Things just keep getting worse for the Lincoln Project. A Fox News report on Thursday revealed that the anti-Trump group’s leadership might have engaged in some questionable activities with the funding it received. But even worse, the report further shows that they covered up sexual misconduct by one of its most prominent leaders.
The report notes that “in June 2020, members of the organization’s leadership were informed in writing and in subsequent phone calls of at least 10 specific allegations of harassment against co-founder John Weaver, including two involving Lincoln Project employees, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the situation.”
This information contradicts the claims made by the group that it was “shocked” when the allegations emerged. Several members of the organization’s leadership, including co-founder Steve Schmidt, claimed to have no knowledge off Weaver’s alleged activities. Even in the face of several warnings about Weaver’s behavior, they took no action.
The report also noted that there are serious questions regarding the group’s spending practices.
From Fox News:
Since its creation, the Lincoln Project has raised $90 million. But only about a third of the money, roughly $27 million, directly paid for advertisements that aired on broadcast and cable, or appeared online, during the 2020 campaign, according to an analysis of campaign finance disclosures and data from the ad tracking firm Kantar/CMAG.
That leaves tens of millions of dollars that went toward expenses like production costs, overhead — and exorbitant consulting fees collected by members of the group.
Brendan Fischer, an attorney working with the Campaign Legal Center noted that the discrepancies raise “questions about where the rest of the money ultimately went.” He added, “Generally speaking, you’d expect to see a major super PAC spend a majority or more of their money on advertisements and that’s not what happened here.”
The report also stated that, “The vast majority of the cash was split among consulting firms controlled by its founders, including about $27 million paid to a small firm controlled by Galen and another $21 million paid to a boutique firm run by former Lincoln Project member Ron Steslow, campaign finance disclosures show.”
It was difficult to discern how much the group’s leaders were paid because they “adopted a strategy, much like the Trump campaign they criticized, to mask how much money they earned.”
When asked about the organization’s spending practices, Schmidt deflected, using the Trump campaign as a distraction.
“We fully comply with the law,” he insisted. “The Lincoln Project will be delighted to open its books for audit immediately after the Trump campaign and all affiliated super PACs do so, explaining the cash flow of the nearly $700 million that flowed through their organizations controlled by Brad Parscale and Jared Kushner.”
The report noted that some members of the group, especially Weaver.
“Over the past decade, Weaver has repeatedly failed to pay taxes, defaulted on loans and faced lawsuits from creditors seeking to collect. In October, he paid off $313,000 in back taxes owed to the IRS dating back to 2011, records show. A separate case in Texas is still pending over $340,000 back rent his family owes after shuttering a children’s boutique they operated, records show,” according to Fox.
Along with their questionable spending activities, the report revealed evidence that the Lincoln Project’s members knew about Weaver’s illicit conduct and chose to cover it up. In June, an employee working for the group’s payroll sent an email to Steslow outlining a number of different instances in which Weaver allegedly sexually harassed young men over a period of several years.
Schmidt claimed to have no knowledge of the email, stating that it was not given to any member of the group’s board or leadership. However, the report pointed out that “multiple people familiar with the situation say that Steslow immediately raised the email with Galen, who helped manage day-to-day operations at the time, and the Lincoln Project’s corporate counsel Matthew Sanderson.”
Steslow urged his then-colleagues to remove Weaver, but to no avail. The allegations were discussed on several phone calls with leaders of the group in June and August.
From Fox News:
The allegations against Weaver followed a similar pattern in which the 61-year-old married father of two would allegedly send private messages to young gay men on Twitter. They often began with references to work before shifting to things like their personal appearance, workout routines and favorite sexual positions.
At least two Lincoln Project employees were targeted last year, including an intern who was finishing law school, and a communications staffer. There is no allegation of physical contact.
“No Lincoln Project employee, intern, or contractors ever made an allegation of inappropriate communication about John Weaver that would have triggered an investigation by HR or by an outside employment counsel,” Schmidt claimed. “In other words, no human being ever made an allegation about any inappropriate sexualized communications about John Weaver ever.”
The Lincoln Project has already lost most of what was left of its credibility when the allegations first surfaced. When it became clear that leaders in the group chose to do nothing about the accusations against Weaver, they were subjected to criticism from both the left and the right.
Since the 2020 elections, leaders of the Lincoln Project have been trying to hang on to any semblance of relevancy as they were rejected by both Republicans and the Democrats with whom they sought to curry favor. But this scandal might just be the final nail in the organization’s coffin and a devastating blow to the Never Trump establishment working to pull the Republican Party back to the pre-Trump era.
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