Numerous conservative radio, cable news, and Internet media stars provided testimonials and other support to Move America Forward, a purported "pro-troop" charity that funneled money to the GOP consultants who run it.
In an exposé for ProPublica and The Daily Beast, reporter Kim Barker lays out how Move America Forward (MAF), a charity that collects millions of dollars purportedly to send care packages to troops overseas, "has repeatedly misled donors and inflated its charitable accomplishments, while funneling millions of dollars in revenue to the men behind the group and their political consulting firms."
Various MAF transgressions highlighted by Barker include: claiming to send hundreds of care packages to a battalion fighting in Afghanistan while the battalion in question was actually deployed in Japan; misleading donors about a non-existent partnership between MAF and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center; appropriating "images and stories from other groups and from veterans themselves without permission to use in fundraising appeals"; and using group assets to apparently "subsidize three conservative political action committees."
As Barker explains, MAF has gotten a major fundraising boost from leading conservatives like George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and numerous conservative media figures like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Sarah Palin.
The group's ties to conservative media run deep. Move America Forward was co-founded by Melanie Morgan, a right-wing radio host. And based on a review of MAF's website, YouTube page, and fundraising materials, the amount of support from conservative media figures for the group is staggering, particularly through its annual "Troopathon" fundraisers.
While the media figures who supported MAF undoubtedly thought they were aiding a legitimate group that was helping troops overseas, there were several warning signs surrounding Move America Forward.
Barker points out that MAF has "earned zero stars out of a potential four from the rating organization Charity Navigator" and notes that Republican consultant Sal Russo, the "driving force" behind the group, has previously come under criticism for shady use of political funds. Russo's Tea Party Express, which has also gotten a helping hand from numerous media outlets, has repeatedly been criticized for directing money to Russo-connected consulting firms. Questions about Russo's spending practices date back to at least 2009.
Some previous supporters of MAF and Troopathon in the conservative media are already calling foul. Hot Air writer Ed Morrissey, who describes himself as "a donor and sponsor of Troopathons" for years, responded that Barker's investigation "disappoints" him "profoundly." He adds that if the allegations are true, it "saddens, angers, and sickens me -- and I'm sure I'm not alone."
Below is a list of various conservative media figures who have helped Move America Forward fundraise in the past few years (note: the list of participation by conservative media figures is just a sampling and is not intended to be comprehensive).
Allen West is chiding Democrats for fundraising off of the prospect of impeachment, which he assures his readers is "not happening." But in recent weeks, West has repeatedly solicited donations from subscribers to his email list to help bolster the impeachment movement, which he claimed was "gaining speed!"
In a July 30 post to his website, West, a Fox News contributor and former Republican congressman, advised readers, "As much as you'd like to, don't fall into the impeachment trap."
He explained that "evil" Democrats had "successfully made the word 'impeachment' verboten in America," adding, "In fact, they've managed to turn it into political heyday as they celebrate fundraising records based on generating fear among their base over something that's not happening."
West lamented how Democrats "have effectively outmaneuvered the fail safe measures entrusted to us by our Founding Fathers to replace the rule of law with the rule of one." Instead of impeaching the president, West posited that Republicans "must do that which the Democrats truly fear: ensure they lose control of the U.S. Senate and expand the GOP House majority."
West's warning about the dangers of impeachment stand in stark contrast to what he's been saying on the issue for months. In June, following the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, West called on the House of Representatives to "draft articles of impeachment as no one is above the law in America."
While he now claims impeachment is "not happening," fundraising emails he recently sent to his followers struck a decidedly different note. For example, on July 10, after fellow Fox News contributor Sarah Palin joined the conservative calls for impeachment, West sent out an email soliciting "emergency contribution[s]" to help his PAC distribute a survey asking people whether the House should impeach the president. According to West, Palin's support for impeachment was evidence "This movement is far from over....it's gaining speed!" He also described impeachment as a "growing movement" and a "huge grassroots movement."
On June 28, West asked for "emergency donation[s]" to his PAC, telling subscribers, "the time has come to hold [Obama] accountable." West pointed to House Speaker John Boehner's lawsuit targeting the president as the "initial steps that I believe will lead to impeachment."
In a June 19 email to subscribers with the subject line, "Breaking- Enough votes to impeach Obama?", West touted comments from Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) claiming the House "probably" had enough votes to impeach the president. Once again asking for an "emergency donation," West explained, "Now - more than ever - we need to get the Guardian Fund's impeachment survey into the hands of every conservative in America."
Right-wing media and Republicans are blaming Democrats and President Obama for allegedly "ginning up" the issue of impeachment for political benefit, but that Pandora's Box was opened by conservatives themselves, who have been demanding impeachment since Obama first took office.
In an interview with conspiracy website WND (which has its own "Impeachment Store"), Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) told conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi that President Obama "wants us to impeach him now" because "his senior advisors believe that is the only chance the Democratic Party has to avoid a major electoral defeat. Evidently Obama believes impeachment could motivate the Democratic Party base to come out and vote."
Stockman's proclamation that the president is "begging to be impeached" was quickly trumpeted as the top story on the Drudge Report and Fox Nation, and Stockman isn't the only one trying to pin the increase in impeachment discussion on Democrats. While refusing to answer whether impeachment is off the table for House Republicans, incoming House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) claimed "this might be the first White House in History that's trying to start the narrative of impeaching their own president."
Fox News America's Newsroom host Martha MacCallum also attempted to distance impeachment rhetoric from the right and pin it on Democrats, claiming that while "some" Republicans have called for impeachment, "The White House itself has been talking a lot about this potential impeachment, even though a lot of members of the GOP want nothing to do with it."
She continued, saying impeachment was "kind of crazy when you think about it," and dismissed Fox News contributor Sarah Palin's impeachment call, saying "it really gained no traction among Republicans. A couple talk show hosts also liked the idea, apparently, but that seemed to be pretty much as far as it went. And now, there seems to be a move to convince Americans that all Republicans are interested in that option." Her guest, Republican New Hampshire Senate candidate and former Fox News contributor Scott Brown, responded by saying that there is "no appetite" for impeachment among Americans.
While MacCallum claimed Palin's call for impeachment "gained no traction among Republicans," in Fox News' own poll released last week, a majority of Republicans (56 percent) endorsed the idea of impeaching Obama.
Furthermore, these attempts to pivot and shift blame towards Democrats for invoking impeachment severely downplay conservatives' responsibility for the narrative.
There's a brewing conservative media war over whether to impeach President Obama.
Largely relegated to the fringe for years, the prospect of impeachment has been invigorated thanks to conservative media figures like Fox News contributors Sarah Palin and Allen West, who have spent recent weeks loudly demanding Obama's removal from office. But not everyone in conservative media is on board, with several prominent figures arguing that impeachment is ill-fated, politically toxic, and could severely damage Republicans' chances in the upcoming 2014 midterm elections.
Last week, Fox News polled on the question, finding that while a strong majority of Americans (61 percent) oppose impeachment, 56 percent of Republicans are in favor of it.
Over the weekend, impeachment got another boost thanks to Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the incoming House Majority Whip, appearing on Fox News Sunday and refusing "to take impeaching President Barack Obama off the table if Obama takes executive action to limit deportations." On Saturday, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) announced on Breitbart News Saturday that if the president uses more executive actions on illegal immigration, "we need to bring impeachment hearings immediately before the House of Representatives."
In June, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) introduced a plan to sue the president over the delayed implementation of the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act. While Boehner has repeatedly dismissed impeachment talk, reporters like the New Republic's Brian Beutler have speculated that the lawsuit was designed to "serve as a relief valve for the building pressure to draw up articles of impeachment."
If Boehner's lawsuit was designed to cool impeachment fever, it's not working. Several conservative media figures have lashed out over his "political stunt" and continue to bang the impeachment drum. As November approaches, the fight over impeachment among conservative media is getting increasingly acrimonious with each side convinced the other is hurting the country.
Media Matters looks at where various conservative commentators currently stand on impeachment.
Rep. Paul Ryan's poverty proposal, which would in part punish impoverished Americans for not getting themselves out of poverty on a specific timeline, is based on the conservative myth pushed by right-wing media that blames poverty on individuals' "spirit" and personal life choices. Experts say poverty is the result of systemic inequality and lack of opportunity.
If you're a conservative who wants to impeach President Obama, time is running out. You need to give Allen West money, and quickly. It's an "emergency."
In a series of emails sent to subscribers in recent weeks, Fox News contributor and former Republican congressman Allen West has implored people to donate to his PAC, the Allen West Guardian Fund, in order to hasten Obama's impeachment. And West isn't alone -- numerous conservative media figures and political groups are looking to cash in on Obama's supposedly impending impeachment through donations, books, and various impeachment merchandise.
Right-wing media have been pushing for Obama's impeachment for more than five years over a wide range of issues, but impeachment chatter got a boost earlier this July when Sarah Palin penned an opinion piece for Breitbart.com. She called for Obama's removal from office, arguing that the president's "unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, 'no mas.'" She reiterated her call on Fox's Hannity, telling viewers it was time to "get going" on impeachment.
While numerous members of the conservative noise machine are agitating for impeachment, not everyone is on board. Fox News contributor Erick Erickson, for one, thinks "impeachment would be crazy" at the moment.
But regardless of whether impeachment is good politics for conservatives, it's starting to look like good business.
After years of conservative media figures agitating for congressional Republicans to impeach President Obama, today House Speaker John Boehner announced plans to sue the president for not "faithfully executing the laws of this country."
Discussing the suit -- which would be filed on behalf of the House of Representatives -- Boehner claimed that it was "not about impeachment." But in a piece for The New Republic, Brian Beutler argues that conservatives' push to stir up outrage over Obama has led Republicans to seek a "relief valve for the building pressure to draw up articles of impeachment":
Having created a clamor within the GOP conference, and the conservative base, over Obama's use of executive power, Republicans now must satisfy the consequent appetite to do something about it. Suing Obama is meant to do that. The goal is to be head-turning enough to simultaneously address coalition management obligations--calm restive conservatives, keep the base energized--and serve as a relief valve for the building pressure to draw up articles of impeachment.
The risk is that it'll whet rather than diminish the right's appetite for impeachment. But Boehner doesn't have much choice. You can't gin up this much outrage over Obama's actions, and then do nothing to stop him, when the Constitution provides you so many tools to do just that.
Much of the building pressure for impeachment has come not only from congressional Republicans, but from conservative media figures, whose calls for impeachment have been a steady drumbeat since Obama took office.
Andy Coulson, a former editor of the now-shuttered Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid News of the World, was found guilty of conspiring to intercept communications, concluding a lengthy trial focused on criminal activity at the British paper. According to the Associated Press, fellow News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Stuart Kuttner were acquitted.
Coulson and fellow former News of the World employees Brooks, Kuttner, and royal editor Clive Goodman were on trial for charges stemming their alleged roles in the tabloid's widespread hacking of the voicemails and phones of crime victims, celebrities, politicians, and British royalty in order to find fodder for stories. The scandal became major international news after it was reported that News of the World had accessed the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a murdered teenager.
Brooks' personal assistant Cheryl Carter, her husband Charlie, and Mark Hanna, a former security official for News International, were "acquitted of perverting the course of justice by attempting to hide evidence from police."
The AP reports that the jury is "still considering two further charges of paying officials for royal phone directories against Coulson and former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman."
While the hacking allegations gathered steam in 2011, News of the World, which had been operating for 168 years, was shut down.
*Update: Later in the day, Rush Limbaugh also expressed skepticism about Klein's reporting.
Ed Klein, the utterly discredited "reporter" who once forwarded an allegation that Chelsea Clinton was conceived when Bill raped Hillary, is back once again with a new book. Though his credibility is completely beyond repair after years of trafficking in lazy inaccuracies and salacious gossip, Klein is once again getting a boost from some conservative media outlets.
In Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas, Klein details the "personal animosity" and "the jealousy and antipathy that divides the two most powerful Democratic families in the country." If that sounds like the kind of book that conservative daydreams are made of, you're not far off. Klein's books are basically designed as a series of pre-packaged headlines for the Drudge Report (indeed, a supposed Klein scoop from Blood Feud about Hillary Clinton's purported terrible state of health is leading Drudge's site as of this writing).
Inevitably -- as they do with every Klein book, despite clear concerns about his credibility -- Fox News is devoting airtime to one of Klein's big new scoops. But Klein's sourcing is so sketchy that even Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade is calling foul.
On the June 23 edition of Fox & Friends, the co-hosts broadcast Klein's allegation -- which was also reprinted in the New York Post -- that President Obama forced then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to blame the Benghazi attacks on a spontaneous demonstration rather than a terrorist attack, despite her better judgment.
According to Klein, Obama called Clinton the night of the attack to issue the directive. She then allegedly called her husband and discussed "various doomsday scenarios," including her potential resignation.
Quoting from Klein's book, Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck recounted alleged lines from the conversation between Bill and Hillary Clinton, wherein the former president lamented how Obama "isn't going to allow anyone to say that terrorism has occurred on his watch."
This too-good-to-be-true sourcing -- which, it should be noted, is the defining characteristic of everything Ed Klein writes -- was called out by Brian Kilmeade, who asked, "Now, who is his source? Chelsea? I mean, how would you possibly get in between them?"
Doocy answered, "According to the book, it is one of Hillary Clinton's legal advisers gave this information to Mr. Klein."
The Fox hosts threw more cold water on Klein's story, citing conservative activist and former Republican congressional candidate Kenneth Timmerman to explain that the timing of Klein's storyline makes no sense. Rather than blame Klein's shoddy reporting, Doocy instead cited Timmerman to explain, "The reason the people reached out to Ed Klein and are pushing this fake story is simply to preserve and save her chance to run for president." (Salon writer and former Media Matters employee Simon Maloy further lays out how Klein's Benghazi report is nonsensical and botches basic details.)
Klein has a history of shoddy work that has been repeatedly called out by conservative commentators, but he nonetheless gets free promotion from conservative outlets when he releases new books.
Following the announcement that U.S. Special Operations forces had captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspected ringleader of the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, Fox News' coverage has been notable for a word that's been missing.
Since 2012, Fox News has referred to numerous Benghazi reports -- which typically just rehash their tired smears about the attacks -- as "bombshells." But in the hour after news of the arrest, nobody at the network has called the latest development a "bombshell."* (Instead, Fox is busy questioning the timing of the arrest.)
Here's a video demonstrating Fox's use of "bombshell" to describe everything but a major development in the story:
*Based on a transcript search of Media Matters' internal video archive.