Commentary

OPINION: Liberal Dark Money in Action

Allegations Against American Bridge's Mike Stark Raise Questions About Civility & Campaign Finance


This article originally appeared in the Daily Caller on October 29, 2018.

Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton told CNN:

You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about … That’s why I believe, if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and/or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again. But until then, the only thing that the Republicans seem to recognize and respect is strength.

The former Secretary of State should be careful how her language resonates with her base, given that at least one liberal operative appears to have taken her at her uncivil word.

On October 16, an employee of former-conservative-turned-Clinton-cheerleader David Brock’s American Bridge 21stCentury super PAC named Wilfred Michael Stark allegedly assaulted Kristin Davison, the campaign manager of the Republican candidate for Nevada’s governor, Adam Laxalt. (Besides funding his super PAC, Brock helped start Media Matters for America, and authored “Confessions of a Right-Wing Hit Man.”)

Stark was tracking the Nevada governor’s race for American Bridge when he accosted Kristin Davison.

Police arrested Stark after he allegedly twisted Ms. Davison’s arm, pushed her, and refused to let her go after she yelled for him to stop. Davison’s two colleagues came to her aid and Las Vegas City Marshals later arrested Stark. (Stark has since denied responsibility for her physical injuries.)

Stark has a track record of uncivil actions toward women working in conservative and Republican circles. In March, Stark allegedly pushed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s press secretary, Heather Swift. (He was later acquitted due to a lack of evidence.) Last year, police arrested the tracker when he was following Ed Gillespie’s gubernatorial campaign.

For those unfamiliar with the job, trackers are essentially opposition researchers who follow candidates on the campaign trail, recording candidates at speaking events in the hope that they say something embarrassing. But political campaigns aren’t the only thing these operatives track.

At this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, my organization, the Capital Research Center (CRC) encountered the very same tracker.

At CRC’s Stump the Experts panel, Stark attempted to catch out CRC’s experts on issues related to so-called “dark money.” In fact, Mr. Stark asked me if any organization on the left obscured funding sources in a manner similar to DonorsTrust, which offers donors the ability to open “donor-advised funds” that enable them to support center-right and free-market causes while maintaining their donor privacy.

I pointed out that the Tides Foundation, a left-wing donor-advised fund provider, long predates the founding of DonorsTrust and has a significantly larger pool of money.

But sounding the alarm about political money exposes the hypocrisy behind the Left’s hysteria over anonymous contributions. Stark’s own organization, American Bridge 21st Century PAC, receives money from George SorosDavid DesjardinsHenry van Ameringen and other leftist megadonors.

What’s more, the PAC’s largest donor is its own 501(c)(4) lobbying group, American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, which has given over five million dollars to the PAC in the 2018 election cycle alone. Other organizations and individuals are able to use this (c)(4) entity to obscure and anonymize giving that eventually goes to fund the political action committee.

Apparently, money is only “dark” when those like Mr. Stark disagree with its donors’ ideology.

Although Mr. Stark seemed unaware that his paychecks were funded through “dark” sources, it appears that he no longer has to concern himself with this ethical dilemma. American Bridge admitted to employing him, but he has since been dismissed.

Despite his abuse of female Republicans, he may very well be able to find another left-wing organization to employ his “talents.”

Until then, it would be wise for politicos of all stripes to channel the words of a different former first lady: “When they go low, we go high.” Violence between political adversaries is corrosive to Democratic and Republican politics. Vote; don’t fight.

Scott Walter

Walter is president of the Capital Research Center. He served in the George W. Bush administration as Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and was vice president for…
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