Despite the scandal surrounding cofounder John Weaver's serial sexual harassment of young men, the Lincoln Project still enjoys "tremendous" support from its donors, a senior adviser to the group said Monday.
"I've been talking to a lot of donors," said Stuart Stevens, a former GOP consultant who has stepped into a prominent role at the Lincoln Project after the Weaver scandal prompted a number of employees to resign. "The support is tremendous. Most of them have been involved in business and had a few rough times. They were drawn to Lincoln Project not because we were H.R. geniuses but because we knew how to fight and were willing to take on our own party. That hasn't changed."
Stevens made the remarks during an interview with the New York Times, which published a damning report on the inner workings of the Lincoln Project, and the group's failure to take meaningful action after learning the allegations against Weaver could be "potentially fatal" to the organization. The report, published Monday, prompted renewed calls for the group to disband, for reasons unrelated to its aptitude for human resources.
The Times reports that four of the group's cofounders—Wilson, Schmidt, Weaver, and Reed Galen—maintained a secret arrangement designed to enrich themselves while deliberately obscuring how donor money was being spent. The group funneled about $27 million to a consulting firm owned by Galen, roughly a third of its entire fundraising haul. The four men were then paid via the firm to avoid publicly disclosing the payments.
George Conway, a Lincoln Project cofounder who left the group in August, reiterated his call for the super PAC to be disbanded. "[The Lincoln Project] should shut down, absent full disclosure of its finances," Conway said in response to the Times report. "As this detailed story shows, there's simply too much money that hasn't been accounted for, and, I fear, never will be."
The story also prompted Democratic politicos to admonish liberal groups and individuals for supporting the group. "The Lincoln Project was nothing more than a shiny object designed to make money for its founders," said Guy Cecil, chair of Priorities USA, a Democratic-aligned super PAC. "There are so many critical progressive organizations that actually helped defeat Donald Trump that can use your support."
According to the Times, some Lincoln Project members were informed of allegations against Weaver—who resigned earlier this year after admitting to sexually inappropriate behavior—in January 2020, a month after the group was founded. Founding members Steve Schmidt and Rick Wilson have repeatedly denied having knowledge of Weaver's predatory interactions with dozens of young men until the Times reported on them in early February.
Senior members of the Lincoln Project were also made aware of an email containing detailed allegations of Weaver's inappropriate behavior in June 2020, according to the Times. The email, written by an employee for a company hired by the Lincoln Project, argued that the allegations against Weaver were "potentially fatal" to the organization. This prompted the super PAC to launch what appears to have been an extremely limited internal review of Weaver's conduct led by general counsel Matt Sanderson. Weaver himself was never interviewed.
The Lincoln Project recently announced that the law firm Paul Hastings would conduct its own review of the group's finances and handling of the Weaver scandal. The firm's credibility, however, is undermined by the fact that several senior partners are Lincoln Project donors. In the meantime, the firm's ongoing investigation has allowed the Lincoln Project to avoid public comment on the matter.
Not only did senior Lincoln Project members appear to ignore the serious allegations against their colleague, but they also planned to partner with Weaver on a potentially lucrative business venture, TLP Media, that was expected to launch shortly after the 2020 election. The media project never launched, but could still be revived if donors continue to open their wallets.