Let’s be clear about just what the Lincoln Project is — soon to be “was”: A group of Donald Trump-hating acolytes of John McCain, with a few Bushies mixed in for flavor, who decided that seeking revenge against Pres. Trump for his mistreatment of McCain and the GOP Establishment was more important than the country not having the socialist wing of the Democrat party take over to the White House and Congress for a third term of the Obama Administration.
Here are the original Lincoln Project grifters as published in January 2020 by — The Lincoln Project:
THE LINCOLN PROJECT ADVISORY BOARD
The GOP has been “on the march” since 2010, taking over governorships, statehouses, and winning seats in Congress in large numbers, with the potential to make transformational changes in the manner in which the federal and state governments served the citizens in a second Trump term. But the Lincoln Project determined that they would be the “face” of “GOP” opposition to Pres. Trump inside the electorate that supported him in order to enhance their standing with the media and global business interests aligned against his “America first” political paradigm.
Somewhere along the way during the 2020 campaign trail, they realized there was the potential for financial reward in what began largely as a “Look at me” vanity project.
In the first quarter of 2020, the PAC received a total of $1.9 million in donations. But in the second quarter — 4/1 to 6/30 — as the general election contest came into focus as being between Biden and Trump, the Lincoln Project received $16.8 million in donations — spending approximately $7.2 during the same time period. They received just under $40 million in the third quarter, and approximately $28 million in the fourth quarter — totaling approximately $87 million for 2020 overall.
As a Super PAC not tied to any particular candidate or campaign, it was free to made “independent” expenditures of these funds for political purposes in whatever manner they saw fit — accountable to no one for their decisions in that regard.
As I covered in this earlier story in some detail, two of the co-founders of the Lincoln Project listed above — Ron Steslow and Reed Galen — received nearly $45 million of that money, paid to two political consulting firms owned by them for the production of campaign/media content against Pres. Trump and several GOP Senate candidates.
My colleague Jennifer Van Laar has updated that story with some additional information on spending, and it now appears that over $65 million may have gone to Steslow and Galen — though some of that money was to pay for media buys/airtime, for which the political consultant takes only a percentage of such expenditures.
But, in the aftermath of the revelations about Lincoln Project co-founder John Weaver’s decades-long habit of using his positions in GOP political circles to troll for sex from young men seeking careers in the business of politics (including within the ranks of the Lincoln Project), other co-founders are heading for the exits like cockroaches when the lights are turned on in a dark room. But not before cashing-in on what they built with donated funds.
As covered in Jenn Van Laar’s story on Friday, Jennifer Horn, another of the original co-founders of the Lincoln Project, resigned in response to the revelations about John Weaver — at least according to the public statement she issued.
But later in the day on Friday, the Lincoln Project put out a statement on Twitter claiming that Horn’s real reason for leaving was the refusal of the Lincoln Project Board to allow her to cash-in on the operation in the same manner others had been allowed to do. According to the Statement, Horn made a written demand on Christmas Eve that the Lincoln Project name her to the Board, and give her a television show, a podcast, and a paid staff to manage those projects.
The Lincoln Project’s statement on Jennifer Horn’s resignation. pic.twitter.com/eSJiDZweLj
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) February 6, 2021
I guess Jennifer Horn had read the December 16, 2020, FEC filing by the Lincoln Project — as summarized here by OpenSecrets.org — which revealed just how much of the $87 million in donations had flowed to Steslow and Galen’s companies. Not being a member of the Board, it is almost certain that Horn never knew just how much of a money sump pump the Lincoln Project had become for Steslow and Galen.
Horn might have been outside the small group of co-founders on the Board who knew how much money was coming in and what it was funding. In April the Board had hired Sarah Lenti as Executive Director, another Bush/McCain political operative who was a NeverTrumper, and she used the donor funds to build an operation for the summer and fall which grew to 40 paid staffers and 60 unpaid interns.
I was in the Whole Foods in Cherry Creek when Reed called me, and he was like, “Are you ready for this?” And he told me about the Lincoln Project. I said yes immediately and came on as a consultant in February, and became the executive director in April. They needed operational help pulling together what became an organization with more than forty employees, over sixty interns, and ultimately raising $78 million.
Maybe Horn began to realize after the election — when FEC spending reports started to appear — that she was on the outside looking in, and many of the other Lincoln Project co-founders seemed to have found ways to monetize their involvement, but not her.
In the aftermath of the November election, reporting started to appear that the Lincoln Project was “morphing” into a media company. Here it is from the mouth of another co-founder, Rick Wilson, in a mid-December interview:
Well, we’ve had a tremendous amount of interest, both from other media companies and from venture capital, from the four corners of the world. You know, we built a podcast, and we built a streaming channel, right? Not for some future media business. We built them because our research showed us—we kept asking voters, when we did surveys, “Where do you get your news?” And podcast, podcast, podcast—it kept coming up over and over and over again. And so Ron Steslow built a podcast that is now in the top 50 on Apple. And I built out our streaming channel with the rest of our team and Reed Galan. During the election, we were clocking 150,000 views a night on “The Breakdown,” the show that Tara Setmayer I do. What we’ve learned is that those numbers are compelling to people, and they want to talk to us about what we do with them going forward.
It is also in mid-December that Steslow now claims he resigned from the Lincoln Project to pursue new business opportunities — including a continuation of the podcast he had originated from within the Lincoln Project. The podcast — starting February 3 — is now part of a new company named “Politicology” which is owned by Steslow. The podcast continues on the same RSS feed as when the podcast was part of the Lincoln Project. Basically, Steslow took an enterprise that now generates revenue — it was among the top 50 podcasts on Apple — that was created using funds from the Lincoln Project, and converted it to his own asset by leaving the Lincoln project and taking it with him out the door. Whether Steslow paid the Lincoln Project fair market value for the podcast as the property of the Lincoln Project is unknown at this time.
It is clear that Wilson, Reed, and Tara Setmayer (a “Senior Advisor” to the Lincoln Project but not listed as a founder) are planning on doing something similar with the parts of the Lincoln Project they were also developed with donor funds. Wilson explained in the same article that these business endeavors will be separate from the PAC which was used to fund their creation.
So the Super PAC will continue as a separate enterprise from what is planned by Wilson and the others with regard to the media operations built within the Lincoln Project.
Now Jennifer Horn’s “demands” on Christmas Eve take on a new dimension.
“Where’s mine?? Where is my podcast and TV show?? Where is the paid staff that the Lincoln Project funded in Utah as part of Steslow, Galen, Wilson, and Setmayer funding their grifts that they are now taking with them out the door as money-making operations? Why can’t I be on the Board so I can vote on how much to pay myself and what parts of he Lincoln Project I can covert to my own use to capitalize on the donor money that I helped to generate in 2020?
What a group. Ethics?? They can’t spell the word and would have to look up the meaning in a dictionary — after expensing the purchase to the donor money.
Removing Weaver from the list, you have 7 names — 8 by including Setmayer.
Galen, Steslow, Wilson, and Setmayer are all set to cash in using assets they are taking with them.
Then we have this regarding Steve Schmidt:
SES Strategies LLC is Steve Schmit’s political consulting company, and this FEC filing shows the Lincoln Project dispersed $1.5 million to him on December 4, 2020.
So Steve Schmidt was going to “get his” too, although, on December 31, 2020, the Lincoln Project filed an update report stating that Schmidt had returned the dispersed funds.
I suspect he didn’t do so because he didn’t feel entitled to the money. As reported to the FEC, as of December 16, 2020 — after Schmidt had received the $1.5 million — the Lincoln Project was left with less than $5.5 million cash on hand. They were spending heavily on both Georgia runoff races trying to defeat GOP Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, and it’s likely that six weeks after the Nov. 3 election the flow of money into the Lincoln Project was not what it had been prior to the election. Or it may have been nothing more complicated than a tax deferral scheme by moving the income from December 2020 to some time in 2021. Time will tell.
As noted above, from August 1 to September 30, they received nearly $40 million in contributions, but from October 1 to December 31, the Lincoln Projected received only $28 million in contributions. Defeating Donald Trump was the raison d’ etre for the Lincoln Project’s existence. There certainly had to be questions about whether, and in what amounts, donations would continue after Pres. Trump lost. It would be easier to pay a fat contract to Schmidt after the Georgia runoffs were over, and there was no longer a need for the remaining cash on operations.
Alternatively, in the same way, the others were managing to “cash-in” by converting Lincoln Project operations to their own vehicles going forward, something could be figured out for Schmidt if simply handing him a bag full of donor cash was deemed too gauche and not likely to be overlooked by the press — they are Republicans in the end.
Who got left out? Only Mike Madrid, George Conway (a whole other story) — and Jennifer Horn.
According to the Lincoln Project tweet on Friday responding to Horn’s resignation, six weeks ago she demanded a Board seat, a TV show, a podcast, and a paid staff to make those things happen.
The statement then says that “48 hours ago” — meaning on Wednesday — Horn changed her demands and wanted a $250,000 “signing fee” and a $40,000 a month consulting contract from Lincoln Project — which sounds a lot like what Schmidt was originally given, setting aside the fact that Schmidt got a lot more.
Schmidt responded himself to Horn’s resignation after the Lincoln Project statement:
Podcast. I voted no. Would do so again. I wish Jennifer well. We are in the Democracy fight. Our values diverged. The fight continues. @ProjectLincoln
— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) February 6, 2021
Horn wanted to “‘establish immediate and long term financial security’ from the Lincoln Project” according to Schmidt — and he criticized her for it notwithstanding what other co-founders have done — and he himself had taken $1.5 million in a bulk transfer of donor money.
The truth is that the Lincoln Project likely can’t afford the things that Horn asked for in terms of giving her the kind of infrastructure and financial support to allow her to build her own revenue-generating project going forward. That train left the station without her on board with the other grifters who had better foresight to see what was happening in the fall of 2020 and converted it to something for themselves when the money stopped coming in from donors.
The abject reality for this group is that they have no future in the GOP. They are among the causes of the GOP being in the minority in the Senate. Why would any GOP Senators, even Never Trumpers, want to do business with them as political consultants in the future? They funded campaign efforts opposing the re-election of Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Dan Sullivan, Steve Daines, Susan Collins, Joni Ernst, Thom Tillis, Martha McSally, and Cory Gardner in addition to Loeffler and Perdue.
Just as significant, why would Democrats want to use them — and why would Democrat donors want to continue funding the Lincoln Project — in the absence of Pres. Trump as the motivating factor? There is no shortage of Democrat political consultants and Democrat Super PACs who would like to have that funding come to them, and they have always been loyal Democrats. The novelty of GOP political operatives opposing a GOP President and GOP Senate candidates no longer exists. Why should Democrats care what Steve Schmidt or Rick Wilson think now?
John Weaver is the gasoline-soaked wick in the Molotov cocktail that is the Lincoln Project now. Jennifer Horn now holds the burning match as the “consultant scorned.” Everyone else got to cut up the fat hog that was the $87 million in donor funds.
Schmidt, Wilson, and the others should have paid her off to keep her on the squad. Now she has a motivation to publicly disclose what she knows about what the others have done to enrich themselves with donor funds. This all unfolded in public view for the first time on Friday, today is Monday, and the Super Bowl was in between.
The days ahead might be revelatory with regard to the short life of the Lincoln Project. The “death watch” is underway.
And about John Weaver and the boys and men he was trolling for sex …