The fundraising emails from AmeriPAC stream in with subject lines designed to give a conservative a heart attack: “Obama Plays ‘Russian Roulette’ With Supreme Court” … “Illegals March Terrorizing American Cities” … “Stop Reid’s Extreme Left-Wing Agenda.”
In lurid prose sprinkled with bold and underlined capital letters, the emails highlight the outrage du jour and ask like-minded people to help fund the fight against President Obama’s agenda: “We need you to donate regularly every week or month with the same commitment to candidates that are listening and help AmeriPAC give the maximum support we can to every candidate that will pledge to take back America,” a typical pitch goes.
But despite promises to spend donor money on conservative candidates, a review of AmeriPAC’s campaign finance reports by TPMmuckraker shows the outfit has used just $1,300 on campaign-related spending out of nearly $1.3 million raised in the 2010 election cycle. Meanwhile, about 85 percent of the money — which was raised in $20, $50, and $100 dollar increments from individuals around the U.S. — has gone back into fundraising expenses, with nearly $1 million going to a single Pennsylvania-based email marketing firm with a history of controversy.
AmeriPAC is the latest in a pattern TPMmuckraker has documented of right-leaning political organizations that plow almost all of the money they raise from small donors into their own self-perpetuation rather than supporting GOP candidates or causes, as they promise contributors.
The man behind AmeriPAC is Bellevue, Washington-based author, businessman, Second Amendment activist, and conservative direct mail honcho Alan Gottlieb.
His books include 1998’s Trashing the Economy: How Runaway Environmentalism Is Wrecking America, 2004’s George W. Bush Speaks to the Nation: Speeches Selected by Alan Gottlieb, and 2007’s America Fights Back: Armed Self-defense in a Violent Age.
Active in conservative causes for nearly four decades, Gottlieb spent a year in prison in the 1980s on tax evasion charges, according to a November profile in the Seattle Weekly.
He leads the Second Amendment Foundation, which files lawsuits to fight gun control, and the lobbying outfit Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. His direct mail firm made about $600,000 in 2008 doing work for the two gun groups, the Weekly reported.
There’s no evidence that Gottlieb is profiting from AmeriPAC. In an interview with TPMmuckraker Tuesday, Gottlieb maintained that AmeriPAC is simply building a donor list that it will soon use to help conservatives win in the 2010 congressional elections. “These donors are going to tend to be repeat donors for us. That’s why the upfront costs are as high as they are.”
He says that AmeriPAC — which has been around since 1980 but has been largely dormant for years — is setting fundraising records because of anger at the Obama Administration.
Asked if the AmeriPAC solicitations promising support for candidates is misleading, Gottlieb said, “Oh no, because we’ve already donated to campaigns, you’ll see in our next report when it comes out. A lot of our email is going into the districts where the campaigns are happening. We’re helping nationalize the election on key issues right now.”
One AmeriPAC missive about the House race in Washington’s 1st congressional district declares, “We Must Send Emails do Video Ads and Full Page Ads in National Newspapers informing the public about an inept, inexperienced and dangerous Obama White House.”
But there’s no evidence AmeriPAC has done any of those things, beyond send emails. (The group’s lone election-related spending reported to the FEC in 2009 and the first quarter of 2010 is $1,300 to defeat Sen. Harry Reid in Nevada.)
And if this AmeriPAC email looks familiar, it’s because the style and format are identical to fundraising emails used by the Republican Majority Campaign, a similar operation recently profiled by TPMmuckraker.
Much like the Republican Majority Campaign, AmeriPAC’s emails often include pre-fab faxes (of, for example, a “FIRE CONGRESS PETITION”) that the group will send to senators in exchange for donations of $29 to $149. Both AmeriPAC and the Republican Majority Campaign have paid for “phone/mail communication” services from Arizona-based firm Political Advertising, which has long been used by PACs that don’t spend much money on campaigns.
Most of the money raised by AmeriPAC has gone to Diener Consultants, a Lititz, Pennsylvania, firm whose pared down website boasts of “email marketing software and related professional services streamline production time to maximize your return on investment.”
Diener reportedly did work for Alan Keyes’ 1996 and 2000 presidential campaigns. According to the Arizona Republic, Diener also ran the failed 2005 California congressional campaign of Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist. But he was none too pleased with their services, telling the paper, “I fired them the day after my campaign was over.”
As part of work on a separate Minuteman project, Diener was in 2007 named in a lawsuit by an Arizona man who was angry that the Minuteman failed to use a large donation to build an “Israel-style” fence on the border, as they had promised.