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The Minuteman Political Action Committee proclaims on its website that it’s furiously advancing “2008 Project PushBack,” a supposedly full-scale effort to help reelect members of Congress who’ve pledged to crack down on immigrants who are in the country illegally. “Minuteman PAC has quickly become THE ONE Political Action Committee that the open-borders, pro-amnesty lobby fears most,” writes the committee’s executive director, Brett Farley. “And fear us they should!”
Despite all the brash rhetoric, however, the committee appears to be concentrating more on raising money than affecting the political process. Although the Minuteman PAC has spent nearly $1.3 million so far in the 2007-08 election cycle, less than 2% of that money has gone directly to candidates running for office, according to the latest data released by the Federal Election Commission and compiled by OpenSecrets.org. Instead, the vast majority has been spent on operating expenses, mostly direct mail fundraisers, Internet services and accounting work.
Political action committees, known as PACs, are private groups that raise money to elect political candidates. They’re subject to strict reporting guidelines.
The Minuteman PAC was established in December 2005 as the political action arm of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), a nativist extremist group whose members have conducted armed patrols of the border. MCDC’s embattled leader, Chris Simcox, has for the past two years faced a barrage of criticism (here and here) from within the anti-immigration movement concerning allegations of financial mismanagement and questionable fundraising practices.
As the latest FEC filing reveals, Simcox has not only managed to keep MCDC together, but also to raise some big money. As of this June 30, the Minuteman PAC had taken in over $1.2 million during the current election cycle but made direct contributions to only two candidates: $5,000 to Duncan Hunter, a California Republican who’s running for his father’s seat in the House of Representatives, and $10,000 to Bill Greene, a Georgia Republican who lost a bid for Congress in a special election held last year. (Although PACs are barred from giving more than $5,000 to a single candidate per election, the Minuteman PAC made two $5,000 contributions to Greene that were earmarked for separate elections: the special election and a runoff that’s held if no candidate receives a majority of votes.)
Last week, Simcox took a break from blogging about his group’s latest border venture, “Operation Imminent Threat,” to respond to an E-mail insinuating that the PAC isn’t giving enough to candidates. In a long, sometimes rambling post that mocked his critic, Simcox sounded pessimistic about the PAC’s ability to influence the November election — which he said would result in a Congress and executive branch “more hostile to our Minuteman agenda” — and asserted that donor education and expanding the donor pool are also important goals.
“A political action committee is not necessarily specifically in business to give money to candidates,” he wrote, “and this is especially not the priority if the limited contributions allowable under federal law cannot change the outcome of the election.”