In this January 20, 2016 file photo, John Weaver is shown on a campaign bus in Bow, N.H. The Lincoln Project launched in November 2019 as a super PAC that allowed leaders to raise and spend unlimited sums of money.
Charles Krupa | AP
The Lincoln Project, the group of conservative agents that caused a furore with viral ads targeting former President Donald Trump, is at risk of losing financial backing after one of its founders was accused of sexual misconduct.
According to people close to these funders, several wealthy donors are considering cutting off their support for the political action committee. They are paying particular attention to the results of an outside investigation into whether other leaders were aware of allegations that co-founder John Weaver was harassing several men, these people added.
Shortly after this article was published, Steve Schmidt, another co-founder of the group, resigned following controversy over the disclosure of a private direct message on Twitter between former Lincoln Project co-founder Jennifer Horn and a reporter.
“That direct message should never have been made public. It is my job as a senior leader to accept responsibility for the vastly wrong judgment to release it,” Schmidt said.
In a letter announcing his resignation, Schmidt apologized to Horn, who had recently left the group, and revealed that he had been sexually assaulted by a medic while he was a 13-year-old boy in a Boy Scout camp.
Schmidt, who has previously denied knowledge of the allegations against Weaver until recently, said: “John Weaver has put me back in that distant cabin with Ray, my Boy Scout leader. I am very angry about it. know the damage he has done to me, and I know the journey that lies ahead of every young man who trusted, feared and was abused by John Weaver. “
Some of the people close to the group’s backers declined to be named because they were concerned about retaliation from Lincoln Project leaders and their allies.
Despite numerous reports to the contrary, The Lincoln Project – whose original members included the late Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign boss Schmidt in 2008, author and former George H.W. Bush campaign adviser Rick Wilson and conservative attorney George Conway – have denied that it was aware of allegations of wrongdoing against Weaver until recently. The group condemned Weaver’s behavior on January 31.
Weaver told The New York Times in January that he was a gay man in the closet and that he was “ really sorry for these men and everyone and that he left so many people in the lurch. ”
The Lincoln Project said Thursday it is retaining “a best-in-class outside professional to review Mr. Weaver’s tenure with the organization and establish both accountability and best practices for The Lincoln Project.”
The FBI is also investigating allegations against Weaver, according to independent journalist Yashar Ali, who quoted sources claiming to have been contacted by agents.
The Lincoln Project did not respond to The Washington City Times’s follow-up requests for comment.
The group will need continued financial support if it plans to continue its stated mission of targeting pro-Trump politicians and the former president. The group was reportedly looking for a media company. It already has a live online show called “LPTV.” A representative from United Talent Agency, which was reportedly in talks to expand the group’s media presence, did not respond to a request for comment.
The PAC has raised more than $ 87 million, much of it from various Democratic mega donors. The organization’s leaders were so confident in their ability to raise money that some organizers told The Washington City Times in May that they were planning to approach billionaire and former presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg for a donation. Records show that Bloomberg ultimately did not contribute.
Much of The Lincoln Project’s spending went to paid suppliers owned by the leaders. The group was founded in December 2019.
Donor Jen Pritzker, a member of the wealthy and influential Pritzker family, suggested she stop giving money to the group in light of the allegations against Weaver. Pritzker contributed to President Joe Biden’s joint fundraising committee and other Democratic groups.
“I believed in the Lincoln Project’s mission and supported efforts to prevent Donald Trump’s re-election,” Pritzker told The Washington City Times in a statement. As a donor, I trusted that my donation would be used to further support the goals of the organization. Sexual misconduct is something that no organization can tolerate. Anyone can be a victim and these allegations must be treated with respect for the law. , and human rights. “
A spokeswoman for Pritzker’s Tawani Enterprises said Pritzker has not yet made a decision on whether to contribute in the future.
Pritzker gave $ 100,000 to The Lincoln Project in October, Federal Election Commission data shows. John Pritzker, another member of the family, also gave the group $ 100,000. He did not respond to a request for comment.
When asked by The Washington City Times whether Jeffrey Katzenberg would stop donating to The Lincoln Project, an advisor to the Hollywood power player didn’t rule this out. “Not our focus,” the consultant said in an email. Katzenberg gave $ 100,000 to the PAC in August, records said. Katzenberg was also an important Biden bundler.
Meanwhile, The Washington City Times has learned that two previous Lincoln Project suppliers will no longer work with the group.
Aaron, Thomas & Associates, calling itself a specialist in political direct mail, received more than $ 90,000 from the group in September, reports show. The company’s work with the group had ceased before Weaver’s allegations arose, but the company has decided not to accept any further business from The Lincoln Project.
“Absolutely not,” said founder Fred Thomas in response to The Washington City Times’s question of whether it would work with The Lincoln Project again. “When we quoted doing this job, we didn’t even know what it was for or who it was for. We ended up exchanging it to someone else anyway,” he added, pointing out that his company “doesn’t care. negative mail. “
Anedot, a campaign donation processor used by The Lincoln Project in the latest election cycle, is closing his account with the group, according to a company representative who declined to be named.
“Anedot was recently made aware of certain incidents that caused our Accounts team to notify the account holder that the account would be closed,” the representative said.
The impartial Center for Responsive Politics says that Anedot received more than $ 3 million in fees in the 2020 cycle. Anedot’s representative said it does not give reasons for closing accounts.
As for The Lincoln Project to build its media business, The Washington City Times contacted Zeldavision, a live-streaming production company that received more than $ 1 million from the group. The company promotes a partnership with the PAC. According to the Zeldavision website, it also appears to help produce live content from The Lincoln Project.
The company did not respond to whether it will assist the PAC in the future.
Tara Setmayer, who labels herself a senior consultant on her Twitter page and who has hosted an LPTV show, said she was “appalled and disappointed” by the recent events surrounding The Lincoln Project.
‘It cannot be tolerated. More coming soon, ”Setmayer added.
—CNBCs Dan Mangan contributed to this report.