A political action committee created by the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, whose financial accountability has been challenged by MCDC members, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to support Republican candidates — much of it through private companies with ties to conservative activist Alan Keyes.
Claiming access to 500,000 households nationwide, the Minuteman PAC has pledged to do what it can financially to help elect “committed and principled conservative leaders” — citing as examples MCDC President Chris Simcox and Mr. Keyes.
“Our intent is to secure our borders, and we are hoping to influence the elections to get that done,” said Rick Shafton, a political consultant in Sparta, N.J., who recently signed on as spokesman for the Minuteman PAC. “The Minuteman movement has proven to be very popular across the country, and it is raising a lot of money.”
According to the most recent Federal Election Commission (FEC) records, the Minuteman PAC spent $240,000 through the first week of September on eight congressional campaigns, although just $5,000 was direct candidate contributions.
The FEC records also show that about 60 percent of the Minuteman PAC’s expenditures through early September went to private companies — several with ties to a labyrinth of Virginia-based tax-exempt charities and fundraising groups founded or headed by Mr. Keyes. The money was used for direct-mail fundraisers, telemarketing programs, advertising campaigns and disbursement fees for four candidates.
The Minuteman PAC spent nearly $88,000 through early September on its own operations, including fees to many of the Keyes-aligned private firms to collect and disburse donations and do direct-mail fundraising, the FEC records show. Other PAC money went to Web site construction, bank charges, salaries and advertising.
The committee claims to be a “membership-only” organization, reporting to the FEC through its sponsor, Declaration Alliance, a tax-exempt Virginia-based charity founded by Mr. Keyes. It calls itself the “political counterpart” to MCDC, and the vast majority of those who contributed money listed themselves as “retired.”
MCDC is a “project” of the Declaration Alliance, according to its Web page, and donations to it — the amount of which has never been disclosed publicly or to its own membership — are routed through the tax-exempt charity.
Few MCDC volunteers know what the Declaration Alliance does or why Minuteman donations are collected by it. Several have questioned the wisdom of ceding control over fundraising to the organization, and others have raised concerns about what happened to hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars in donations collected by MCDC.
Although Mr. Simcox estimated during a July interview that MCDC had collected $1.6 million at that time in donations, his numbers could not be independently verified. The MCDC has not made any financial statements or fundraising records public since its April 2005 creation. It also has not given the Minuteman leadership, its volunteers or donors any official accounting.
Queried about the Minuteman PAC, Mr. Simcox declined to respond to written questions concerning the organization or its involvement with Declaration Alliance. Instead, he challenged The Washington Times’ understanding of political action committees.
“You obviously need to learn more about how PACs work and the FEC requirements. Many of your questions don’t make sense and show your lack of understanding,” he said. “Thanks for the heads up on what will no doubt be your next hit piece on the MCDC movement. Who put you up to this, Karl Rove and Bush?”
All in the family
Mr. Simcox is listed on the Minuteman PAC’s Web site, www.minutemanpac.com, as the honorary chairman and is the only person publicly identified with the committee, but FEC records show it is headed by a longtime Keyes associate, Reston, Va., accountant William L. Constantine. No other officers are listed.