QAnon conspiracist candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene now has a super PAC on her side. It's getting busy backing other conspiracy-friendly Republicans aspiring to join Congress.
- A new super PAC run by operatives in Marjorie Taylor Greene's orbit and funded by her lawyer is running ads for four like-minded House Republican candidates during the final days of the 2020 campaign.
- The Stop Socialism Now PAC is run by Georgia operatives with ties to Greene, President Trump and Project Veritas. It also shows Greene's ambition to elect other candidates with connections to the QAnon conspiracy theory and signals she has no plans to come quietly to Washington.
- The super PAC has run digital ads supporting the campaigns of Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry, plus Laura Loomer in Florida, Lauren Boebert in Colorado and Bob Good in Virginia.
- Some Republicans are aghast at the prospect of more conspiracy theorists in Congress. "We want a big-tent party, but we don't want a carnival tent," said Virginia Rep. Denver Riggleman, a Republican co-sponsor of an anti-QAnon resolution.
- While Loomer is not expected to win a House seat, three of the four candidates the pro-Greene super PAC is backing are in neck-and-neck races. That means a 'QAnon Caucus' could be a handful strong next year.
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A super PAC run by operatives connected to GOP House candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, a newcomer Georgia politician known for promoting QAnon conspiracy theories, has sprung up to boost other like-minded Republicans running for Congress in the closing days of the 2020 campaign, Insider has learned.
Funded mostly by Greene's lawyer, overseen by her campaign's bookkeeper, and promoted by her campaign manager, the Stop Socialism Now PAC is the latest sign yet that the 46-year-old rookie candidate who has rocketed to national fame because of her views on QAnon has no plans to come quietly to Washington.
Together with her leadership PAC, the fundraising and campaigning apparatus seen in a series of publicly-available federal election disclosure documents reveals an ambitious politician fostering a nascent power base as an attempt at a sort-of conservative version of what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brought to Congress two years ago from the liberal left. It also sheds light on the controversial figures who travel in Greene's orbit.
The super PAC is running Facebook ads that have been viewed thousands of times over the last week in four key House races in Colorado, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
One of the ads notes the Democratic candidates in those races "will pack the Supreme Court with leftist judges who will take away our guns and take away our freedom." Another video ties the candidates to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and claims each rival Democrat "always opposes President Donald Trump."
Both ads urge voters to "Save America. Stop Socialism. Stop The Democrats," a message that mirrors Greene's campaign tagline, Save America, Stop Socialism, and the name of her separate leadership PAC, Save America, Stop Socialism PAC.
The super PAC has reported to the Federal Election Commission it had paid for ads opposing four-term Democratic incumbent Florida Rep. Lois Frankel, who is running for reelection against Laura Loomer, the far-right, anti-Muslim activist and conspiracy theorist. Their race is for the Palm Beach-based district that includes Trump's private Mar-a-Lago club.
Stop Socialism Now PAC ads are also being run on behalf of four-term Rep. Scott Perry in south central Pennsylvania and congressional hopefuls Lauren Boebert in western Colorado and Bob Good in a Virginia district that is home to a Trump-owned winery near Charlottesville.
Greene's leadership PAC, meanwhile, has made late-hour donations to some of those candidates as well, shipping $1,000 to Loomer and Perry within the last two weeks, according to Federal Election Commission records.
For candidates running in especially close races, Greene's backing could prove more trouble than it's worth, as the Georgia Republican has expressed support for the unfounded QAnon conspiracy that employs anti-Semitic tropes about a group of Satan-worshiping, child-sex trafficking global elites who work with the deep state to control the US government. The Pennsylvania Capital-Star already unearthed a leadership PAC donation to Perry on Friday and asked him to answer for a litany of Greene's most controversial comments.
The super PAC's independent ad buys, which have not yet been reported, come as Trump and Republican leaders are already facing criticism for backing candidates who have openly promoted QAnon or courted its supporters, as the conspiracy theory emerges from dark corners of the internet into mainstream politics.
Virginia Rep. Denver Riggleman, a Republican sponsor of a recent anti-QAnon House resolution who has tangled online with Greene, said in an interview that her dangerous ideas are spreading quickly. The fact that financial supporters want to boost candidates who have toyed with these theories, he added, could be the beginning of the end of the Republican Party.
"When I see this, I actually just want to sort of shake them and say, 'What are you doing?' We want a big-tent party, but we don't want a carnival tent," Riggleman told Insider. "You'll see a precipitous crash as we continue to allow this type of behavior and these types of theories to, I would say, penetrate the Republican network."
QAnon coming to Congress?
All four candidates being boosted by the Stop Socialism Now PAC have some public connection to the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Loomer has shared conspiracy theories, including that the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, was a staged false flag operation. Her campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Boebert owns Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado, a restaurant that has defied pandemic closures and encourages servers to openly carry guns. She has said she hopes QAnon "is real" on the web show of QAnon supporter Ann Vandersteel, and appears to have had a since-deleted YouTube account that subscribed to several QAnon-related channels. Boebert has distanced herself from the theory in recent weeks, telling the local press, "I am not a follower of QAnon."
"Lauren has been on the record dozens of times that she is not a follower of conspiracy theories. We were not aware of the PAC ads and have no comment about them," said Laura Carno, a Boebert campaign spokeswoman.
Although Good has not weighed in on QAnon, he ousted Riggleman, one of Congress' most vocal opponents of the conspiracy theory, in a primary earlier this year in Virginia's fifth congressional district, which sprawls from the Washington DC exurbs down to the North Carolina border.
"We are not aware of this PAC or the ads that they are running. We wish Marjorie Greene the best in her election," said Good campaign spokeswoman Courtney Heath.
Perry voted against Riggleman's anti-QAnon resolution before clarifying while under pressure from Jewish advocacy groups that he does not subscribe to QAnon but supports conspiracy theorists' right to free speech.
"I do not agree with or subscribe to QAnon, and I continue to vehemently condemn racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry, and violence thereof in all forms — which I served almost 40 years in uniform fighting against," Perry, a retired Pennsylvania Army National Guard brigadier general, said in a statement emailed by his spokesman.
So far, the Stop Socialism Now PAC has not reported raising much money: Only about $22,000 since it was formed in August through the end of September. It has disclosed spending about $7,000 for ad production and digital advertising, according to a document filed with the FEC on Wednesday. Although super PACs are not required to reveal any donations received after October 15 until the next filing deadline in December, they have to disclose independent expenditures on federal races within 24 hours of spending the money.
That means the super PAC is currently operating in something akin to a disclosure dead zone, where the public won't know whether it receives more donations until after Election Day. But it will continue to have to disclose any money it spends in these or any other federal races.
Greene's network of donors and operatives
The Stop Socialism Now PAC has been funded mostly by L. Lin Wood, according to Federal Election Commission records. Wood is the conservative super lawyer who gained fame representing Richard Jewell, the security guard wrongly accused of masterminding the 1996 Olympics bombing in Atlanta. His late-August $10,000 contribution to the super PAC makes up about half of its funds, according to campaign records.
In recent years, Wood, 68, has lent his deep pockets and legal services to conservative causes celèbre. He has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and political committees, including embattled Georgia Sen. David Perdue, conservative firebrand Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, and a $375,000 donation to Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee between the Trump Campaign, the Republican National Committee and dozens of state GOP parties. He is also acting as a lawyer for Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teen charged with fatally shooting two demonstrators and wounding another in August at a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Wood is defending Greene's campaign in a defamation suit and has given her legal advice about how to spin a New Yorker story alleging she had multiple extramarital affairs — advice they allegedly accidentally texted to the story's author.
As recently as this week, Wood tweeted about his belief in Plandemic, a documentary that promulgates several discredited conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines. He said in an interview he knows the producer personally.
"He is a man of great personal and professional integrity and he carefully fact checks his work," Wood said. "I believe the documentary is accurate."
Wood includes on his Twitter account the hashtag #WWG1WGA, an acronym for the QAnon catchphrase, "where we go one, we go all." But he told Insider that the hashtag on his profile is just a show of support for Michael Flynn, the former Trump national security advisor who is still fighting in federal court to back out of his 2017 guilty plea for lying to the FBI as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the last presidential election. Wood added that he doesn't know much about QAnon, let alone enough to finance a PAC promoting candidates with a QAnon connection.
In an email, Wood said Isaiah Wartman, who has worked as Greene's campaign manager, solicited his donation to the super PAC.
"I made the donation based on my understanding that the PAC supported conservative candidates. My donation was not related to QAnon or any specific candidate," he said. "I am unaware of the content of ads being broadcast for Laura Loomer, Lauren Boebert, Bob Good or Scott Perry. If they are candidates with a conservative viewpoint, I have no objection to the PAC's use of funds to support them."
The Stop Socialism Now PAC paid $2,500 in September to Wartman's company, ISW Strategies, for "general strategy and fundraising consulting," according to federal election records. Although super PACs are legally forbidden from coordinating with candidates, there is no prohibition against campaign staff, or even a candidate, asking donors to contribute to a super PAC as long as they have no say in how the super PAC spends the money.
Because the super PAC appears to have made no independent expenditures on Greene's behalf, there would be no obvious legal issue with it sharing common staff with her campaign, according to Brett Kappel, a campaign finance expert and lawyer at the Washington, DC firm Harmon Curran.
Greene won her primary runoff in August for the Peach State's rural northwestern congressional seat with 57% of the vote, and her need for advertising is limited as she is all but assured victory in November after her Democratic opponent dropped out of the race.
Wartman and Greene did not respond to emailed requests for comment.
Another financial backer of the Stop Socialism Now PAC is Ali Saadat-Meli, a former Goldman Sachs trader who was described by Bloomberg as "abrasive but brilliant" and "eccentric." He also co-founded an organization advocating for the overthrow of the Iranian regime that has been making inroads with conservative politicians in recent years. The group, Iran Revival, which also goes by its Persian-language name Farashgard, returned an email but declined to make Meli available.
Also financially invested in the outfit is Thomas Beckwith, a Florida electric company executive who successfully sued the administration of President Barack Obama in 2013 to block the government from enforcing the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate on his company because of his religious objections. Beckwith did not respond to a request for comment submitted through his business.
Wood, Meli and Beckwith also made the maximum allowable $5,600 donation to Greene's campaign committee (in fact, donation records appear to show Meli donated $1,000 more than he is allowed). Donors to Greene's leadership PAC have not yet been made public, but it had not raised any money through the end of September.
Other people involved in the political action committee also have connections to Greene. A Georgia construction company owner who contributed money to Greene's campaign is on the super PAC's donor roll. The two men running the PAC's operations, meanwhile, are controversial Georgia-based figures in Greene's orbit who also have ties to Trump.
Jason Boles, Stop Socialism Now PAC's treasurer and custodian of records, is the compliance consultant for Greene's leadership PAC and is listed as the registered agent for her campaign committee in court filings. Boles is also the registered agent for a company that wired thousands of dollars earlier this year to Common Cause of North Carolina at the behest of a man going by the alias "James Fortune," according to an exhaustive investigation by NC Policy Watch. Fortune was later found by the Daily Beast to actually be a 35-year-old New York-based man who works with Project Veritas.
Democratic activists in the state now say they believe the man was trying to infiltrate their groups, perhaps in an attempt to entrap them with a sting operation that has become a hallmark of the subversive organization founded by right-wing political activist James O'Keefe. The man going by "James Fortune" raised suspicions when he said he was an experienced deep-sea fisherman, but spent a trip on the high seas with an employee of the liberal voting rights organization Democracy North Carolina alternately vomiting or sleeping from seasickness, Policy Watch reported.
Stop Socialism Now PAC's registered agent is Rick Thompson, a member of Georgia's state-level version of the Federal Election Commission, who also works with Boles at the Republican firm RTA Strategy. The company was paid $1,995 at the end of August for "campaign finance consulting, administration and reporting," according to campaign spending records.
RTA Strategy lists on its website the tag line, "YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH UNTIL YOU TRY."
Also connected to Greene's campaign is Stefan Passantino, the former White House deputy counsel in charge of ethics policy who himself is a Greene donor. The president's company, the Trump Organization, hired Passantino in January 2019 to defend it against congressional investigations and more recently he was one of the people close to Trump who tried to shop the salacious allegations based on Hunter Biden's emails to the Wall Street Journal, according to the New York Times.
"No comment on it, sorry" Boles told Insider, when reached by phone with questions about the super PAC. Thompson did not respond to a request for comment left by voicemail. Passantino, who has also been paid this year to consult for the Trump reelection campaign, did not respond to requests for comment.
'What a Waste'
The Stop Socialism Now PAC won't have to reveal who donates or has donated to the committee after October 15 until after the election. Wood said he has no plans to give money this late in the cycle to any other PAC. But he does have at least some history of donating big money at the last minute to a super PAC.
Earlier this year, a super PAC called CIVIC began attacking Republican Rep. Thomas Massie in a Kentucky primary, spending $132,500 in the final days of the race. The PAC had no history of playing in Kentucky politics, and up until that point had only spent money boosting a Republican in a congressional primary in Florida.
Although he is an avowed conservative, Massie had become a lightning rod for criticism from within his own party after forcing an in-person vote on a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package, causing members of Congress to travel back to Washington DC as the coronavirus pandemic was first emerging. Even Trump called at the time for Massie to be ousted from the GOP.
Only after Massie handily won his primary election was it revealed that Wood had donated $100,000 to that political action committee the same day the super PAC paid for anti-Massie ads on Kentucky airwaves.
But in an interview, Massie said he doesn't think it was political. His opponent, after all, was Todd McMurtry, who was co-counsel with Wood defending Nicholas Sandmann, a Kentucky high school student who sued CNN and the Washington Post for their coverage of a confrontation between him and a Native American activist at a March for Life rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Both news outlets settled with Sandmann out of court.
"McMurtry brought the case to Lin Wood, and it was very lucrative for Mr. Wood, so I assume that's why he put six figures in that super PAC," Massie said. "What a waste. It came in the last week, when, if anyone was polling, they could see that $140,000 was not going to move the needle enough, especially with early voting already underway."
Wood's money could have more of an effect in a few of these congressional races where the Stop Socialism Now PAC is targeting ads. Perry's race is among the closest contests in the country, as he's trying to fend off a challenge from the state's Auditor General Eugene DePasquale in Pennsylvania's newly redistricted and much less GOP-friendly Harrisburg-based 10th congressional district. Good, a former county official, is facing an unexpectedly tight challenge from Cameron Webb, a political newcomer and medical doctor who Obama endorsed in August.
Boebert is in a safer position, but not by much, after ousting incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Tipton in a primary earlier this year in rural western Colorado's third district. Her general election race against state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush is going down to the wire in the final days, although the Cook Political Report predicted it is leaning in the Republican's favor. Loomer, on the other hand, is not expected to prevail in the deeply Democratic district in South Florida that Trump now calls his official residence and where she likely got the president's vote.
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