The “master of ‘scam PACs’” helped create an anti-Ocasio-Cortez PAC (and he wants your money)

The “master of ‘scam PACs’” helped create an anti-Ocasio-Cortez PAC (and he wants your money)

Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Dan Backer, a leading conservative grifter who has been involved with numerous “scam PACs,” is now trying to cash-in on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) popularity by helping start a super PAC against her.

Scam PACs are political organizations in which the vast majority of donations goes back to the political firms and consultants who help run the group instead of being spent on its stated cause.

Backer has been involved with dozens of right-wing organizations including Draft Newt PAC; Stop Hillary PAC; Stop Pelosi PAC; Stop Jeb Bush; and The Committee to Draft Judge Andrew Napolitano for President. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Daniel Bice labeled Backer the “master of ‘scam PACs.’” (Backer has disputed the “scam PAC” label, claiming overheads such as fundraising activities and legal services are “expensive.”)

Backer is also a right-wing pundit who appears in conservative media and has written opinion pieces for outlets such as The Federalist, Fox News, The Daily Caller, and the Washington Examiner.

He is the treasurer of Stop the AOC PAC, according to a March 7 statement of organization filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Center for Public Integrity reporter Ashley Balcerzak tweeted about the PAC's creation today, adding that Backer "advises a ton of political committees, including a handful of pro-[Trump] groups."

An email account created by Media Matters to archive right-wing email grifts received a March 7 falsehood-laden email from Backer and Stop the AOC claiming that Ocasio-Cortez has “made a name for herself as the face of the New Socialist Left with wacky, unworkable, and downright crazy policies like the Green New Deal – calling for the elimination of gas-powered cars and airplanes – banning the consumption of hamburgers and make everyone go vegan. And Democrats are goose-stepping in line behind her!” The email then asks readers to sign an anti-AOC petition, which then takes signers to a donation page.  

Reporter Ken Vogel (now with The New York Times) documented Backer’s activities in a 2015 Politico article about “the rise of 'scam PACs,'” writing:

In 2014, Backer’s PACs — a roster including Draft Newt (created to coax the former House speaker into the Virginia Senate race), the Tea Party Leadership Fund (which urged Sarah Palin to run for Senate), Stop Hillary (to oppose the former secretary of state’s expected presidential campaign) and Stop Pelosi (which the Federal Election Commission called out for using the House Democratic leader’s name) — spent more than 87 percent of the $8 million they raised on operating expenses, including $419,000 to Backer’s own law firm, DB Capitol Strategies. By contrast, the amount the PACs spent on donations and ads was about $955,000 — or less than 12 percent of their total fundraising haul.

...

In an interview last month in Backer’s office in a third-floor walk-up over an architectural ceramics shop in the Republican consulting hub of Old Town in Alexandria, Virginia, Backer explained that his PACs have to spend more on fundraising because they’re mostly new and are trying to build supporter bases from scratch.

In 2017, BuzzFeed News’ Craig Silverman and Tarini Parti reported:

Backer is notorious in Washington for filing paperwork on behalf of a slew of PACs that popped up at the height of the tea party movement. Some of those grassroots conservative groups have come under fire for spending little of what they raise on political activity, causing some Republicans to label them “scam PACs.”

Backer is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in creating and funding hybrid PACs, merging traditional PACs with super PACs that can raise and spend unlimited money.

And now it seems he’s pioneered a model that utilizes the popularity of hyperpartisan news to drive donations, petition sign-ups, and general publicity for his PACs — largely without telling the reader that the website and PACs all trace back to the same person.

In 2016, Backer also worked with anti-Muslim bigot and Republican candidate Paul Nehlen, who was challenging then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) in a congressional primary. (Nehlen became even more toxic in 2017 when he made anti-Semitic and white supremacist remarks.)

The New York Times reported in October 2015 of Backer: “Collectively, the corporate entities Mr. Backer owns or has financial ties to have been paid at least $1.1 million in fees since 2013 by the Tea Party Leadership Fund and other PACs he helps run, federal records show.”

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