Recently you may have seen a fundraising pitch from a group calling themselves the Conservative Campaign Committee launching a project they’re calling Operation North Dakota. The goal of the operation, per their release on the subject, is to defeat incumbent Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp, but her opponent Kevin Cramer doesn’t want their help.
Ryan Gill, who is listed as the president of the organization on their website, announced their intent to influence the North Dakota Senate race in a Facebook post late last month which got little in the way of attention. The group also announced the effort on its own Facebook page which is for some reason still named 1 Million People to Defeat Barack Obama:
Though earlier this week the chairman of the organization, a man named Lloyd Marcus, did publish an op/ed on the American Thinker website describing his group’s efforts in the midterm elections.
I had inquired with the Cramer campaign about the committee last week after some SAB readers got in touch with me wondering if the organization was legitimate. Yesterday campaign manager Pat Finken showed me a letter they sent to the group asking them to “immediately cease and desist from any and all fundraising efforts” with regard to “Operation North Dakota.”
The letter, which I was allowed to read but wasn’t given to me to share, suggests that the Conservative Campaign Committee resembles a “scam PAC” which earned its organizers charges from the Department of Justice earlier this year for allegedly engaging in fraud and money laundering.
The letter from the Cramer campaign, signed by campaign treasurer Chistopher Marston, alleges that the Conservative Campaign Committee has raised over $500,000 yet has made no expenditures related to the North Dakota Senate race. It also claims that the group has undermined Cramer’s organizing and fundraising efforts.
According to the FEC, from January 1 of 2017 through June 30 of this year the committee hasn’t reported any itemized contributions from North Dakota, though in that time period the group does have $269,028.25 in unitemized contributions. They’ve raised $521,477.96 in total contributions during that time period.
According to OpenSecrets.org the group has put just over $36,000 into independent expenditures supporting Republicans and opposing Democrats in Montana, Nevada, Montana, Utah, Georgia, and Alabama.
Marston suggests in the letter that the campaign will pursue legal action if the committee doesn’t stop its operations in North Dakota.
The contact page for the Conservative Campaign Committee lists a Sacramento P.O. Box as well as a toll-free number. I called the number but it wasn’t answered nor was there a voicemail message. I also sent Facebook messages to the group’s official page and to both Mr. Gill and Mr. Marcus, and I attempted to call a phone number I obtained for Marcus but my calls were repeatedly sent to a busy signal.
Those messages were unanswered as of the time of publication. I’ll update this post with any response I hear back.
UPDATE 8/3/18: Mr. Gill sent me this statement this morning:
It was of course deeply disappointing to us to learn of the cease and desist letter from the Cramer campaign as we’re proud of the work we do and we were hoping to be able to help ensure the defeat of Heidi Heitkamp this year. It is obviously painful to receive rejection from a candidate who we were so excited to support for office. We were well aware of Congressman Cramer’s decision to enter the race after pleas from President Trump and the Republican Party and we appreciate his sacrifice and service to the conservative cause. Our plans were to take a delegation to North Dakota in late August and early September and work to energize conservative voters on a model similar to what we did recently in a project we called “Operation Montana”. Of course given that the Cramer campaign prefers we not have involvement, it’s not in anyone’s interest to force the issue, and we will politely comply with their wish and cancel all planned campaign efforts in the state. We will instead direct our focus to being engaged in other important races as part of our midterm operations.