Two groups opposing the potential 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton are fundraising off of Benghazi. The groups aim to use the money to keep Benghazi in the news through earned media coverage and advertising smearing Clinton as "responsible for 4 dead American patriots in Benghazi."
The groups join conservative pundits such as John Bolton, Mike Huckabee, and Allen West, who have all been fundraising off of the 2012 attacks. The Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, and National Republican Senatorial Committee are also soliciting funds while invoking Benghazi.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who is leading a recently formed House select committee to investigate the thoroughly investigated attacks, has asked Republicans not to fundraise off of Benghazi (Gowdy himself has "discussed the supposed Benghazi scandal at fundraisers and campaign events").
Anti-Clinton groups Stop Hillary PAC and America Rising PAC are cashing in on Benghazi. Solicitations claim Clinton lied about the attacks and is "complicit in the deaths of four Americans when she left them to burn in Benghazi."
Stop Hillary PAC states it was "created for one reason only - to ensure Hillary Clinton never becomes President of the United States." The group is headed by Republican Colorado State Sen. Ted Harvey, and backed by political professionals who previously worked for Republicans such as Sen. John McCain and Rep. Tom Price.
America Rising was formed by Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign manager and Republican National Committee staffers. The super PAC aims to "ensure we never see another Clinton administration." It reportedly also sells its research to Republican groups such as Karl Rove's American Crossroads.
The groups make clear their fundraising is part of a strategy to keep Benghazi in the news. Stop Hillary PAC has stated they need money to speak "on FoxNews and mainstream media outlets," and air "hard hitting radio ads reminding Americans that Hillary is responsible for 4 dead American patriots in Benghazi." America Rising has said their research is aimed at "earned media coverage" and "reporters and bloggers looking for information."
The push to fundraise off of Benghazi is part of Republican efforts to capitalize on tragedies by using them to try to hamstring a potential Clinton run. RNC chair Reince Priebus took to Twitter last night to attack Clinton for a "leadership failure" over the recent kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by the extremist group Boko Haram.
Stop Hillary PAC
The Stop Hillary PAC has sent 15 fundraising emails mentioning Benghazi since April, according to a Media Matters review.
An April 15 email claimed "Hillary is complicit in the deaths of four Americans when she left them to burn in Benghazi." It later asked for "your most generous contribution of $100, $50, $25 -- or even $5 -- IMMEDIATELY." A May 7 email demanded the House select committee on Benghazi subpoena Clinton, who "is complicit with the White House in selling the American people a bold-faced-lie." It later asked readers to "chip in $5."
The Stop Hillary PAC states it will use the friendly confines of Fox News to speak out against Clinton. Treasurer Dan Backer wrote on April 10 that the group's "battle plan" includes "Speaking on FoxNews and mainstream media outlets" and running ads on television and elsewhere:
Ted Harvey wrote on April 24 that it needed money so it could air "More hard hitting radio ads reminding Americans that Hillary is responsible for 4 dead American patriots in Benghazi."
An ad released by the group purports to highlight various Clinton scandals -- among them are "Benghazi" and "Vince Foster." Foster was a deputy White House counsel that committed suicide in 1993 and conservative conspiracy theorists have repeatedly suggested the Clintons had him murdered.
On October 29, 2013, America Rising sent an email touting the since-retracted 60 Minutes report on Benghazi as "must-watch" and "scathing." The group remarked, "our central mission is doing the research now to hold Hillary Clinton accountable for her national security failures, especially in Benghazi, to make sure we never have to experience a Hillary Clinton Administration." It then asked for donations so "we can ensure we never see another Clinton administration."
America Rising sent a May 1 email claiming "the Obama Administration said they released all the emails related to the Benghazi talking points. You shouldn't be shocked to find out that was a lie ... They played politics with Benghazi to protect Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton." They then added: "Contribute $25, $50, $100 or whatever you can to help us continue to do the research necessary to expose these lies and prevent a third Clinton administration."
The media plays heavily in America Rising's strategy in disseminating attacks against Clinton. When the group launched, The Washington Post wrote that "the group plans to test different dissemination methods for maximum impact. Campaigns will include social media, digital advertising and PR aimed at earned media coverage." Executive director Tim Miller told Politico that its site "serves as a resource for voters, reporters and bloggers looking for information."