Generational Wealth: Lincoln Project Executive Director Hires Son (Just Like Trump)

Fred Wellman / YouTube screenshot
October 2, 2021

The Lincoln Project, a left-wing super PAC that ran numerous ads criticizing former president Donald Trump for hiring his children, is dabbling in nepotism, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

The Lincoln Project's most recent financial disclosure reveals that Hunter Wellman, son of executive director Fred Wellman, is on the organization's payroll and earning roughly $60,000 per year. The younger Wellman does not appear to have any previous political experience. He has never been paid by a campaign that files with the FEC before joining his father at the Lincoln Project.

The nepotism is in keeping with Lincoln Project cofounder Steve Schmidt's desire to turn the super PAC into a vehicle for "generational wealth."

The Wellman family could certainly use the money. As the Free Beacon reported, Fred Wellman filed for bankruptcy five months before joining the Lincoln Project as executive director in January 2021. Records show Wellman is a paid a salary of at least $165,000 annually and received $50,000 for "administrative services" within months of accepting the job. During that same period, Hunter Wellman was paid $13,000 for "fundraising consulting."

Wellman, who joined the Lincoln Project in July 2020 as senior adviser for veterans affairs, accepted the promotion to executive director at a particularly fraught time for the organization. The Lincoln Project was embroiled in scandal amid reports that one of its cofounders, John Weaver, was a sexual predator who took advantage of young men by offering career opportunities in exchange for sex.

As executive director, Wellman oversaw the "comprehensive review" of the Lincoln Project's "operations and culture" in the aftermath of the Weaver scandal. The law firm hired to conduct the review, Paul Hastings, had a number of senior partners who were also Lincoln Project donors. As expected, the Lincoln Project declared that the review found "no evidence" of wrongdoing. (The review itself was not made public.)

Wellman is not the only Lincoln Project executive to cash in. Weaver and fellow cofounder Rick Wilson both settled tax debts and paid off mortgages decades early using money presumably earned via the super PAC, which raised almost $100 million during the 2020 election cycle. The Lincoln Project's senior executives are paid through a third party in order to avoid disclosure requirements.

Wellman's salary isn't the organization's first questionable payment; the group found itself in hot water for paying the salary of its former communications director, Keith Edwards, after he left to work as a digital adviser for Sen. Jon Ossoff's (D., Ga.) campaign, a potential violation of federal election law.

Federal records show that the Lincoln Project also refunded tens of thousands of dollars of donations following reports of the Weaver scandal, including the fact that senior executives were aware of his inappropriate behavior. The New York Times also raised questions about the Lincoln Project's shady finances, which may have prompted donors to reconsider their support.

The Lincoln Project also paid tens of thousands of dollars to NGP VAN, a liberal data firm that owns the Democratic National Committee's vaunted voter file. NGP VAN has a history of working with liberals embroiled in sex scandals. In addition to its work with the Lincoln Project, the organization also helps scandal-plagued former New York governor Andrew Cuomo raise money.

The Lincoln Project also paid Kurt Bardella $55,000 for "communications consulting" the week before he likely violated Twitter's terms of services by posting hacked materials, allegedly at Schmidt's direction.

The Lincoln Project did not return a request for comment on its nepotism.