— voiceover lincoln project adwhich premiered on September 8
The Lincoln Project, formed by a group of disaffected Republicans, liked to stab former President Donald Trump with a needle.
The group said the ad, which aired on cable in Bedminster, New Jersey, sparked a backlash from the former president, who has a home there. The ad asserts that Trump’s claim that he stole the 2020 election was just a money-raising mechanism — “the biggest scam in political history” — designed to deprive his supporters — “a fool’s game” — because Trump is pocketing money to support his business and maintain his standard of living.
In a post on his social media platform, Trump threatened to sue Fox News for allowing the ad to run, despite the local ad buying being made directly with the cable company.
“This is the ad that angered Trump this morning,” the group said gleefully tweetreceived at least 41,000 retweets and over 109,000 likes.
But is there evidence to support its core claim that Trump has embezzled donor money for his own benefit?
We first examined the campaign finance records of two Trump-led PACs, Save America PAC and Make America Great Again PAC. Trump, of course, has been hoarding money in the rescue of America’s PAC, sitting on about $100 million in cash with relatively small donations to fellow Republicans. (Leadership PACs are often used to raise funds to support other politicians.)
But we can’t find any evidence to support the claim that every dollar you send him is used to maintain his shady business empire and lavish lifestyle.
The Save America PAC created by Trump after his 2020 election defeat has cost about $36 million, according to OpenSecrets.org. The money appears to be mostly used for fundraising efforts such as overhead, attorney fees, salaries and online advertising. MAGA PAC, a joint fundraising committee between the presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee, has seen its most recent spending largely relate to past presidential campaigns, such as attorneys’ fees.
One might argue that Trump should pay the lawyer out of his own pocket, rather than using donor money. But he made it clear in some fundraising emails that he wanted to help protect himself from a Justice Department investigation into classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago club. “Donate now to publicly support me against this never-ending witch hunt,” an email said.
The Washington Post and other news organizations reported this week that the Justice Department is seeking details on the formation and operation of the rescue U.S. PAC. But so far, the investigation appears to be related to the ongoing criminal investigation on January 6, 2021, the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election — not whether funds were misused.
We rely on the abstracts created by OpenSecrets because the July filing of the Save America PAC with the Federal Election Commission was nearly 50,000 pages long. Presumably, if there was something suspicious lurking deep within these documents, the Lincoln Project would have discovered it.
As a result, we have repeatedly contacted a spokesperson for the Lincoln Project via email, requesting evidence to support the advertising’s claims. We have not received any reply.
Then we called Rick Wilson, co-founder of the Lincoln Project, and he posted a video On Thursday, Trump dared to live up to his threat of prosecution. “Come to me. I can’t wait,” he said. “We’re glad you’re trying to sue us, Donald. Go for it!”
Wilson answered our call, but when he heard we had questions about the accuracy of the ad, he replied that he was about to answer a Zoom call and hung up. Then he also didn’t respond to text messages or emails.
Um. Experience has taught us that when ad makers refuse us to provide factual support for their claims, they often have nothing to offer.
We emailed the treasurers of both PACs to verify that Trump was not embezzling funds for personal gain, but received no response. “Save America PAC has been committed to supporting candidates and causes that advance President Trump’s America First agenda,” Trump spokesman Tyler Budovich said in a statement.
Regular readers know that the burden of proof falls on the individual or entity making the claim. We sought to verify the ad’s allegations that “every dollar” Trump raised from his supporters was diverted for personal and business purposes. In fact, little of the money he raised has been spent, and so far there is no evidence that he manipulated them for his own benefit.
When asked to support these claims, Lincoln Project officials avoided or ignored our inquiries. This leaves us with little confidence that there is any evidence to support advertising claims.
As we have well documented, Trump has a habit of making inflammatory claims without evidence. But that didn’t give his opponent permission to use the same script. The Lincoln Project won four of Pinocchio.
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