Fox News contributor Ben Carson has joined CNN host Newt Gingrich's American Legacy PAC to fundraise for efforts opposing the Affordable Care Act. Despite purporting to support conservative campaigns, Gingrich's PAC has given less than 3 percent of total contributions to candidates in 2013, according to records filed today.
Carson announced in a January 27 email through American Legacy that "my friends at American Legacy PAC are launching an important new project called Save our Healthcare - and I will be serving as Chairman. .... It is our goal to recruit every American that believes we can do better than Obamacare, and make sure that our message is received loud and clear by every elected official and candidate in 2014."
Carson's email contains a donation button and also promotes a petition at the PAC's website. Signing the "petition" means giving the PAC your email address for future updates. The site then redirects to a donation page promising to send "a new generation of leaders to Washington" with "your help":
While American Legacy states that its purpose is to "support federal candidates for Congress, Senate and the Presidency who share those [conservative] values," the organization's financial records indicate it devotes a minuscule portion of its expenditures to campaign contributions.
American Legacy raised $193,715 and spent $237,814 from November 6 to December 31, according to its year-end Federal Election Commission report filed today. The group donated just $5,000 to a single candidate (Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts) in its most recent filing. The vast majority of American Legacy's expenses went to consulting and fundraising costs. $218,496.54 went to InfoCision, a controversial telemarketing firm that has a long and profitable history with Gingrich.
For the calendar year, American Legacy reports that it raised $2,035,235, and spent $2,044,022. It disbursed $42,750.00 to "Fed. Candidates/Committees and Other Political Committees," or roughly 2.1 percent of what it raised.
Mother Jones' David Corn and Andy Kroll scrutinized American Legacy's financial records last September and asked if Gingrich is "fronting for a dubious PAC" since the group gives out millions to Gingrich's "pals and past aides" while disbursing "crumbs to candidates." In 2012, for instance, the group distributed just "1.7 percent of its contributions to candidates." InfoCision, meanwhile, "has banked tens of millions of dollars from other Gingrich-related efforts, including $7.2 million from Gingrich's [now defunct] nonprofit American Solutions for Winning the Future and $5 million from Gingrich's 2012 campaign."
Gingrich's PAC is part of the conservative movement's attempts to cash in on its followers. As Salon's Alex Pareene noted, "the conservative movement is an elaborate moneymaking venture. For professional movement conservatives, their audiences and followers are easy marks." For Gingrich, this not only includes his PAC but the use of his Gingrich Productions email list, which sends dubious emails touting various offers to subscribers.
Fox News contributor Sarah Palin similarly runs a PAC with "sketchy books" that "burns most of its cash on consultants' fees." Her Sarah PAC filed its year-end report yesterday and reported disbursing just $5,000 on a single campaign contribution (Steve Lonegan) out of $717,264 raised between July 1 and December 31.
Concerns about Gingrich's PAC are amplified because the former House Speaker is now a host for CNN. The network received heavy criticism in September for allowing Gingrich to discuss candidates his PAC supported without disclosure. The network's decision was a reversal of its previous statement that Gingrich would disclose such instances.