The recent attacks by Drew and Jim Ryun on Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), and others, led me to wonder why Republicans would be fighting each other during a time that requires unity. Drew and Jim Ryun, together with Daniel Horowitz, run the Madison Project, which the media has recently touted as a leading conservative and Tea Party organization. My affinity for anything related to James Madison led me to want to learn more about them. But unbeknownst to its donors, Madison Project is spending money in questionable ways, similar to those of other PACs which have recently faced media scrutiny.
According to its website, the Madison Project gives money and support to conservative candidates who “clearly demonstrate their conservatism.” They are a very value-based, but practical, organization, stating their “endorsements are only extended to key competitive races which have a strong conservative candidate with the ability to win.”
Its chairman is former Congressman and three-time Olympian Jim Ryun (R-Kansas). Its political director is former RNC staffer and former ACLJ Director of Government Affairs Drew Ryun. Daniel Horowitz, a Redstate contributor, is its policy director. Ned Ryun, head of American Majority, is Jim Ryun’s son. Several months ago, American Majority went all-out in an attack against Speaker John Boehner, so it is unsurprising that the Madison Project also frequently berates the speaker.
Lately, the Madison Project has fervently attacked elected Republicans, and supported their primary challengers. It has attacked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) almost daily, often referring to him as a “RINO” (Republican in name only), and implying that he is conspiring with Democrats and President Obama — a ridiculous charge, as McConnell has spearheaded efforts against Obamacare for years. McConnell is also supported by “the most popular Tea Party politician in the state, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.),” as well as “two national Tea Party organizations: the Tea Party Nation and TheTeaParty.net.” The Madison Project recently endorsed McConnell’s primary challenger, Matt Bevin, who has also bizarrely accused McConnell of "working behind the scenes" to stop the defunding of Obamacare.
Bevin has many demons of his own, some of which show he is not as conservative as he claims. This baggage-laden candidate was director of product management at a division of Invesco from 2001-2002. The SEC found that Invesco “participated in a market-timing scheme from 2001 to 2003,” for which the company eventually paid “$325 million in disgorgement and penalties.” Bevin claimed no knowledge of this. Bevin also used around $200,000 in government grants to rebuild his Connecticut-based bell-making company, “Bevin Bros.,” when it burned down. Conservatives ought to stand against handing out government money to private companies, so Bevin’s work history may be a red flag about how conservative he is in practice. It is strange that a stringently conservative organization such as the Madison Project would support him so strongly.
According to FEC filings, the Madison Project’s expenditures between January 1 and June 30, 2013 included hefty salaries for its staff and almost nonexistent expenditures for candidates. In almost all cases, expenditures for staff are classified as “consulting.” In these six months, Madison Project paid Jim Ryun over $22,000 (around $3,700 per month), Drew Ryun over $27,000 (around $4,500 per month), and Daniel Horowitz over $18,000 (over $3,000 per month). Hundreds of thousands more was spent on postage, mailing, hotel, airfare, and other similar expenses. The numbers from the 2012 election cycle are similar. These numbers are unusually high when compared to the expenditures of most political action committees.
The FEC website shows that the Madison's Project's contributions to committees amounted to only $63,500. Of that, $40,000 went to Madison Action Fund and Madison Project MI PAC, both of which are affiliated with Madison Project. Madison Project claims to have the primary purpose of supporting conservative candidates. However, it only gave $6,000 to six candidates ($1,000 each). This raises a lot of questions about what Madison Project is actually doing with its donors’ money.
An onlooker unfamiliar with standard PAC practices may not realize the significance of these numbers. For perspective, Sarah Palin’s PAC has recently faced substantial media scrutiny for its expenditures. Sarah PAC only donated $5,000 to one candidate in the first six months of 2013. Meanwhile, it spent tens of thousands on consultants. Many pundits have criticized SarahPAC for doling out several thousand dollars each month to consultants – just like Madison Project is doing.
One is left to wonder whether their donors know how much of their contributions are going to employees' own salaries and other Madison Project affiliates. Many Republicans want to make changes within the party. Some want a more conservative party, and others, a more moderate party. Honest efforts to change America for the better are noble. However, it's fair to wonder whether Madison Project is an honest effort – or just a ploy for money.
(Note: In order to see these statistics, go to http://www.fec.gov/fecviewer/CandidateCommitteeDetail.do#1, type in “Madison Project” in the search engine in the middle of the page, and click “get listing.” Click on the ID number “C00298000,” for “Madison Project Inc.” Once there, you will see an overview of their finances. To see their expenditures, click on “Other Federal Operating Expenditures.”)