Nice work if you can get it

Longtime Iowa Republican consultant Nick Ryan created the Red, White and Blue super-PAC a few months ago to support Rick Santorum’s presidential bid. This week news emerged that the super-PAC has been a huge gravy train for a brand-new company Ryan owns.

In related news, the Federal Election Commission is seeking further information on more than $300,000 Newt Gingrich has received from his own presidential campaign as reimbursements for unitemized expenses.

Nick Ryan got his first big break in Republican circles as a campaign manager for Jim Nussle’s Congressional and gubernatorial races. He is most familiar to Bleeding Heartland readers as the founder of the 501(c)4 organization American Future Fund, which spends millions of dollars to influence federal elections. Ryan also owns the Concordia political consulting firm.

Last summer, Ryan signed on as a consultant with Santorum’s presidential campaign. But oddly, Santorum’s campaign didn’t contract with Concordia for any services.

Ryan didn’t hide his involvement with the Red, White and Blue PAC when that super-PAC started running pro-Santorum television commercials a few weeks before the Iowa caucuses. But instead of having the Concordia group provide services to the super-PAC, Ryan secretly created a new company, Global Intermediate, in December. That firm then collected more than $500,000 from the Red, White and Blue Fund in January alone, according to a report by Melanie Mason and Matea Gold for the Los Angeles Times. I highly recommend clicking through to read the whole story. Excerpt:

Several of the major super PACs are being financed by contributions from just a few wealthy donors – as is the case with the Red White and Blue Fund. The pro-Santorum group has raised $2.8 million, largely from investor Foster Friess and energy executive William J. Doré, who each put in $1 million.

A large share of that money appears to have gone back to super PAC founder Ryan, a veteran of congressional campaigns in Iowa, through Global Intermediate.

The company got more than $500,000 for direct mail and phone banks in January, as well as nearly $60,000 for “strategic and communications consulting,” according to FEC filings.

Global Intermediate did not incorporate until mid-December, when it filed paperwork in Delaware through a third-party incorporation service, shielding the identity of the firm’s agent. The group’s bare-bones website, whose domain was registered on Feb. 13, does not list the name of the firm’s principals. The mailing address listed for Global Intermediate on the super PAC’s FEC filings turned out to be the location of a UPS store in downtown Washington.

Ryan did not respond to requests for comment.

Red White and Blue Fund spokesman Stuart Roy, when asked about the firm on Tuesday, first said he had “no idea” how to contact Global Intermediate.

On Wednesday afternoon, he acknowledged in an e-mail that the company was run by Ryan, saying it was “no big mystery, they have done our phones and mail programs in multiple states (very effectively, I might add).”

Jennifer Jacobs picked up the story for the Des Moines Register yesterday, citing FEC reports that show the super-PAC has paid Global Intermediate a total of $1,213,408 so far. That makes Ryan’s company the second-largest recipient of Red, White and Blue funds. The largest is the Virginia company SRCP Media, which has produced and placed television advertising for the super-PAC. From Jacobs’ story:

[Nick] Ryan on Tuesday directed questions about Global Intermediate to the PAC’s spokesman Stuart Roy, who didn’t return emails requesting information about Global’s activities or Ryan’s role. Ryan later said he runs a mail and phone company, and was puzzled by why The Des Moines Register was reporting on it. […]

Federal records show Ryan’s political consulting company, Concordia, has yet to take a fee from Red White & Blue or the Santorum campaign. […]

There are no restrictions on how super PACs spend their money, said Paul S. Ryan, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group.

“They can buy themselves yachts and sail off into the sunset without spending a penny on campaign ads,” Paul Ryan said. “My mantra is: Donor beware. There is no guarantee that the money is going to be used in a way that the donor intends that money to be used.”

[…]

Just 47 days passed between when Ryan left the Santorum campaign and when he created the PAC.

The law calls for a cooling off period of 120 days, but that’s violated only if the former campaign worker uses information obtained from the campaign when creating advertisements, Paul Ryan said. Former campaign aides can work for a PAC, they just have to be careful about the activities they’re engaged in, he said.

According to Jacobs, Ryan resigned his formal consulting role with the Santorum campaign on August 15 and created the Red, White and Blue Fund on October 1. Since then, about a quarter of the super-PAC’s total spending has gone to the Global Intermediate firm. By steering the phone and direct-mail services to Global Intermediate rather than to the Concordia Group, Ryan appears to have been trying to conceal the super-PAC’s role as a giant revenue stream for his company.

Speaking of giant revenue streams, can you imagine how a presidential candidate could rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in reimbursable expenses over a few months? Neither can FEC officials who have been trying since September to get more details from Newt Gingrich’s campaign. Luke Rosiak’s report for the Washington Times is a must-read. Gingrich’s campaign has refused to provide the FEC with any itemized reports on more than $300,000 Gingrich received to reimburse travel expenses. Other campaign staff have received hundreds of thousands more dollars to reimburse expenses that likewise are not itemized in any FEC filings.

I am not aware of any previous presidential candidate making that much money from his own campaign. Perhaps Gingrich (speaking as a historian) can enlighten us all.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that Jill Latham, who advised Santorum’s presidential campaign in Iowa and took a national role with the campaign shortly after the Iowa caucuses, is a “Principal” in the Concordia Group. Santorum’s political action committee brought on both Ryan and Latham as advisers in January 2011.

So Santorum’s campaign gave a senior position to someone who has worked closely with Ryan for years at the same time that the pro-Santorum super-PAC (established by Ryan) was paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to Ryan’s latest business venture.

SECOND UPDATE: Jennifer Jacobs reported over the weekend that Santorum backers were the main contributors to a super-PAC created in December to publicize Bob Vander Plaats’ personal endorsement of Santorum for president.

On Dec. 20, Vander Plaats and Family Leader colleague Chuck Hurley held a news conference to trumpet their endorsement of Santorum.

The next day, a super PAC called Leaders for Families was created by Hurley and two Family Leader board members, Dave Kutscher and Steve Boender.

“That was really the purpose of the super PAC – to raise enough money to advertise the fact of Bob’s endorsement to as many people as possible in that short window of time between that endorsement and the caucuses,” Hurley said in an interview.

Within days, their new PAC had $150,000, Federal Elections Commission records show.

The Red, White and Blue Fund super-PAC donated $75,000 to the FAMILY Leader PAC, while Foster Friess gave $50,000 and a Florida developer who supports Santorum gave $25,000.

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