Congressional candidate Allen West has received $5,000 from a group called Black Republican PAC. Sounds official enough, doesn't it? Donors around the country have given about $769,000 to the group, presumably because they want to elect more GOP candidates who look like Michael Steele. But what they're getting is something else entirely.
Campaign finance records suggest the PAC mainly exists to a) Line the pockets of a Washington, D.C.-based direct mail firm called Base Connect, and b) Fund mailers protesting abortion and slamming President Obama.
According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, the Black Republican PAC has spent a measly 2.6 percent of its money this election cycle on contributions to actual candidates. Meanwhile, 94 percent of the dough went to fundraising and direct mail campaigns. Of that, a whopping $357,060 has gone to Base Connect and its affiliated companies.
TPMuckraker has documented Base Connect's history of exploiting long-shot conservative candidates while lining its own pockets and raising the ire of some Republican insiders.
The treasurer of the Black Republican PAC is a white guy named Scott Mackenzie, who also happens to work for Base Connect. In fact, all the top execs at Base Connect are white -- and they're the ones raking in the dough from the PAC, while the black candidates get a few thousand bucks each.
Edward Cousar, executive director of the PAC, could not be reached for comment. There's no phone number listed on the PAC's website, and an email sent to Cousar's listed address bounced back, deemed undeliverable. Cousar didn't respond to another email sent to his office at Bonnie Blue Public Relations in South Carolina.
On the PAC's website, the group offers this explanation for its spending practice:.
First, we contribute to black Republican candidates who can be our spokesman and role models. They are our best advocates for the Republican ideas in the black community and can get a fair hearing where other Republicans cannot. Second, we wage television, radio, and mail campaigns on behalf of black Republican candidates or against liberal Democrats where we can make a difference.
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Of course, the site neglects to mention the vast disparity in spending on candidates versus mail campaigns. It later touts direct mail as its vaunted strategy:
Black Republican PAC uses direct mail to bypass the liberal gatekeepers and reach out directly to the African American community. Through voter mail, Black Republican PAC is exposing Barack Obama's radical record and the failure of liberal policies to provide real solutions to the African American community's -- and all of America's -- pressing problems. Black Republican PAC also uses direct mail to help black candidates win their election races.
But it's still unclear if these mailings actually help black candidates win. On its website, the PAC features a West campaign video that was paid for by his campaign, not by the PAC.
In the end, GOP diehards from Texas to Tennessee are handing over hundreds of thousands of dollars to this PAC, much of which lands in the pockets of Washington insiders at a direct mail firm.