Spend any time on resistance Twitter and you’ll inevitably bump into videos produced by the Lincoln Project. Since its founding by longtime Republican strategists late last year, the Lincoln Project has lassoed the moon over the anti-Trump internet, routinely going viral with tweets and videos that delight liberals and enrage Trump supporters in equal measure.
The political action committee’s success has built it a loyal following happy to stroke checks to support its mission of taking down President Trump and his sycophants in Congress. In less than a year, it’s raked in an astonishing $58 million in donations, $39 million in just the third quarter of 2020—making it arguably the most successful at converting opposition to Trump into cold, hard cash.
But almost since its founding, some have wondered about how all that money is being spent. Federal Election Commission filings routinely show that enormous chunks of the Lincoln Project’s cash is going to the firms of the men who founded it.
Even the super PAC’s favorite target has accused the co-founders of enriching themselves.
According to its latest FEC filing, in the third quarter, the Lincoln Project paid cofounder Reed Galen’s firm $18.8 million, Ron Steslow’s $8.7 million, and senior advisor Kurt Bardella’s $153,000, Rob Pyers tweeted on Wednesday.
Not all of the money is pure profit, of course. Some goes to the costs associated with creating ads and paying for them to run in various media outlets; or on the recent launch of a site for reporting and mapping voter suppression.
It’s unknown how much of the funds represent profit, however, and how much co-founders are being paid.
Nevertheless, the huge chunks of money going to co-founders’ companies has caused some to level harsh accusations against the super PAC.
The Lincoln Project did not respond to questions sent this morning.
Admittedly, some don’t care how the sausage is made so long as it helps defeat Trump, or, in the alternative, argue that this is just how the system works. “Hate the game not the player,” tweeted one. “Worth every penny,” said another.
When pressed on the issue, those involved with the super PAC have largely brushed off criticisms of how it spends money.
Still, questions persist.
As of July, the Lincoln Project was spending nearly 90% on operating expenditures, significantly more than other PACs.
That month, cofounder Rick Wilson told The Late Show with Stephen Colbert that the large overhead was associated with start-up, acquisition, and data costs and that the next FEC filing would show that it spent 15% on overhead and 85% on costs, such as contacting voters.
“You’re looking at the start up and acquisition costs for the first quarter. The second quarter is gonna to show that we have a massive amount of money escrowed to other bank for media and for voter contact this fall and that our numbers are competitive with any other PAC and in fact much better than most,” Wilson said.
According to its FEC report, $13 million, or 35% percent, of the money it spent in the third quarter went to operating expenditures. To date, 36%—$16.5 million—of its spending has gone to operating expenditures.
“The easiest way in the world for a Republican strategist to make money right now is to shut up and say nice things about Donald Trump,” Wilson told 60 Minutes on Oct. 11. “So clearly, we’re in the wrong line of work.”
Some may disagree.