GA-13: Well, That Explains It…

Some of you may have had the same “wtf?” moment that I did upon seeing James’s Q1 Cash-on-Hand Competitiveness from a few months ago: the Democratic representative who was in the deepest fundraising hole vis-à-vis his or her opponent wasn’t Carol Shea-Porter or Nancy Boyda or Tim Mahoney… it was David Scott, sitting in GA-13, a safe black-majority district in Atlanta’s suburbs. He was being outraised by Deborah Honeycutt, who had actually raised 105% of CoH that Scott had.

There’s a not-so-simple explanation at work here: GA-13 is ground zero for the efforts of a shadowy Republican direct-mail group called BMW Direct that specializes in using national fundraising appeals on behalf of conservative candidates at the local level. Josh Marshall summed up BMW’s agenda succinctly:

finding nonsense Republican candidates in hopeless races, raising tons of money for their hopeless campaigns and then funneling all the money back to themselves and sundry contractors and cronies.

Honeycutt has posted some remarkable fundraising numbers, raising $1.7 million this cycle ($500,000 of that in Q1 alone), and burned through $1.5 million of it. (This despite being the 2006 candidate, and losing to Scott by a 69-31 margin as a result of having “no presence” locally.) The odd thing is: only $16,695 of that money got spent on the ground in Georgia. The rest simply disappeared into BMW’s internal operations, or got farmed out to BMW contractors for activities like data processing and list rentals.

The Boston Globe broke the story, focusing on Charles Morse’s 2006 race against Barney Frank. Morse raised $700,000 for the race in MA-04 via BMW’s direct-mailing efforts, but 96% of that money, rather than being spent in the district, was paid to BMW. The net result of Morse’s amazing fundraising? He won a total of 145 votes in the primary, failing to qualify for the general election.

BMW does apparently help a few legitimate officeholders (including Robin Hayes and Jim Ryun), but their efforts mostly seem to center on fleecing low-information right-wing grannies to give money to invest in candidates on the basis of flimsy appeals, all the while knowing that the candidates are going nowhere and running bare-bones campaigns, allowing them to keep almost all the money for themselves. (As several TPM commenters pointed out, this is almost exactly the plot line from The Producers.) Rarely has there ever been such a clear illustration of the giant pyramid scheme that is the Republican Party.

21 thoughts on “GA-13: Well, That Explains It…”

  1. And thinking that her burn rate looked awfully suspicious.

    Here’s my question–can either the firm or the candidate be prosecuted for fraud??

  2. BMW direct uses the same treasurer for all its reports, a lawyer (and employee) named Scott McKenzie.  David Scott’s treasurer is a local named Henry Aaron.  Since the former ball player is, in fact, active in Georgia Democratic politics I assume that’s “Bad Henry”, the home run king.  Make that “Bad Scott” and “Good Henry.”  Incidentally, virtually all of Honeycutt’s money comes from individual donors with 1,171 listed.  

    The scheme is actually better than The Producers.  If the election is won (becomes an unexpected hit), no donors need to be paid back unlike the little old ladies who invested in The Producers.  They simply have a better argument for fleecing the public the next time.  Gee, they steal from the NRCC and from their own donors.  No wonder we are in a bad economy. Guess who is being fleeced when these folks are elected to office?

  3. On the one hand, it’s unfortunate that so many people are being scammed out of their money.  On the other, Republicans are losing money that would otherwise go to serious candidates.  

    I’m hoping these guys get prosecuted AND that some of those donors decide they don’t want to give to the GOP anymore.  That would be the best of both worlds.

  4. I don’t care what end of the spectrum this is, it’s wrong!  They’re basically defrauding people by appealing to causes they strongly believe in.  I hope these folks are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  If the law condones this kind of behavior, it needs to be changed.

    While I’m sure they’re above board, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for this site to publish the percent of contributions that actually go to the candidates from organizations like Act Blue, and the national Democratic committees.  A lot of folks who read sites like this one are moved to contribute, so anything that can be done to protect folks from fraud should be.  If scumbags take advantage of the right like this, there’s probably someone out there who’ll try to take advantage of folks with strong feelings on the left, too.

    This reminds me of some of the fraudulent charitable groups that we’ve read about in recent years.

  5. pardon my cynicsm…. or is it suspicious nature… but i cant help thinking that this is a way to wash (funnel?) missing $billions from iraq funding.

    now i know there are (must be?) ways to track political funding… but i have never trusted the stories from iraq that huge sums simply were lost in the shuffle (press of war?). i still dont buy it…. somebody… (many bodies?) got rich from those unaccounted for billions….. it wouldnt take much… a tiny sliver  a small percentage of unaccounted for funds… could fund many republican races for decades…. we are talking cash… $10,000 bundles… pallets full… how to get it from iraq to the US i leave to the shadowy characters …. how to get it from underneath the bed… into a legitimate bank account… would require a clever ruse…

    this shadowy gop fund raising group… seems like just the ticket… why pick a long shot candidate? less scrutiny is my guess….i would dearly love to see the contributions list… was it in cash? checks from deceased? checks from new bank accounts?

    why wouldnt the candidate themselves be screaming bloody murder over this…  this money clearly was not used for their benefit…. it was passed right through  their organization…

    somethings rotten in denmark

    anyone else think  along these lines?

  6. A lot of these groups seem to use black uber-conservatives as their (perhaps somewhat unwilling) spokespeople.  I remember in 2004 when Evan Bayh was running for re-election here, his opponent was Marvin Scott.  Scott is an ultra, ultra-conservative black college professor from Indy who has ran unsuccessfully for a ton of different offices.  It was a little suprising to see that Scott raised and spent over 2.2 million (almost all in individual donations) on a race where no one ever (to my knowledge) saw a TV commerical of his, saw any yard signs, really any mailings, radio ads — really no presence at all.  It turns out he basically spent like 2 million dollars to raise 2.2 million, and almost nothing was spent on the campaign itself.

    I wonder if some of this was going on with that loon Vernon Robinson in his run for Congress in North Carolina as well.  It’s a great potential hook to fleece people of their $250 or so — support a black candidate who upholds extremist rightwing views.  I mean, take a look at Honnycutt’s website — she talks about God and socialism in the first paragraph!!

  7. I started a diary about this two days ago, got 90% of the way through, then crashed and fell asleep.  

    Not that my diary would really have pre-empted yours, cause you have a different take on it anyway.  Still, here’s mine.

    The fact that Marvin Scott in Indiana had the same pattern play out makes my spidey sense tingle much more.  I wonder how much of this there really is, and on which sides.

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