“This horde of new Muslims may be quiet for now,” the fundraising e-mail cautioned. “But they are simply doing what the mullahs in their mosques are telling them: Keep quiet, keep your heads down, collect your welfare checks, have lots of babies and try not to chop off your daughter’s head in an honor killing so the Americans won’t wise up to our rapidly growing numbers.”
It’s not clear that there are actually many new Muslim immigrants (the Wikipedia page cited by the group in related fundraising materials says there are 2.6 million Muslims in America), but the Tea Party Army’s message describes a secret plan to install Sharia law. Tea Party Army’s proposed solution?
Pay them to send faxes to members of Congress demanding action to stop it. For $11, Tea Party Army will fax a form letter written in the payer’s name to all 38 members of the House Judiciary committee. For $35, Tea Party Army will fax all 435 members of the House. Clearly anticipating elderly people will be on the receiving end of this opportunity, Tea Party Army advertises cheaper rates to send the faxes for seniors — $2 off.
Besides being provocative — even in an era of fundraising appeals that often seem hysterical — the offer to send mass faxes seems archaic. But it’s not the only unusual thing about Tea Party Army PAC. It hasn’t raised vast sums of money this cycle — just $25,054, as of Sept. 30 — but every last dime of the money raised has come from donors who gave less than $200 and every last dime has been paid to a firm run by the man who signs the fundraising appeals as the Tea Party Army’s founder: Charles Benninghoff.
This might be less notable if it weren’t for the fact that Tea Party Army is another in a long string of organizations tied to Benninghoff, or a close cadre of associates, that seem to specialize in raising money off conservative themes of the moment and then go on to pay this same small group of people almost all of the money raised.
For example, all of Tea Party Army’s funds were paid to a consulting firm called Grassroots Campaign Creations, Ltd., which is based at the same address as the super PAC itself, and which owns the faxing “technology” used to power Tea Party Army’s pay-to-protest service. Guess what? Benninghoff is the listed president of the consulting firm, according to Nevada state corporate records — just as he is for Tea Party Army and Pray For Us (another nonprofit that encourages people to pay the group to fax various offices on a variety of hot-button issues).
While it’s not uncommon for a small number of firms or highly sought-after insiders to be heavily involved with many campaigns, Benninghoff is a disbarred attorney who, in 1999, pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns and lying on loan applications, and was sentenced to one year in prison. He is not well-known in political circles and Grassroots Campaign Creations is not a firm that’s widely used by campaigns or other political committees. In fact, it has been hired by only one other group — a PAC called Republican Majority Campaign, whose listed treasurer is a man named Randy Goodwin.
Republican Majority Campaign, a name which implies it is directly involved in helping win a Republican majority, has a vague website that lacks any names or specific promises to act. Despite being thin on details, it has raised $3.7 million this election cycle. A grand total of $250 of that was donated to the campaign of a federal candidate (Kirk Jorgensen, an also-ran in California’s 54th Congressional District) and $1,620 was spent on independent expenditures supporting federal candidates (phone calls talking up a second-tier candidate in Alaska’s Senate race).
Much of the remaining $3.8 million spent this cycle (more was spent than was raised) was divided between a handful of vendors and closely related political committees:
- $10,000 was donated to Justice-PAC, of which Goodwin is the treasurer
- $3.3 million was paid to the vaguely named firm Political Advertising, of Mesa, Ariz.
- $85,000 was paid directly to Goodwin
- $49,000 was paid to a Nevada company, Landslide Communications
- $16,100 was paid to Grassroots Campaign Creations
- $36,000 was paid to a California attorney named Gary Kreep.
At that time, Washington Times investigative reporter Luke Rosiak detailed the super PAC’s interactions with a firm known for selling “sucker lists” — email fundraising lists that target a donor demographic that includes “middle-class tea partyers, including those who only recently became acquainted with the political world. Their most common occupation is retiree, records show.”
Benninghoff did not respond to requests for comment.