The Lincoln Project, the group of former Republican operatives who set their sights on Donald Trump, says it supports principled conservatism. But the group shares outside personnel, an address, and a number of donors with progressive groups.
Records show the group's custodian of records, Melissa Nissen, is also the treasurer of Forward Majority, a progressive group that works on state races, as well as the managing director of Capitol Compliance, a financial management firm that receives large sums from liberal committees. In addition, the Lincoln Project shares a Washington, D.C., post office box with Forward Majority and Defend the Vote, a progressive voting group.
It also has explicit ties to Democratic leadership. The Lincoln Project's top donors include two groups aligned with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.)—the dark money nonprofit Majority Forward and the Senate Majority PAC. Combined, both groups showered the Lincoln Project with nearly $2 million in cash. The Lincoln Project, in turn, didn't just attack Trump but also Republican Senate candidates, including Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in the Georgia runoff elections. When Loeffler and Perdue lost, control of the Senate flipped to Schumer and the Democrats.
Democratic megadonors, such as hedge fund manager Stephen Mandel and Hollywood music mogul David Geffen, have written checks for the Lincoln Project. The group has also received six-figures in donations through the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a liberal dark money incubator managed by Arabella Advisors.
"The Lincoln Project is fully integrated into the infrastructure of Democratic Party politics," said Joe Gierut, communications director for America Rising, which has criticized the Lincoln Project's activities. "Its donors are the same. Its vendors are the same. Its goals are the same. Anyone denying that the Lincoln Project is not a Democrat front group is kidding themselves."
The group was heralded last year for its ability to get under Trump's skin but now faces a public relations crisis following reports that its cofounder, John Weaver, sexually propositioned young men online.
Weaver has been accused of "exploiting his power" by sending "unsolicited and sexually provocative" messages to young men on the internet, including a 14-year-old boy. The young men, who wanted to get into politics, said they felt preyed upon by Weaver.
Steve Schmidt, another cofounder of the Lincoln Project, said that members were aware of Weaver's potential involvement with men last summer, but that there was no indication it was inappropriate at the time. Weaver is no longer affiliated with the group.
The Lincoln Project has also received scrutiny for funneling more than a million dollars in donations to its board members and firms run by them. Large amounts have been passed to Summit Strategic Communications, a firm run by Lincoln Project treasurer Reed Galen. Tusk Digital, which is run by Lincoln Project adviser Ron Steslow, has also received hundreds of thousands in cash from the super PAC.
The Lincoln Project did not respond to a request for comment.