November 1, 2016
On his way to winning the Republican nomination for Missouri governor this summer, former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens got reinforcements from two federal super PACs entirely funded by non-profits, effectively blocking disclosure of who put millions of dollars behind his campaign. The non-profits behind the super PACs both have connections to an infamous dark money network and even share a common officer, suggesting there could be additional coordination behind the scenes.
One of the super PACs, SEALs for Truth, directly funded Greitens’ campaign, giving $1.975 million on July 18, at the time a record-breaking contribution in a state where corporations can make unlimited campaign contributions. The source of SEALs for Truth’s money, however, was a mystery until last month when the super PAC filed its October quarterly report with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). A non-profit called the American Policy Coalition Inc was the sole funder, giving $2 million on July 18, the same day the super PAC contributed to Greitens’ campaign.
The other super PAC, LG PAC, ran ads bashing Greitens’ opponents, John Brunner and former House Speaker Catherine Hanaway. One of LG PAC’s ads even defended “war hero” Greitens against a “smear campaign” by another shadily financed super PAC. According to LG PAC’s FEC filings, the super PAC spent more than $4 million on media between June 1 and July 29. Over that same period, the super PAC received $4.37 million, all from a non-profit called Freedom Frontier.
A man named John Jude is affiliated with both the American Policy Coalition and Freedom Frontier. According to Kentucky corporate record, Jude is a director and treasurer of the American Policy Coalition, which was formerly known as BluegrassVotes.org.
Jude is also listed as the principal officer of Freedom Frontier on the group’s 2014 tax return.
Though Jude is the closest connection between the two non-disclosing groups, the American Policy Coalition and Freedom Frontier have additional ties.
For instance, the American Policy Coalition’s secretary, according to Kentucky filings, is a lawyer named David R. Langdon, whose Ohio law firm claims to “have expertise regarding the ability of 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations to engage in permitted election activities, and in issues relating to affiliations among tax-exempt entities, such as groups that utilize charitable, social welfare, and 527 organizations.” As CREW has previously written, Langdon is at the center of a dark money network, linked together by a group of operatives, non-profits, and super PACs.
Freedom Frontier has its own ties to that network. IRS records show that the group has also done business as Citizens for a Secure Community. In 2012, Citizens for a Secure Community intervened in the Wilmington, DE mayoral race with direct mail pieces praising one candidate and bashing the other. At the time, The News Journal confirmed that Texas corporate records revealed that an Ohio consultant named James Nathanson was a director of the group.
Langdon and Nathanson have both worked with another group in the past. One of the many non-profits Langdon has been involved with is the Jobs and Progress Fund, an organization against which CREW has filed IRS and Justice Department complaints for its political activity. Langdon was listed as the group’s treasurer on its fiscal year 2012 tax return. The same return listed Nathanson as Jobs and Progress Fund’s former secretary and executive director, who resigned in 2012.
The two may still be working together. Nathanson is also the executive director of Freedom Vote, another Ohio organization against which CREW has filed an IRS complaint. This election cycle, both Freedom Vote and the American Policy Coalition have contributed significant sums to Fighting for Ohio Fund, the super PAC supporting Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-OH) re-election efforts, with Freedom Vote giving $1.975 million and the American Policy Coalition giving $75,000.
Two other groups in the Langdon dark money network have contributed to the Fighting for Ohio Fund so far this year: Citizens for a Working America, Inc and the Government Integrity Fund, another recipient of a CREW complaint. Interestingly, the address listed for the American Policy Coalition on Fighting for Ohio Fund’s FEC reports is one the Government Integrity Fund has used in the past.
Citizens for a Working America, which made independent expenditures supporting Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in his primary, also contributed to Security is Strength PAC. That super PAC, which is supporting Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), also got money from Freedom Frontier.
The pro-Ayotte super PAC has a familiar legal team: Langdon Law.