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‘Scam PACs’ Strike Again in Utah, Wisconsin

Beware of fundraising pitches from unaligned committees

Critics complain that political action committees are misleading donors by inappropriately using the names of politicians and public figures. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Mysterious and misleading political action committees are nothing new, but two recent examples demonstrate just how brazen some PACs are becoming in their money-grabbing email pitches.

“BREAKING: Sheriff Clarke Resigned,” announced the subject line of a Sept. 2 email from the Sheriff David Clarke for U.S. Senate (Official Draft Campaign). The subsequent text of the message was supposedly explanatory, yet nearly completely wrong.

“Well, exactly as your Sheriff Clarke Draft Committee has been predicting, Sheriff Clarke notified Governor Walker that he was resigning his position as the Sheriff of Milwaukee County, effective at midnight, yesterday morning,” the email read.

“The courageous black conservative Sheriff has been tight lipped about his future plans, but those of you who have been paying attention to our draft efforts will not see his resignation as a surprise,” the email continued.

This message is remarkable, considering, six months ago, Clarke wrote in his book, “I have no interest in running for elected office other than being sheriff. … I’m not running for mayor, I’m not running for congressman, I’m not running for senator, and I’m not running for governor.”

A different story

But don’t let that get in the way of a good email.

“His resignation will at long last free him to prepare for a U.S. Senate campaign in earnest — something he was unwilling to do while still taking taxpayer dollars to serve Milwaukee County,” the email stated. “That means it’s showtime, folks!”

But more than six weeks before the recent email, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Clarke told a local radio station, “I want to put this to a rest because it’s becoming a distraction. No, I’m not running for Senate.”

Of course, that didn’t stop this PAC from asking for money.

“Sheriff Clarke needs our prayers and vocal support to officially launch his campaign for Senate. You can encourage him today with a donation of $50, $100, or $500 — CLICK HERE to your secure link,” the group wrote.

That’s a pretty bold ask, considering Clarke specifically told people not to give money to the PAC.

“It’s a scam PAC really,” he said in July. “They don’t need my permission to do it.”

“Every time I turn around, I talk to people and say, ‘No, I’m not running for Senate, hang onto your money,’” continued Clarke, who (surprise!) just accepted a new position with America First Action, a pro-President Donald Trump PAC.

[Baldwin Says Sheriff Clarke Being ‘Groomed’ to Run Against Her]

A lack of truth

An Aug. 26 email, subject line “URGENT: Enemy #1” from Black America’s Political Action Committee, or BAMPAC, was almost as offensive for it’s lack of truth.

“I’m sending you this urgent email to get your attention on a critical matter: Mia Love is in serious trouble. You see, the Democrats are already on the offensive — making wild allegations against Mia Love … and every indication is that it seems to be working,” the email began. “Mia’s poll numbers have revealed serious trouble ahead for her reelection.”

That caught my attention on a couple of levels: that the Republican congresswoman from Utah was in “serious trouble” in a district where Hillary Clinton received 32 percent of the vote last fall, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections, and that her campaign would share polling numbers with BAMPAC.

So I reached out to Love’s pollster.

“There’s no indication in any polling that I know of, public or private, that Mia is having any trouble,” said Quin Monson, a partner at Y2 Analytics. “Given the election results last fall, just the opposite is true. She is in a stronger position than ever before.” Love defeated Democrat Doug Owens 54 percent to 41 percent in 2016 after a more narrow 51-46 percent victory over him in 2014.

But of course, facts are just minor speed bumps on the road to raising more money.

“We expected the Democrats to come after Mia, but we didn’t expect such vicious attacks so early! It’s painfully obvious they’re out for blood, and they’ll stop at nothing to take her down,” the email alleged.

[Democrats Expanding Battlefield Into Trump Country]

Love wasn’t on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s initial (and ambitious) list of 59 Republican targets released at the beginning of the year, nor was she among the 21 additional GOP members added in the subsequent months. As of June 30, Love didn’t have a Democratic opponent with more than $14,000 in campaign funds. She had $348,000 after spending over $5.5 million in the 2016 cycle.

But of course, BAMPAC thinks she needs the money, even though contributions through the email wouldn’t go directly to her anyway since the committees aren’t linked in any way.

“That’s why I’m hoping you’ll help Mia Love fight back with a gift of $28, $35, $50, $75 or more TODAY,” read the email plea signed “sincerely” by President and CEO Alvin Williams. “Your gift will be put to use immediately to defend Mia from the Democrats’ vicious attacks.”

“Or perhaps you’ve been blessed and want to do more?” Williams asked in the email. “Your gift of $100, $250, $500, $1000, $2500 or more will give Mia the ammo she needs to fight back.”

“With the liberal elite dumping millions of dollars into this race, Mia Love desperately needs your support now more than ever!” Williams wrote.

Love’s campaign suggests otherwise.

“I would just add that this particular email from BAMPAC is pretty much a complete scam,” Monson said. “BAMPAC is simply using Mia’s name to gin up fundraising and is not connected to Mia in any way. It may be legal, but is certainly ethically questionable at best.” 

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