A new watchdog group aiming to provide unvarnished scorekeeping on politicians who stray from right wing orthodoxy also has corrupt conservative political groups in its sites.
The group, called Conservative Review and launched in late September, is issuing the first of a series of its “To Catch A Parasite” reports today, featuring a close examination of a little-known political action committee operated from New York City by a 26-year-old political consultant.
The group, Patriots for Economic Freedom, has raised $431,000 in the 2014 cycle, but has made no contributions to federal candidates and only spent $13,000 on “independent expenditures,” which are electioneering expenses on behalf of a candidate.
The single largest recipient of the group’s money is Amagi Strategies, a consulting firm run by Patriots for Economic Freedom founder Tyler Whitney. The two entities share the same physical location, Whitney said in an interview, and the payments to Amagi include rent for its use of that office.
So far in the cycle, Patriots has paid Amagi $159,000 and Whitney another $12,400, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
As of that filing, Patriots had spent all but $40,000 of the $431,000 it raised, much of it on fundraising-related expenses such as renting email lists. That documents show the committee recently spent about $1000 each on robocalls for ten Republican candidates, including Reps. Steve King (R-IA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Justin Amash (R-MI) and Raul Labrador (R-ID).
Conservative Review says the filings tell a story of personal enrichment.
Over $170,000 “is going directly into the pockets of someone named Tyler Whitney,” the group says it its report, provided exclusively to Breitbart News.
“The rest of the money this group is raising is going to email list vendors (to send out more emails) and for processing donations. ($11,007 to ActiveCampaign for “Outbound Messaging”, $18,843 to DB Capitol Strategies for Compliance, $19,368 to Facebook for Ads, $10,102 to PayPal for processing, and $591 to ZipCar.)”
Whitney rejected the criticisms, calling it a “witch hunt,” and said the FEC filings didn’t capture other legitimate activities.
“Over $24,000 of that Facebook advertising was not reported as an independent expenditure because it did not oppose or support a candidate, it was actually to defeat Obamacare,” Whitney said, adding that Patriots contributed $4,000 to a anti-NSA lawsuit and spent an unspecified amount of money to organize voters to contact lawmakers on petition drives.
Patriots is “just another grassroots conservative PAC trying to make a difference,” he said.
Asked how much he was personally being paid, Whitney said “I honestly don’t know the specifics, it’s actually – it’s a standard market rate salary. But it looks as if there’s more overhead than there is because some of the charges on Amagi for consulting. But me as a person, it’s standard market rate.”
Patriots has listed expenditures for furniture purchases in the filings, but its office space is also Amagi’s office space for which it pays rent.
“When you’re not raising a ton you still have some fixed costs, and one of those fixed costs is a subcontractor fee for rent to Amagi,” Whitney explained.
Whitney said his background included stints working on the campaigns for Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo, as well as time spent at Americans for Prosperity. In 2011 he was quoted in a CBS News article headlined “Young Gay Conservatives Say Their Time has Come” about gay Republicans at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
The effort by Conservative Review to scrutinize conservative groups is notable in part because Establishment Republicans have targeted groups with plenty of political spending as fundraising machines.
The effort could help police which groups are legitimate.
“There are too many organizations whose sole purpose is to raise money. For them, raising money is an end, not a means. And it is not raising money for conservative politicians or causes, but rather raising money for the organization’s leaders and its vendors,” Conservative Review says.