions of dollars that went toward expenses like production costs, overhead — and exorbitant consulting fees collected by members of the group.

"It raises questions about where the rest of the money ultimately went," said Brendan Fischer, an attorney with the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center in Washington. "Generally speaking, you'd expect to see a major super PAC spend a majority or more of their money on advertisements and that's not what happened here."

The revelation comes as the group faces allegations of sexual harassment against one of its co-founders, John Weaver. Members of the organization's leadership were reportedly informed in June 2020 in writing and in subsequent phone calls of at least 10 specific allegations of harassment against Weaver, including two involving Lincoln Project employees, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the situation.

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The organization announced Thursday evening, after the new details were reported by The Associated Press, that its board had decided to "retain a best-in-class outside professional" to review Weaver's tenure "to establish both accountability and best practices going forward for The Lincoln Project."

The Lincoln Project launched in November 2019 as a super PAC that allowed its leaders to raise and spend unlimited sums of money.

Its founders represent a who's who of prominent Republican strategists on cable television, including Schmidt and Reed Galen, both former advisers to John McCain; conservative attorney George Conway; former New Hampshire GOP chair Jennifer Horn; Florida-based veteran political ad maker Rick Wilson; and Weaver, who has long advised former Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Still, it’s difficult to tell how much its members were paid. While several firms did collect payments, Weaver and Wilson are not listed in publicly available records. Schmidt collected a $1.5 million payment in December but quickly returned it, records show.

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"We fully comply with the law," Schmidt said. "The Lincoln Project will be delighted to open its books for audit immediately after the Trump campaign and all affiliated super PACs do so, explaining the cash flow of the nearly $700 million that flowed through their organizations controlled by Brad Parscale and Jared Kushner."

Fox Business has reached out the Lincoln Project with a request for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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