The Dick Morris/NewsMax Super PAC Boondoggle
While the 2012 election may have severely damaged Dick Morris' credibility as a pundit, leading to his temporary benching at Fox News, it appears to have been good for his wallet. The Fox News contributor and columnist at The Hill aggressively fundraised for a super PAC he advised, which then apparently funneled money back to Morris through rentals of his email list.
According to FEC data released December 6, Morris' Super PAC for America paid conservative news outlet Newsmax Media roughly $1.7 million for “fundraising” in October and November. A significant portion of the super PAC's money likely went to renting Morris' own email list, which is operated by Newsmax Media.
A Media Matters review found that in the month before the election, Morris sent at least 21 emails to his mailing list featuring fundraising pitches that were “paid for by Super PAC for America.” Super PAC also “paid for” at least 25 emails to Newsmax.com's main email list during the same period.
This is the second consecutive election cycle that Super PAC for America has paid significant money to Newsmax. The group, which was formed prior to the 2010 midterm elections, paid Newsmax Media nearly $2 million in 2010 for advertising, fundraising, and “email list rental.” At the time, Morris also sent numerous fundraising solicitations to his email list that were “paid for by Super PAC for America.” Morris also regularly used his Fox News platform in 2010 to promote the group.
In October and November of 2012, Super PAC for America paid more money to Newsmax Media than it spent on all independent expenditures combined. The Newsmax payments represent 46 percent of the net contributions made to the super PAC during the 2012 election cycle. And Morris, who serves as the group's chief strategist, isn't the only Super PAC for America official tied to the media outlet. Michael Reagan, who serves as Super PAC for America's chairman, is a Newsmax columnist.
In 2011, the New York Times reported that Newsmax's soaring profits were tied to their ability to leverage their “politically plugged-in” readership, with the outlet regularly renting out their mailing list to various groups for thousands of dollars.
The fundraising pitches from Super PAC for America regularly featured Morris (wrongly) hyping Romney's chances in various swing states, while crediting Super PAC for America for his non-existent polling surge.
For example, in a characteristic November 2 email asking for “urgent” donations that was sent to both Morris' mailing list and the Newsmax.com mailing list, Morris announced that Obama was in “DEEP trouble” and that “Mitt will win the popular vote significantly.” According to Morris, Romney was poised to win Wisconsin and was “on the precipice of victory in almost all the swing states” thanks to Super PAC for America's “hard hitting national ad campaign,” which has made a “huge difference.” (After the election, Morris conceded in a column that political ads are almost entirely ineffective.)
The Friday before the election, Newsmax also hosted a “critical election teleconference” (that inexplicably cost $4.95 to “set up your private line”) with Morris and Reagan. While the call was billed to Newsmax subscribers as “the latest campaign information, how you can still impact the race, and how you can prepare for what is about to happen on Nov. 6,” it was little more than an elaborate plug for Super PAC for America.
Helping bolster the email list that he subsequently sells, Morris frequently plugs his website and various petitions he has launched during Fox News appearances.
In the past, Dick Morris has been repeatedly criticized for his lack of ethics. Earlier this year, after Morris was caught attempting to auction off a tour of Fox News studios to GOP donors, Baltimore Sun television critic David Zurawik told Media Matters, "[Morris] is a dirty political operative intensely partisan with a history of alliances that on a good day would be called sleazy."
Morris did not immediately respond to a Media Matters request for comment.
Morris sent emails to his mailing list that were “paid for by Super PAC for America” on 10/10, 10/14, 10/15, 10/16, 10/18, 10/19, 10/23, 10/26, 10/27, 10/28, 10/29, 10/30, 10/31, 11/1 (two emails), 11/2 (four emails), 11/3, and 11/5.
Newsmax.com sent emails to their mailing list that were “paid for by Super PAC for America” on 10/12, 10/13, 10/16, 10/17, 10/18, 10/22, 10/25, 10/26 (two emails), 10/27, 10/28, 10/29 (two emails), 10/30 (two emails), 10/31, 11/1 (two emails), 11/2 (two emails), 11/3, 11/4 (three emails), and 11/5.