✅ George Conway (has since left the organization)
✅ Steve Schmidt (has since left the organization)
✅ John Weaver (has since left the organization)
✅ Jennifer Horn (has since left the organization)
✅ Ron Steslow (has since left the organization)
✅ Mike Madrid (has since left the organization)
For those who may have forgotten about the early days, a refresher…
Inside the Lincoln Project’s ‘toxic’ workplace: Interviews with nearly two dozen people with knowledge of the group’s workings reveal a culture of infighting, sexist language and disparate treatment.
The organization is facing a rapidly escalating controversy over allegations that another of its co-founders, John Weaver, sexually harassed more than a dozen young men, including some working for the project, and over what other members of senior management knew about the claims and when they knew it.
The accusations have roiled the organization, and as its current and former employees and contractors began coming forward to discuss them, they described a workplace where women in key positions were sidelined and where sexist and homophobic language was used by those in leadership posts.
In reporting a story over the past several weeks about the Lincoln Project’s management, culture, finances and handling of the Weaver allegations, The 19th interviewed nearly two dozen individuals currently or formerly associated with the group or familiar with its operations.
Nearly all of them said they feared speaking publicly about their experiences with the Lincoln Project and its remaining co-founders. Many cited their tendency to “go nuclear,” as several put it, when faced with internal dynamics that could undermine the public image they cultivated with their liberal fans.
The interviews depict an organization that grew quickly, with little planning at its inception, and then began to spiral out of control as its founders quarreled over the organization’s direction, finances, tactics and even who would own the donor data that the project would eventually amass. Some of the co-founders had an informal management agreement that excluded the others, without their knowledge. Several had private firms to which the Lincoln Project channeled tens of millions of dollars that are then not subject to disclosure, while others were paid relatively modest amounts directly or nothing at all. There were clashes over ego and resentments over podcasts and television contracts.
The Lincoln Project was organized as a super PAC, meaning it could raise and spend unlimited sums of money but had to disclose only basic details about where the money was going. The firms that some of the co-founders brought with them to the Lincoln Project’s work became a source of internal frustration, as more than half of the nearly $90 million raised by the project flowed to firms controlled by its various founders. Once it was there, there was usually no way to track how they spent or kept it.
As senior management squabbled over how to divide the pieces of the project’s financial pie, dissatisfaction was growing within the organization’s more junior ranks, which were made up of largely young and liberal staffers who said they had different standards than some of the group’s leaders, citing Schmidt and Wilson specifically. There was language used in both the Lincoln Project’s ads and within its workplace about gender and sexuality that made many of them uncomfortable, the dozens of interviews revealed.
In the era of intense political polarization, organizations claiming to champion noble causes have emerged, only to reveal their true colors as opportunistic grifters. One such entity that has attracted significant attention is the Lincoln Project. Initially hailed as a beacon of hope by those who vehemently opposed the Trump administration, it has now been exposed for its deceptive tactics, dubious spending practices, and relentless pursuit of separating gullible people from their money.
Exploiting Fear and Spreading Conspiracies:
The Lincoln Project’s modus operandi is a simple game of persuasion and fear-mongering. They prey upon low-information voters, creating an atmosphere of constant threat and paranoia. By exaggerating the actions of the so-called “MAGA extremists” and painting them as a grave danger, they manipulate vulnerable individuals into believing everything they hold dear is under attack. This fear-driven approach allows the Lincoln Project to position itself as the saviors, fighting against an imagined enemy and urging supporters to contribute financially to their cause.
Separating Gullible Donors from Their Money:
The Lincoln Project has mastered the art of exploiting the emotions and anxieties of its target audience. By presenting themselves as the defenders of democracy, they appeal to the moral instincts of those who genuinely care about the future of the country. However, beneath this veneer of righteousness lies a well-developed con designed to extract as much money as possible from unsuspecting donors.
Their fundraising tactics are highly questionable, with a significant portion of their expenditures allocated to overhead costs and lavish compensation for the project’s leaders. Shortly after the their organization, The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog organization, exposed the Lincoln Project’s unusual spending practices, highlighting the exorbitant amounts of money spent on consulting fees and luxury expenses rather than on the intended political goals. This revelation raised serious concerns about the organization’s true motivations and the extent to which they prioritize lining their own pockets over making a genuine impact.
The Lincoln Project’s initial promise to oppose Trumpism and protect American democracy has been tarnished by its unethical practices and dubious financial maneuvers. By preying on the fears and anxieties of low-information voters, they have constructed a lucrative fundraising machine designed to exploit emotions rather than effect positive change.
The Lincoln Project serves as a stark reminder that not all those who claim to fight for justice and democracy are to be trusted. True change comes from transparency, integrity, and a genuine commitment to the causes we believe in, not from a cinematic con chiseling ready cash out of unsuspecting passers-by.
Threatening and Dark Ads:
The Lincoln Project has gained attention for its ads that employ a dark and threatening theme and tone. These ads have been a subject of criticism, with some arguing that they go too far in their approach. Andrew Ferguson from The Atlantic, for example, described the ads as “personally abusive, overwrought, pointlessly salacious, and trip-wired with non-sequiturs.” This criticism highlights the perception that the Lincoln Project’s ads may rely more on shock value than substantive arguments.
One possible explanation for the Lincoln Project’s choice of such ads lies in their experience within the Republican consulting arena. Having been involved in political campaigns and messaging for years, they have likely observed that appealing to fear and threat tends to resonate with conservative voters. Understanding the conservative psychological profile, they seem to have honed in on the theme of threat as a means to capture attention and influence the target audience.
While the production quality of the Lincoln Project’s ads is impressive, their focus on scare tactics and the portrayal of a dire state of affairs may have resulted in them losing interest in appealing to on-the-fence voters. Instead, it appears that they have chosen to prioritize gaining attention and engagement on platforms like Twitter, where retweets and likes can create a sense of momentum and support. By framing their message as “Saving our Democracy,” they tap into the prevailing anxieties surrounding the state of American politics, but whether this approach effectively reaches undecided voters remains a point of contention.
The New Republic Soapbox: The Viral Impotency of the Lincoln Project
Founded by anti-Trump Republicans, the new PAC is getting lots of attention. But is it achieving anything?
…political scientists have long been skeptical of advertisements’ ability to persuade voters of anything. And in 2016, Hillary Clinton ran many high-quality ads aimed at getting Trump-skeptical Republicans to vote for her, to apparently little effect. Like those 2016 ads, the Lincoln Project’s spots seem designed to go viral, not necessarily to persuade. Similarly, Clinton’s performance in the 2016 debates was widely lauded, particularly for jabs about Trump’s fitness for office. Despite the widespread belief that dunking on Trump is a successful political strategy, there’s little evidence that doing so accomplishes much, no matter how many retweets follow.
It appears that the Lincoln Project has recognized the appeal of fear and threat in the conservative psychological profile and has tailored its messaging accordingly. However, their heavy reliance on scare tactics and the quest for social media engagement may have come at the expense of effectively reaching undecided voters and fostering constructive political discourse. The long-term consequences of this approach and its impact on the democratic process remain subjects of ongoing debate.
Self-Perception as Righteous Defenders and “Enemy Combatants:”
One notable criticism leveled against the Lincoln Project is their belief that they are the righteous defenders of democracy while considering anyone outside of their camp as “enemy combatants.” This perception suggests a lack of willingness to engage in open and constructive dialogue with individuals or groups who hold differing viewpoints. By embracing the Democratic Party and rejecting any connection to the Republican side of the political aisle, the Lincoln Project appears to have abandoned the principle of discussing ideas about how best our government should function.
In their pursuit of opposing the Republican Party, the Lincoln Project has seemingly forsaken their once-touted “Principled Conservative” roots. Tara Setmayer in 2018 proudly claimed that her principles as a conservative remained intact. However, it is worth noting that neither Tara’s CNN profile, the Lincoln Project’s website, nor her Harvard bio mentions the word “conservative.” This discrepancy raises questions about the extent to which the Lincoln Project still aligns with conservative principles or if their focus has shifted entirely towards supporting the Democratic Party.
Lincoln Project “Senior Advisor” Tara Setmayer left the Republican Party after 25 years.
So is there “conservatism” in Tara’s history, other than the fact she was temporarily in that political space? Let’s ask the Internet…
The View’s idea of a “conservative commentator” is apparently a RINO who openly supports Democrats.
Other similar sentiments are expressed across the right-wing ecosystem, and perhaps many can be taken with the proverbial “grain of salt.” But if one tries to find any written matter by Tara Setmayer about her “hard and fast” political or cultural positions, the search comes up empty. No books. No white papers. Come on … even PBS referred to her as a “thought leader!”
The absence of the term “conservative” in their profiles, except for the obvious dig in Tara’s Twitter profile, suggests a departure from their earlier positioning as principled conservatives. Instead, the Lincoln Project seems to have embraced a more partisan approach, which includes rejecting anything or anyone remotely connected to the Republican side of the political aisle. This shift in allegiance and rhetoric may have led them to view their political opponents as enemies rather than engaging in substantive debates about governance and policy.
By fully aligning itself with the Democratic Party, the Lincoln Project has undermined its own credibility as an independent voice and advocates for principled conservatism. This shift towards partisan allegiance hinders their ability to contribute meaningfully to political discourse and foster a diverse range of ideas about how our government should function.
David Harsanyi, National Review: Who Funds the Lincoln Project? Exactly Whom You Expect
The media can keep calling you “Republicans,” but if you support Democrats, take Democratic Party positions, make voting for Democrats all the way down the ticket a binary choice and moral imperative, and then take most of your money from big Democratic Party donors, you’re a Democrat. That’s fine. You should embrace it.
At this point, we’re as much never-Republican as we are anything else,” said Reed Galen, co-founder of the group.
The Lincoln Project is “coordinating” with a larger coalition of Democratic and civil rights groups — including Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight, Senate Majority PAC, the NAACP and BlackPAC — on how “we can be helpful to them either with [polling], staff support or financial support,” Galen said.
This hypocritical aspect of the Lincoln Project was also discussed in my “Hollow-Points” Substack: “Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh my! And naturally the MAGA Extremists” says The Union.”
Unfortunately, folks who’ve taken the Anti-Trump Kool-Aid, like The Lincoln Project, The Union, President Biden, Liz Cheney, and a host of others, don’t believe a word of the above comments. For them, it’s “all or nothing.” There is no “common ground.” For them, they are the Righteous Defenders of Democracy and anyone not in their camp are “Enemy Combatants,” no better than the terrorist extremist prisoners detained by the U.S. government in Guantánamo Bay.
This is not how America is supposed to function. Democracy is not a one-size-fits-all model … it is meant to solve problems faced by the people who subscribe to its tenants. Liberty ensures that individuals can speak their minds and take action without fear of retaliation. If the ideas expressed by one person or a group about how best their government should function are not valid, then they can be rejected by arguments in favor of alternate ideas –– or voting for political candidates who favor their ideas.
Dangerous, Hyperbolic, and False Statements:
One of the criticisms leveled against the Lincoln Project is the presence of dangerous, hyperbolic, sophomoric, and false statements made by its members. These statements do not reflect the demeanor of reasonable and well-intentioned political individuals. Let’s examine some of the quotes from the Lincoln Project gang:
Analyzing the statement by Stuart Stevens about Ron DeSantis, it is important to consider both the truthfulness and potential hyperbole in the statement.
Truthfulness: It is true that Ron DeSantis made a campaign commercial featuring his toddler building a border wall with toy blocks. However, whether this action reflects a lack of character is a subjective judgment that varies from person to person. Some may see it as a political stunt, while others may view it as a reflection of his policy priorities.
Hyperbole: The statement presents DeSantis as “so lacking in character” based on a single action. This can be seen as hyperbolic because character assessment typically requires a more comprehensive understanding of a person’s actions and values.
“This is a man so lacking in character he yelled at teenagers on stage for wearing masks during a pandemic, as they had been instructed to do so by the event organizers.”
Truthfulness: There have been instances where Ron DeSantis has been critical of mask mandates and questioned their effectiveness during the pandemic.
While the vast Liberal ecosystem characterized Ron DeSantis’ reaction to the Hillsborough High School students wearing masks as “yelling, “barking,” “berating,” “bullying,” “snapped,” and “hassled,” what he actually said was: “You do not have to wear those masks. I mean, please take them off. Honestly, it’s not doing anything and we’ve gotta stop with this COVID theater. So if you want to wear it, fine. But this is, this is ridiculous.”
A scientific review — led by 12 researchers from esteemed universities around the world — suggests that widespread masking may have done little to nothing to curb the transmission of COVID-19.
When comparing the use of medical/surgical masks to wearing no masks, the review found that “wearing a mask may make little to no difference in how many people caught a flu-like illness/COVID-like illness (nine studies; 276,917 people); and probably makes little or no difference in how many people have flu/COVID confirmed by a laboratory test (six studies; 13,919 people).”
A study of health-care workers in more than 1,600 hospitals showed that cloth masks only filtered out 3 percent of particles. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine stated, “[W]earing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection” and that “[T]he desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.”
There are many other credible studies showing lack of mask efficacy, such as studies published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, Cambridge University Press, Oxford Clinical Infectious Diseases, and Influenza Journal, just to name a few.
As Evan Donovan observes, he was annoyed … but the video does not show a man yelling. As the Daily Mail correctly states, “Video footage shows the Republican governor instructing the students to take off their masks.”
NEW: @GovRonDeSantis annoyed with USF students—
“You do not have to wear those masks. Please take them off. Honestly, it’s not doing anything. We’ve gotta stop with this Covid theater. So if you wanna wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous.”https://t.co/7j1Pb2hV53 @WFLA pic.twitter.com/ZIOyTHLOh3
— Evan Donovan (@EvanDonovan) March 2, 2022
Maya May (@mayaonstage): Co-Host of “We’re Speaking” on Lincoln Project TV.
We’re a couple of years away from a supreme court ruling that women can no longer wear pants.
— Maya May (@mayaonstage) June 30, 2023
“We’re a couple of years away from a supreme court ruling that women can no longer wear pants” is an extreme and purely baseless prediction that lacks credibility. Such sensationalistic statements undermine serious policy discussions and do not contribute to constructive political discourse. Little more needs to be said regarding this Lincoln Project member.
Jeff Timmer: Senior Advisor, Lincoln Project.
Jeff Timmer is a political strategist who spent 30 years inside the highest levels of the Republican Party, campaigns, and government. No one understands the politics in the critical battleground state of Michigan better than he does. His expertise and insight into elections and Republican behavior appear frequently in broadcast and print news across the country and worldwide.
After pointing out that he was more “Potty mouth” than “strategist,” Timmer decided he didn’t want me following him.
— 𝙳𝚎𝚗𝚗𝚢 𝙾𝚠𝚎𝚗 💯% U̶n̶V̶e̶r̶i̶f̶i̶e̶d̶ (@realdennyowen) February 1, 2022
Timmer has stated that the collusion between the “patriotic” Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee with Russia is an “indisputable fact” and is a misleading assertion. While there were investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election, conclusive evidence of direct collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government has not been established. Making claims without substantial evidence only fuels partisan divisions.
Reminder, GOP pals: Trump 2016 campaign collusion – himself, his family, and organization officials -with the Russians is a fact. https://t.co/LvF56xv0fQ
— Jeff Timmer (@jefftimmer) May 18, 2023
And let’s not fail to mention the Lincoln Project’s BMOC, Rick Wilson.
The Lincoln Project’s Rick Wilson –– the laugh line that keeps on giving.
Like his Twitter feed, the emails are non-stop knee-slappers.
Frederick George “Rick” Wilson has been called many things … sleazy operative, white scumbag, dirty trickster, savvy grifter, ethically repulsive, ex-Republican hit man, and swamp-dweller. But unlike James Gregory, he’s never been called “The funniest man in America.”
Speaking of laugh tracks, have you ever followed Rick Wilson’s Twitter feed? Particularly his one-line responses to critics who jump into his timeline? Well, here’s a sampling of how he responds … and fair warning: it’s just a little creepy.
Here are a few samples (of many). Follow links at your own risk:
And no discussion of Rick Wilson would be complete without these choice words offered by Tim Young at The Washington Times, “How is the Lincoln Project still in business?” –– For people who have willingly given their money to Lincoln Project grifters, the word ‘sucker’ doesn’t go deep enough.
When they’re not pocketing cash, they’re busy being some of the most blatant hypocrites in American politics. When founder Rick Wilson wasn’t busy being mislabeled as an accurate representation of a conservative on CNN and MSNBC, he spent most of his last year attacking President Trump and the GOP for ‘being racist.’ Unfortunately for the sloppy Mr. Wilson, he forgot to clean up piles of tweets disparaging Mexicans and Muslims — and pictures of his ‘South will rise again’ Confederate Flag cooler before going on his long-winded rants.
In conclusion, the presence of dangerous, hyperbolic, sophomoric, and false statements by members of the Lincoln Project undermines their credibility and detracts from substantive political discourse. Such statements often rely on exaggeration, personal attacks, and generalizations, hindering the ability to engage in productive discussions about policy and governance. It is essential to foster a more respectful and evidence-based approach to political dialogue to promote understanding and collaboration among diverse perspectives.
POSTSCRIPT: The Showtime documentary.
The story had the potential for a captivating narrative, rich in drama and intrigue. And then there was this…
Who knows, maybe documentary filmmakers Fisher Stevens and Karim Amer hoped to get the Lincoln Project’s leaders to inadvertently expose themselves as self-important, narcissistic blowhards by following them around with cameras. Certainly, the trailer indicates that this is not quite the straightforward, heroic narrative that the Lincoln Project probably expected it would get when it agreed to the documentary.
“We have the opportunity to save the g****** country,” someone says, shortly before cutting to a voiceover of Wolf Blitzer announcing Biden’s victory in the 2020 election and Democrats celebrating. There’s something spectacularly arrogant about this group, which mostly ran television ads in the Washington, D.C., market designed to get Trump to throw a tantrum on Twitter, implying it was the one who put Joe Biden over the top.
There are some fascinating aspects of the Lincoln Project, but focusing on those aspects wouldn’t make such a flattering documentary. Considering how suddenly and vehemently the likes of Steve Schmidt, John Weaver, and Rick Wilson turned on longtime allies . . . just how committed were those consultants back when they were running the campaigns of GOP candidates? If you can turn on a dime and unleash cannon fire on your old friends, were you ever all that committed to anything? For all the group’s talk about “saving the country,” haven’t these guys proven themselves to be mercenaries?
The Lincoln Project guys may not have been so effective at selling a candidate, but they were indisputable all-stars at selling themselves. Working on those Republican campaigns all those years meant they all had thick rolodexes of reporters and media people, and they offered several big mainstream-media outlets exactly the story that they wanted to hear: Longtime Republican strategists, who worked for the Dark Side of the Force all those years, suddenly had an moral awakening and were ready to redeem themselves by Doing the Right Thing™ and helping elect Democrats. It’s like Severus Snape being a good guy all along!
… the distillation of the Lincoln Project down to its essence: desperate for attention, angry, clumsy, and self-defeating.
Note: (Severus Snape, the mysterious and unforgiving professor in the Harry Potter series.)