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A political action committee was formed recently with the stated purpose of drafting Newt Gingrich to run for the U.S. Senate from Virginia against Democrat Mark Warner in next year’s election.
On Sept. 18, the Draft Newt PAC began soliciting contributions and petition signatures, which generated a moderate amount of media attention.
Gingrich is a Virginia resident now, so he’s legally eligible to run in the state. He has sky-high name recognition. He’s got a nationwide base of contributors from his presidential campaign and his tenure as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Virginia Republicans could do a lot worse than Newt Gingrich, and knowing them they probably will.
And that is because Gingrich has no intention of running for the U.S. Senate in Virginia or anywhere else. In fact, on Sept. 19, the day after the Draft Newt PAC began publicly soliciting donations, Gingrich’s attorney sent a strongly worded cease-and-desist letter to the PAC’s treasurer.
“As both Speaker Gingrich and Gingrich Productions have made very clear, Speaker Gingrich is a new host of CNN’s ‘Crossfire.’ He is not running for United States Senate and will not run for Senate any time in the future. For this reason, Speaker Gingrich encourages supporters to ignore solicitations from any group seeking to raise funds in the name of a ‘Draft Newt’ movement,” Gingrich’s attorney wrote.
The Manchester (N.H.) Union-Leader newspaper caught up with former Gingrich staffer Andrew Hemingway who signed at least two national email blasts from the Draft Newt PAC last week announcing the effort. And here’s where it gets really interesting.
Hemingway distanced himself from the PAC and insisted he is only “peripherally involved” in the Draft Newt effort, despite the email blasts that quote him saying “I am launching” the nationwide petition project and “leading the effort” to draft Gingrich.
Hemingway told the paper he supports Gingrich and would like to see him in the Senate and therefore agreed to lend his name to a few emails. Fair enough. Further, he said the PAC’s organizer told him “they have responded by complying with the request” from Gingrich’s attorney to cease and desist.
Case closed? Not hardly.
On Monday, I received an unsolicited mass email from — you guessed it — Andrew Hemingway telling me about the Draft Newt effort.
The email stated, “While Newt’s not planning to run — YET — we’re not going to give up that easily, and we hope you aren’t either. We need to work harder to convince Newt to run!”
Then it asked me to “donate $25, $50, $100, or more today to help us build a state of the art campaign for Newt and convince him to run?”
The email ended by urging me to, “Help us reach our goal of $100,000 for Draft NEWT in less than two weeks with your donation of $25, $50, $100, or more today.”
I don’t know the leaders of the Draft Newt effort, nor do I pretend to know their motivations. I simply know there is a great deal of money to be made out there in the world of political fundraising.
Presumably, a PAC like Draft Newt could use the money it raises to pay employees, consultants and its treasurer. It could contract with vendors and rent email lists and then retain the names of any petition signers or contributors to the PAC. These names could then be rented to other campaigns and PACs for a fee. It stands to reason, that by operating your own PAC, you could create quite the little industry, and you wouldn’t even need the permission of the candidate you are allegedly trying to draft or elect.
It is the Wild West out there when it comes to the financing of political efforts and activities. In years past, donors gave money directly to candidates or to political parties, but not so much anymore.
Now, thanks in large part to the Internet, there are countless PACs asking for money and leaving donors with no real understanding of where that money ultimately goes. Donors beware.
But hey, if you can’t trust a couple of guys trying to draft Newt Gingrich to run for the Senate, who can you trust?
Cam Savage is a principal at Limestone Strategies and a veteran of numerous Republican campaigns and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He is a graduate of Franklin College. He can be reached at Cam@limestone-strategies.com.
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