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Friday, September 18, 2020

Lincoln Project founders have ties to Russia, tax troubles: docs

WASHINGTON — The founders of the Lincoln Project, a headline-grabbing new anti-Trump political action committee formed by GOP operatives who describe the president as “crook” and “huckster,” have their own checkered dealings with Russia and the tax man, documents obtained by the Post reveal.

Since its inception last November — announced with a blistering New York Times op-ed — the brainchild of George Conway, Steve Schmidt, Rick Wilson and John Weaver has raked in more than $19.4 million dollars, according to FEC filings, and needled President Trump repeatedly with provocative TV ads.

But the group — which the National Review on Monday dubbed “The Grifter Project” and Texan GOP Sen. John Cornyn last week dismissed as a “cabal of political consultants all in it for the money” — don’t exactly practice what they preach.

Co-founder John Weaver, a political consultant known for his work on John McCain and John Kasich’s presidential campaigns, registered as a Russian foreign agent for uranium conglomerate TENEX in a six-figure deal last year, filings with the Department of Justice show.

TENEX’s parent company is Rosatom, a Russian state-owned corporation which also owns Uranium One — the company that paid Bill Clinton $500,000 in speaking fees and millions to the Clinton Foundation after then President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed off on the controversial merger in 2010.

Weaver backed out of the lobbying gig in May 2019 and called it “a mistake” in a tweet where he denied having taken any money from TENEX.

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich talks to his chief strategist, John Weaver, in 2015.
Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich talks to his chief strategist, John Weaver, in 2015.Brian Snyder/Reuters

Still, that hasn’t stopped him from ironically railing against Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and his “rogue ties to Putin backed thugs in Ukraine & elsewhere.”

According to IRS filings exclusively obtained by the Post, the Republican operative — who has also repeatedly called Trump a “tax fraud” and a “tax crook” on Twitter — also has an outstanding $313,655 federal tax lien against his Austin, Texas home.

This March, an Austin shopping mall also filed a lawsuit against the children’s clothing store that Weaver and his wife own, according to court documents obtained by the Post, just months after Weaver mocked the president’s own string of failed businesses.

Weaver’s fellow Lincoln Project founder Rick Wilson also has a checkered financial past. According to IRS documents, the GOP strategist has an outstanding $389,420 federal tax lien against his Tallahassee, Florida home and his bank moved to foreclose on the property in 2016.

Wilson, a best-selling author with one million Twitter followers, has never disclosed the money woes publicly, allowing him to sneer online about Trump’s decision never to release his own taxes — at one point calling him “Brokeahontas,” despite the fact American Express had taken Wilson to court for his own unpaid $25,729 credit card bill the year before, documents show.

“It’s very clear that this isn’t about Trump and Republicans,” one GOP source told the Post. “It’s about making money to help pay off their massive personal debts.”

And while veteran Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, another Lincoln Project boss, implores his followers to vote in November, records indicate he hasn’t even recently voted himself, with his home state of Utah listing him as an “inactive voter.”

An inactive voter is someone who has not voted in two general elections and has failed to respond to letters from the county clerk, according to Utah’s government’s voter registration website.

Schmidt, a communications strategist who has worked with George W. Bush, McCain and Arnold Schwarzenegger, last month implored his online followers to vote, declaring it was time to “remove the trash that has infested the people’s house.”

The devastating National Review piece dismissed the outfit as “little more than the most brazen election-season grift in recent memory” and a “ragtag band of three otherwise unemployed strategists plus one lawyer.”

The group has also drawn the ire of Republican lawmakers such as Cornyn after they began spending money picking off vulnerable GOP members, including Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, who faces a tough reelection bid.

A spokesman for the Lincoln Project declined to comment. Schmidt, Wilson and Weaver could not be immediately reached for comment.

George Conway
George ConwayRobert Alexander/Getty Images

The Lincoln Project, named after Abraham Lincoln, has made a huge splash in the short time it has been in existence — a lot of that due to the fact one of its creators, anti-Trump Republican George Conway, is married to White House adviser Kellyanne Conway.

Trump went off on the group in May, after they ran an attack ad faulting his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, referring to them as “loser types.”

“Lincoln Project is a disgrace to Honest Abe,” Trump tweeted.

“I don’t know what Kellyanne did to her deranged loser of a husband, Moonface, but it must have been really bad,” the president continued.

“They’re all LOSERS, but Abe Lincoln, Republican, is all smiles!”

Read More at NYPost

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