- The Washington Times - Monday, October 16, 2006

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.

Unanswered questions

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.

Mr. Constantine also is treasurer and chief financial officer for Declaration Alliance, the Declaration Alliance PAC Inc. (DAPAC) and the Declaration Foundation, another Virginia-based, tax-exempt organization headed by Mr. Keyes. He also was the accountant for Mr. Keyes’ 2004 senatorial race in Illinois.

Mr. Shafton described Mr. Constantine as a “highly competent accountant with vast experience in the operation of political action committees” but said that he, along with Mr. Simcox and Mary Parker Lewis decide which candidates to endorse and financially support.

Mrs. Lewis is president and chief operating officer at Politechs Inc., a Los Angeles-based political consulting firm.

He said the three agreed a few months ago on a list of potential candidates the PAC could support and then put its money “where we could make a difference.”

Mr. Shafton also is president of Mountaintop Media Inc., a political consulting firm that received more than $141,000 in Minuteman PAC funds through early September. The money was used to advertise fundraisers for Republican House candidates Tim Walberg in Michigan; Sharron Angle, who lost a House primary in Nevada; and former State Rep. Randy Graf in Arizona.

Mrs. Lewis, who serves as a key adviser to the MCDC, is a top official in several of the tax-exempt fundraising organizations chaired or founded by Mr. Keyes. She served as chief of staff during his failed 1996 and 2000 presidential races and in his unsuccessful 2004 senatorial race against Barack Obama in Illinois.

She also is executive director of the Declaration Foundation and chief of staff at Renew America, another tax-exempt fundraising organization founded by Mr. Keyes. She also is president and chief executive officer at DAPAC, according to FEC records.

Sharing the wealth

Several current and former Minuteman members and supporters told The Washington Times that they have been deluged with requests for money from various conservative organizations since the Minuteman PAC was formed.

Response Unlimited, which calls itself the “best and most comprehensive source of mailing lists for conservative and Christian mailers and telemarketers,” offers the names and contact information of Minuteman donors for $120 for 1,000 names. The Waynesboro, Va., firm, headed by Christian right activist Philip Zodhiates, also has an “exclusive contract” with the Declaration Foundation.

Mrs. Lewis introduced Mr. Simcox and Minuteman founder James Gilchrist to Mr. Keyes during a meeting in Washington shortly after they began the Minuteman Project in Arizona in April 2005. She later was instrumental in getting the Minuteman leaders to agree to let Virginia-based Diener Consulting Inc. put together its “media plan.”

Mr. Keyes, in a written statement, said his “declaration organizations” became involved with MCDC in early 2005, “believing that border security is a fundamental issue affecting American national security, sovereignty and public safety.”

He said he has sought to do “all in my power to assist the Minutemen’s growth into a national civic movement as quickly as possible.”

“I have full faith and confidence in the professionals who are responsible for ensuring that the declaration organizations adhere to all statutory obligations in our efforts assisting the Minuteman mission,” he said.

The Minuteman PAC’s “statement of organization,” filed with the FEC on June 16, lists its address as 2400 Earlsgate Court in Reston — the same one listed in FEC documents for Declaration Foundation, Declaration Alliance, DAPAC and RightMarch.com, which raised $500,000 for Mr. Keyes’ 2004 senatorial campaign and helps raise Minuteman donations through a link on its Web site to Declaration Alliance.

RightMarch.com is headed by conservative activist William Greene. The group’s media director, Phil Sheldon, is president of Diener Consulting. Diener Consulting not only handles media relations for MCDC but a Diener official, Peter Kunz, manages the Minuteman border fence project.

Mr. Sheldon also is involved with Response Enterprises, which collects Minuteman PAC donations. It also is tied to Mr. Keyes’ declaration foundations.

The Minuteman PAC, initially listed as the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps PAC Inc., changed its name in August to the Declaration Alliance Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. PAC Inc., when Mr. Constantine filed an amended statement of organization with the FEC.

In addition to Mr. Graf, the Minuteman PAC also contributed $1,000 each directly to Republican Reps. John Hostettler of Indiana, Steve King of Iowa and Tom Tancredo of Colorado, Mr. Gilchrist, who lost a congressional race in California.

The committee also has targeted 25 Senate and House Democrats for defeat in 2006 as part of its “battle plan” to recruit, endorse and financially support candidates. The targeted Democrats include Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Dianne Feinstein of California, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania.

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