by Doctor Science
the bottom 10 performing PACs we researched spent $54,318,498 overall and only paid out $3,621,896 to candidates-- less than 7%.
My theory about why American conservativism has more of a problem with scams than liberalism is two-fold:
- "Demand Side": conservatives are more loyal, and are thus better marks for affinity scams of all kinds.
- "Supply Side": Conservatives believe very strongly in capitalism and in making money, so conservative political operatives are much more likely than liberals to feel they deserve to make a lot of money for their political work.
The Right Wing News report supports both halves of my theory.
On the "supply side": John Hawkins, owner of Right Wing News, says
I hired an experienced researcher, Jay Batman, to do an in-depth 170 page report on 21 big name conservative groups that we selected.The article summarizes this report but doesn't link to it, and it includes a table of the results -- in the form of an image, so you can't easily copy/paste the data and play with it yourself.
I hope and even expect that there are people on the liberal side doing similar research on left-leaning PACs, to see how much of their money goes to its intended purpose. What I *don't* expect is that such a report would be 170 pages long and privately held (for paying customers, I guess). Even if the work was done by an "experienced researcher", it would be presented in a transparent way, so that even small donors could see what it's based on.
But Hawkins is working from an American conservative mindset, which values money and the things you get with money very highly. So he expects to get good research only by paying for it (instead of crowd-sourcing, which would be the usual approach at, say, dailykos.com) -- and then once he's paid for the research, he expects to own it, to share it only with people who pay him in turn.
Hawkins is thinking like a businessman, like an entrepreneur -- and these days American business is deeply grift-ridden. Just look at the securitized used car loans russell posted about. However far apart they are in theory, it turns out that in practice there is a *very* fine line between "grifting" and "capitalist individualism".
For the "demand side" of the PAC problem, look at Erick Erickson's response to the Right Wing News story. Erickson deeply appreciates the work Hawkins did (=paid for), but
Unfortunately, I think its report also gets a lot wrong and one of the problems we are going to have moving forward is, like with the label RINO, labeling groups as scam PACs just because we don't like them. I find it very unfortunate that groups like FreedomWorks, Madison Project, Senate Conservatives Fund, and Club For Growth are lumped in with other clear scam PACs that have not, to date, gotten candidates elected.I don't know if Erickson has actually looked at the Madison Project's expenditures:
... Now, in full disclosure, Madison Project; FreedomWorks; Tea Party Patriots; and Senate Conservatives Fund have, in the past sponsored the RedState Gathering. Several of the groups listed by Right Wing News are groups I have specifically refused to allow sponsorship of the RedState Gathering because I do not trust the groups. One of the groups listed has been a prior sponsor and I have ensured it will not happen again.
I also have great relations with and am a donor to Club For Growth, Madison Project and the Senate Conservatives Fund. In fact, in routine conversations I tell people regularly that there are very few groups on the right I give money to because I know it will get spent wisely. That list almost exclusively is the Senate Conservatives Fund [RWN report efficiency: 22%, though with a footnote], Madison Project [6%], Club for Growth [88%], FreedomWorks [42%], and Heritage Action for America (HAFA) [not studied] — the five groups that have put more points on the board for conservatives in the past few years than any others.
but the only way he can call this "spending money wisely" is by being reflexively loyal. Erickson has promoted them, he's bonded with them, he *trusts* them -- and he's not going to give up that trust easily, even in the face of such evidence.
This is what affinity fraud looks like. There are certainly affinity-fraudsters on the left, but there don't seem to be as many of them -- and I think it's because trust and loyalty aren't as central to liberals' moral sense as they are for conservatives.
But I think we're seeing that loyalty and capitalism are antithetical values, and trying to combine them is a game for suckers. Literally.