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).
Fox News host Jedediah Bila was a guest at the 2014 Troopathon.
Breitbart sponsored the 2014 Troopathon, which was also co-hosted by Stephen Bannon, Breitbart News' executive chairman. The site has been closely involved with and routinely promoted the yearly fundraiser. The 2012 Troopathon, co-hosted by then-Breitbart News editor Dana Loesch, was dedicated to Andrew Breitbart.
Fox News contributor Ben Carson was a guest during the 2014 Troopathon.
Fox News host Greg Gutfeld participated in Troopathon in 2010.
Fox News host Mike Huckabee co-hosted Troopathon in 2013.
Dr. Laura Schlessinger
Radio host Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly participated in the Troopathon fundraiser. A 2014 post on Troopathon's website explains that Limbaugh “has been an extremely critical asset to every Troopathon we've held and we continue to count on his support to make Troopathon a success.”
Fox News contributor Sarah Palin recorded a video supporting the 2010 Troopathon. She has also posted on her Facebook page asking people to contribute to Troopathon, which she called in 2013 “a wonderful way to show support for our brave men and women in uniform.”