Over the last several months, potential Iowa voters have become familiar with a group called Strong America Now, a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization that promotes certain national debt reduction techniques.
According to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, Strong American Now founder Mike George recently created yet another entity, a Super PAC named “Strong America Now Super PAC,” on November 1st of this year. Documents also show that the Strong America Now Super PAC has already spent $120,072.10 advocating in support of Newt Gingrich in Iowa.
According to its website, “Strong America Now [the 501(c)(4)] is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and mobilizing a bipartisan, grassroots effort focused on eliminating the national debt and deficit using a proven waste-elimination process called Lean Six Sigma.”
The group has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in Iowa during the presidential race in an effort to push its issue to the forefront of the national dialogue. Strong America Now has hired an Iowa staff and also pays a number of Iowa based consultants. In February, Strong America Now conducted a candidate forum in which multiple candidates participated. Six Republican presidential candidates have signed its pledge. The only two candidates who have not signed it are Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman.
In August, Strong America Now bussed people to the Straw Poll in Ames and provided them tickets to vote, food, and entertainment. This fall, the group produced a voter guide that gave three candidates, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum, all “A” grades. They also mailed out a caucus training video to likely caucus goers.
When news stories surfaced before the Ames Straw Poll that Strong America Now consultants may have been in position to aid the campaign of Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty because they were organizing for both Strong America Now and Pawlenty for the Straw Poll, the group quickly distanced itself from the consultant that had ties to Pawlenty’s campaign. They also stated “Strong America Now is independent from all campaigns.” That seems to no longer to be the case.
Ed Valentine, Strong America Now’s lead advisor, told TheIowaRepublican.com, “The Super PAC is completely independent, and no one working for Strong America Now is affiliated with Mike George’s Super PAC.”
However, Mr. George seems to be heavily involved in both Strong America Now 501(c)(4) and the Strong America Now Super PAC. Obviously, the two groups share much of their names. Also, as quoted above, even Valentine referred to the Super PAC as “Mike George’s Super PAC.” And yet, Mike George has also been the front person at every Strong America Now 501(c)(4) non-profit event in Iowa. The non-profit group has run television ads that feature him. He is also featured in the group’s new caucus training video that was distributed to likely caucus goers.
Strong America Now and Strong America Now Super PAC also share the same exact mailing address. Mail for both entities goes to 1565 West Main Street, Suite 208-165 in Lewisville, Texas. So much for Valentine’s claim that the Super PAC is completely separate from the 501 (c)(4) non-profit. Both of the groups share the same founder, name, mail box, and are involved in basically the same activity.
TheIowaRepublican.com also asked why Mike George was only advocating for Gingrich when two other candidates, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum, also received “A” grades from the group. Valentine said, “I will give Mike a call to make sure he sees this.” As of time of publication, TheIowaRepublican.com is still waiting for a response from Mr. George.
Strong America Now Super PAC has reported the following activity to the FEC.
Mailer: Opposes Romney – Supported Candidate: Newt Gingrich – Cost $40,552.41
Mailer: Opposes Romney – Supported Candidate: Newt Gingrich – Cost $38,967.28
Mailer: Supports Newt Gingrich – Cost $40,552.41
The disclosure to the FEC seems to suggest that the pro-Gingrich mailer was sent to the same universe as the anti-Romney mailer. Approximate size of the universe is about 50,000 households – the same number of supporters that Strong America Now claims to have on their website.
In fact, TheIowaRepublican.com has obtained two mail pieces from the Strong America Now Super PAC. Both arrived in mailboxes on Tuesday. Also in the mail that day was the Strong America Now 501(c)(4) caucus training video with a letter signed by Mike George.
The Strong America Now Super PAC mailer claims, “National Polls indicate that only Gingrich and Romney can beat Obama. Which one of them will eliminate the deficit and prevent another financial crisis?” It then praises Newt for basically backing the Strong America Now position. It then bashes Romney’s plan but then adds, “Millions of dollars are being spent by Romney backers in TV ads to bully and mislead Iowans not to vote for Newt Gingrich.”
Both Strong America Now Super PAC mailers quote David Stockman, a former Reagan official. Stockman is also quoted in the Strong America Now’s (the nonprofit) presidential voter guide.
The circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that Strong America Now Super PAC’s mailers bashing Romney and praising Gingrich went out at the exact same time as Strong America Now 501(c)(4)’s caucus training video, and that all of these mailings went to mostly the same households. Whether this constitutes illegal coordination or a violation of other rules for 501(c)(4) organizations is a question for the FEC and the IRS to answer. Given Strong America Now’s previous conduct involving alleged campaign coordination, it is surprising that the organization would want to walk that close to the fine line again.
In any event, it seems somewhat disingenuous to claim that Strong America Now is a non-partisan organization dedicated solely to issue advocacy at the same time as the group’s leader is orchestrating highly political activity, including candidate advocacy mailings, a week before the Iowa caucuses.
Pictures of Strong America Now Super PAC Mailers
Screen Shots of Super PAC Address and Strong America Now Contact Info on website.
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