The GOP apparatus is a fraudulent shell game for lazy, incompetent cronies

For years, there have been leeches attached to the machinery of the Republican Party, and it is almost out of blood.

The leeches come in many forms, but are most prevalent in the political action committees, consultants, strategists and vendors that make the machinery of the party go.

They are almost uniformly vultures, personally enriching themselves at the expense of party and country. They identify angst and frustration, use it for their benefit, perpetuate it, and then continue to feed off the ever-growing anger that results, in a closed feedback loop of misery.

This has reached such a breaking point that it now threatens to implode the entire conservative movement. And that implosion began as the tea party rose.

After the Obama shellacking in 2008, the Republican Party felt dead. All the grassroots energy was on the left. The Republicans had betrayed their principles, and money and volunteers had evaporated.

Then came the tea party.

Believe it or not, the initial reaction inside the Beltway was positive. We would find out quickly, however, that it was positive only because the Beltway, having failed to do the hard work of mobilizing the grassroots organically, the way the Democrats did, saw a way out of the wilderness without having to do any work.

They saw a golden opportunity to exploit the passion of the conservative voter and use it as a piggy bank and path to relevance, rather than work with it and build a true, powerful, meaningful political movement.

You see, the political class, most of whom are hungry for little more than money and power, began to identify what was happening, and what was motivating the tea party.

"Arthur the Patriot", an alternate from Arizona, poses for a photograph at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last month. His message to Trump? "The tea party supports you." Jim Young | Reuters

“Arthur the Patriot”, an alternate from Arizona, poses for a photograph at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last month. His message to Trump? “The tea party supports you.” Jim Young | Reuters

It wasn’t exactly hard to figure out, after all. People were sick of polished, career politicians, sick of being lied to, and sick of both parties fiddling while Rome burned.

Unfortunately, emotion — particularly anger and frustration — is extremely easy to take advantage of, politically speaking. If you understand what motivates it, you can channel it, even if you are a cynical liar.

This just so happened to coincide with the time I started getting emails from phantom political action committees that I had never heard of, all of whom urgently demanded money, promising to support these supposed anti-establishment tea party candidates.

Sadly, nearly all these groups were pyramid schemes and scams.

Tea Party Patriots, for instance, raised more than $2 million in the 2014 election cycle using the name and likeness of tea party darling Matt Bevin, who was then running against establishment Sen. Mitch McConnell in a primary. Despite that huge haul, they spent only $56,000 on his behalf.

That was half as much as the consulting fees paid to the organization’s president.

What it paid for instead was, you guessed it, consultants, including those who worked on polling, communications and direct mail fundraising. None of these consultants helped Bevin win, but they made a lot of money.

By the end of the cycle, Tea Party Patriots had raised over $14 million, and spent less than 10 percent of it on candidates.

But the problem was, and remains, more pervasive than these zombie political action committees. The major committees, particularly the RNC, and high-profile candidates send their money to an increasingly small number of companies, all of whom have direct financial relationships with one another.

Are these the best, most competent consultants? Do campaigns or committees even need many (most) of them? The answer is no. Nearly all fundraising done in the name of both the party and the anti-establishment outsiders — yes, both — is actually done to feed the beast and does nothing to help.

The goal of these candidates and groups is not to change things, it is to acquire power and money. The Republican apparatus is a fraudulent shell game for lazy, incompetent cronies.

Literally the last stand for decent, hardworking, results oriented politics is at the state level.  That certainly isn’t true of every state — just look at Illinois or New York — but it is true in most.  Here in Maine for instance, the state Republican Party does in fact vet their vendor relationships and consultants, and do not actively funnel money to cronies.

Unfortunately that is the exception that proves the rule, and craven, money hungry political snake oil salesmen are running the big dollar operations, and feeding the same predictable shlock to the base, selling the latest engineered outrage of the week, and creating phony villains for the purpose of fundraising off of them.

Yet conservative voters continually fall for the same trap. All one needs to do anymore is write an email that channels what you know to be the feelings of the grassroots — like oh, say, beating Paul Ryan — and the money will flow in.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to actually care about beating Paul Ryan or spend any money to do that. Just say so, it won’t matter.

Now, having been abused for so long, a voter or activist is so despondent that they will respond to anyone or anything or promising to drain the swamp and destroy the system. And the leeches know it, and will continue to exploit it as long as we let them.

The result is that the PACs and the parties still get their money, the average guy gets ripped off and doesn’t even know it, and nothing changes. Rinse, wash, repeat.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.