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12/14/2011

McOdd: Brian Brown's ActRight site engaged in curious activity

by Jeremy Hooper

Screen Shot 2011-12-14 At 12.50.02 PmSo you remember ActRight.com, National Organization For Marriage president Brian Brown's highly partisan spinoff project designed to send funds to Republican candidates? Well this morning, I was poking around the ActRight PAC's financial forms and noticed a crazy amount of donations to Rep. Thaddeus McCotter's failed pres. campaign bid/current House re-election, beginning around the July monthly report. That seemed weird, since McCotter is really not all that high profile. Though the Congressman is a Catholic who supports NOM's (Catholic) values on most issues and he did appear alongside NOM on a recent "Values Bus" tour, so the donations did seem curious. Curious enough to pursue further.

Screen Shot 2011-12-14 At 11.51.22 AmI was first able to verify that the man who spearheads the ActRight project with Brian Brown -- NOM operative Darian Rafie, head of two companies with hands in ActRight, RBM Strategies and Bep Interactive -- is in fact a McCotter supporter. Then I learned that another person who worked on designing ActRight.com, Jerry Capozzoli, also helped create McCotter2012.com, Rep. McCotter's official website, first for his now-defunct presidential bid and now for his re-election to Congress. So the connections were clearly there, but it still didn't explain why so many people chose Brian Brown's highly under the radar site as their place for McCotter donations.

So I next went to McCotter2012.com, thinking I might find something there. But there was nothing obvious. Searching the site, I found no transparent calls for supporters to use the NOM president's pet project. Looking at the contribution page embedded within the site, I found nothing more than a standard issue donation form that looks like a million others. It seemed like it's just a way to contribute directly to the candidate. Nothing more, nothing less:

Screen Shot 2011-12-14 At 12.02.26 Pm
[McCotter2012/Contribute]

Oh, but wait, I thought. Maybe I should check the code on the donation page before leaving. Maybe something will turn up there? It's unlikely -- but hmm, let's see:

Screen Shot 2011-12-14 At 12.04.55 Pm

Well there she is! Right there in the code, I found what I was looking for: The reason why the FEC pages on ActRight are so much more active than they would be otherwise. That reason: Because all of Rep. McCotter's standard website donations are trickling through Brian Brown's ActRight.com page! Without the donor's knowledge, this is happening. There is no note in the footer or anywhere else on the page letting the donor know that he or she is giving through the NOM's president's site. It's just happening, with only those curious enough to look at the code (i.e. me and maybe one other person) ever knowing what's going on.

So why does this matter, you ask? Well, because like all projects, ActRight is going to have to eventually show that it's a viable property. Right now, the site is touting its ability to fundraise on behalf of McCotter as a top, active campaign:

Screen Shot 2011-12-14 At 12.11.38 Pm
[ActRight.com LeaderBoard]

But how many of these people actually intended to use ActRight? And how many more will donate before Rep. McCotter (or another candidate that implements the same tactic) reaches his election day. If this pattern continues, then around the 2012 election, Brian Brown can position himself as a GOP power player who deserves major courting by major candidates. So if I had to guess the strategy here (done either with or without Rep McCotter's knowledge/compliance), I would say that it's basically an attempt to ratchet up ActRight/Brian's viability within the GOP.

If nothing else, it's yet another example of NOM-related shadiness. That's always worth putting on record.

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