GO AD-FREE FOR $1

'I'm not going to risk getting myself killed': Madison Cawthorn’s very bad week isn't enough to coax his 2020 challenger to run against him again

WASHINGTON — Rep. Madison Cawthorn was the subject of two ruinous exposés this week, one detailing numerous accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct against him from his college days and the other reporting he had lied about critical details of his back story.

None of that, however, is enough to draw his 2020 Democratic opponent into a rematch.

Despite teasing a second consecutive run against Cawthorn in the Western North Carolina congressional district, Col. Morris Davis (ret.) told Raw Story in an exclusive interview this week that barring earth-shaking changes to the dynamics of the race, he's most likely out of the running. One of the main reasons, he said, is that he doubts any amount of exposés would bring a critical mass of voters out of their ideological cocoons.

"The hardcore that drank the Trump Kool Aid, there's nothing I can do to change their minds," Davis said in a telephone interview. "They didn't care, or I think a lot of folks that would be supporters of him, they're not reading the New York Times or watching CNN."

There are some signs the race could be more favorable for a Democrat, chief among them that former President Donald Trump's name won't be on the ballot in the 2022 midterm elections. Meanwhile, Cawthorn has gone from an unknown to a lightning rod in his few short months in office, even leading a prominent local sheriff who helped him campaign to disavow him after the Capitol attack.

But Davis said none of that alone would be enough to make up the 12 points he lost by in 2020 because his region leans so heavily toward Republicans and because the state and national Democratic parties have shown little interest in spending money there.

Davis said his social media manager recently quit because he was tired of having to wade through death threats, and Davis basically feels the same way.

"I'm not going to risk getting myself killed if there's no realistic shot at winning," he said. "If nothing changes, it's still impossible to win here."

Davis had been sending signals he might run again, including sending a fundraising blast to his supporters last month accusing Cawthorn of helping "spark the January 6th Capitol invasion" and saying he is "picking QAnon over us." The email said Davis was considering a run because "if we start building now, we have a real shot at winning this thing."

Davis also filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission last week activating his campaign committee for a 2022 bid, catching the eye of some in the press.

Davis, however, said that was just a formality. Any candidate who raises $5,000 since the previous election must either leave the race and return or redesignate the donations or file a statement of candidacy. Davis said he decided to do the latter just to keep his options open, but added that a month removed from the fundraising email, he's not feeling hopeful.

He also said he didn't want to mislead his followers, so he sent an email to his core supporters Thursday explaining the situation, and noting that if he doesn't run, all the money he raised will be spent promoting a progressive agenda in Western North Carolina.

"The data show that the vast majority of NC 11 voters casts their votes along party lines," he wrote. "I am hopeful the landscape will look different by 2022, but from my vantage point now I'm not optimistic it will overcome a 12 point deficit."

Davis has a pretty high profile, as a former prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay who quit after refusing to use evidence obtained through torture. Yet it wasn't Cawthorn who Davis wanted to run against in the first place — it was his predecessor, Mark Meadows. The former House Freedom Caucus chairman resigned shortly after Davis jumped into the race and became Trump's chief of staff not long after.

Davis said he certainly wouldn't run again if Democrats picked an even better candidate than him. He said he thinks highly of Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, who announced Wednesday she'd take on Cawthorne, but worries she — or anyone with a power base in Asheville but not the surrounding area — wouldn't be able to outperform him. Instead, he thinks someone with a track record of winning in the area would stand a better chance, someone with a profile like former NFL quarterback and ex-Rep. Heath Shuler, who represented the district for three terms as a Democrat.

Even if that didn't happen, Davis said he would also not likely run again in the district as it's currently drawn, since he won only one county last election: Buncombe, which includes the liberal-leaning city of Asheville. North Carolina is set to add one congressional seat after its redistricting process. Though there's a slight chance that could result in a more left-leaning Western North Carolina seat, it is unlikely much would change on that side of the state.

And finally, Davis said he wouldn't run again without more investment from the national and state party in his part of the region. Beyond his own race, Democrats lost a major senate bid and the state voted for Trump in 2020. With another senate contest coming up this cycle, and a presidential race after that, Davis said he wants the party to consider that even a few more percentage points won West of Charlotte could change the fates of statewide and national candidates.

"Whoever runs in the Senate race needs to know a rising tide lifts all boats in Western North Carolina," Davis said. "And in four years in the presidential race, if you want to turn North Carolina blue, doing even a little better in Western North Carolina increases your odds substantially."

Embattled South Dakota AG told to prove he can still do his job by investigating Noem controversy exposed by Raw Story

WASHINGTON — South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is refusing to resign, insisting he can do his job while navigating impeachment proceedings and charges of careless driving after he hit and killed a man with his car last year.

Now, one Democratic lawmaker is asking him to prove it — by investigating his boss, Gov. Kristi Noem.

South Dakota State Sen. Reynold Nesiba sent a letter to Ravnsborg Wednesday evening asking him to investigate whether Noem violated a state law that prohibits using the state air fleet for anything other than state business, following a Raw Story investigation into Noem's travel.

Nesiba's request seems designed to put Ravnsborg on the spot, and to test his loyalty to a governor who appears to have just hung him out to dry. Noem earlier this week called on Ravnsborg to resign and directed the Department of Public Safety to release two videos showing him being questioned by North Dakota investigators days after the fatal crash.

"It provides a public opportunity for him to be able to show that he's able to do his job, if that's what he's looking for," Nesiba told Raw Story in a phone interview on Thursday. "So I'm giving him a concrete task: Show me that you can do your job because in three weeks here, I'm probably going to have to vote on impeachment proceedings."

Nesiba's letter asks whether the state law limiting the use of the state plane to state business applies to the governor, and whether she violated any aspect of the law in her "personal or political travels," and if she did, what penalties should apply. He also asked Ravnsborg to investigate whether campaign staff, civilians or guests traveled with the governor and if so, whether the state was reimbursed.

The request comes after Raw Story reported, based on flight logs obtained from the governor's office, that Noem had used a state-owned airplane to travel to right-wing political conferences around the country, including events hosted by the National Rifle Association, Turning Point USA and the Republican Jewish Coalition.

In another instance, Noem flew on the state plane with her family to watch a state-themed float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and also spent time on that trip sightseeing and dining in New York City.

Noem defended all these trips as legitimate state business during a press conference last week.

"Whenever the state airplane is used, it has always been used according to the law. It has always been used for official business. It has not been used for campaign business," she said. "A lot of the political attacks we're seeing from the Democrats on this issue are wrong."

Noem's spokesman, Ian Fury, declined to comment further on Thursday, when asked about Nesiba's letter. A private spokesman Ravnsborg enlisted to manage the fallout from the accident referred questions about the letter to Ravnsborg's chief of staff, but the chief of staff did not respond to a request for comment.

At a news conference in South Dakota on Thursday, Noem said she hasn't spoken to Ravnsborg since the Sept. 12 accident, during which Ravnsborg struck and killed 55-year-old Joseph Boever. She also said the state plans to release more materials related to the investigation as soon as this week.

At the same news conference, Craig Price, the state's cabinet secretary for the Department of Public Safety, strongly implied that the administration did not buy Ravnsborg's side of the story.

"Law enforcement officers are held to a higher standard," Price said. "We don't expect ourselves to be perfect, but we do expect ourselves to be truthful."

Ravnsborg told investigators he thought he had hit a deer. That version of events has now been called into question as the materials Noem released show investigators found Boever's broken eyeglasses inside the Ford Taurus that Ravnsborg was driving, suggesting his face went through the car's windshield.

Nesiba also said his letter's timing is somewhat of a last ditch attempt to get to the bottom of Noem's travels. Given that Republicans in the state legislature have shown little interest in asking questions about Noem's travel, he said, the attorney general's office is the only appropriate place these issues can be dealt with.

But Ravnsborg was charged with three misdemeanors last week after the investigation into the crash. Lawmakers in the statehouse filed articles of impeachment against him on Tuesday. Now, as Noem ramps up pressure on Ravnsborg to resign, Nesiba is facing the prospect of a Noem-appointed successor taking the helm if the state's top law enforcement official does bow to public pressure.

"The governor's not going to appoint somebody who's going to do a rigorous examination of her use of state assets," he said. "If we don't do it, now, it's not clear to me when it would ever get done."

This is not the first request Democrats have made to the state's attorney general, but it is the first from a sitting lawmaker. South Dakota Democratic Party Chairman Randy Seiler last week called on Ravnsborg to investigate Noem's travel, as well.

Exclusive: GOP governor Kristi Noem, potential Trump successor, used state aircraft for tens of thousands of dollars in political travel

Newly unearthed flight logs show South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem used a state airplane to travel to right wing political events around the country, a revelation that has state lawmakers questioning whether she violated a state law forbidding political and personal use of the aircraft.

The flight logs, published for the first time in this report, raise questions about the propriety of tens of thousands of dollars' worth of taxpayer-funded flights to out-of-state events hosted by groups such as the National Rifle Association, Turning Point USA, and an organization affiliated with the late GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, South Dakota politicians and experts told Raw Story.

Also in question is whether Noem wasted taxpayer money by having the state airplane pick her up for official business when she was living at her family home in Castlewood, rather than in the governor's residence in Pierre, the state's capital where the airplane is kept. In one case, the airplane picked her up from her daughter's wedding in the far west part of the state.

In the Mount Rushmore State, all this would not be just an ethics lapse; state law forbids the use of a state-owned aircraft for anything other than state business. There are no exceptions, and the law mandates fines of ten times the cost of the flight for a plane's misuse.

Noem, through a spokesman, thoroughly defended each use of the state air fleet.

"Governor Noem follows the law when weighing whether it is appropriate to use state aircraft," Noem's spokesman, Ian Fury, wrote in an email. "One of Governor Noem's primary roles as Governor is to be South Dakota's top ambassador to the rest of the nation. She has made this a big part of her governorship, advertising to attract businesses to our state, to drive tourism to our state, and to appeal to particular industries."

Still, the revelations come as lawmakers are already questioning what it costs the state to have as governor a rising star in the Republican party — and whether all this raises the state's profile, or just her own. Noem is frequently cited as a potential 2024 presidential candidate.

Amid a $5 million request she included in her budget outline to fund the purchase of a new state airplane, South Dakota senators will debate a bill this week probing the cost of her taxpayer-funded security detail, which traveled alongside her as she toured the country as a surrogate for then-President Donald Trump's reelection campaign.

The out-of-state trips identified by a Raw Story analysis of the flight logs appear to have had nothing to do with her Trump campaign-related travel, which the governor's communications team has previously said all took place on commercial aircraft or on planes paid for by other campaigns.

Instead, this travel all occurred in 2019, before the presidential campaign was in full swing. Noem traveled by plane to speak before conservative political interest groups and GOP power players. The trips included an NRA conference in San Antonio; a gathering in Dallas of the right-wing youth group Turning Point USA; and a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition at a Las Vegas casino. She also regularly used the plane to travel to get-togethers hosted by a group for Republican governors in Aspen, Boca Raton and Kentucky.

Other travel appeared to blend the personal and the professional. A trip to New York City to see South Dakota's Mount Rushmore float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade doubled as a food- and shopping-filled family holiday that flight logs show coincided with Noem's 48th birthday.

"They just fail the smell test," University of South Dakota political science professor Michael Card said of these trips. "It's not following the law, as I understand it. ... Whenever we look the other way, it encourages that sort of behavior to continue."

Political interest groups

The flight logs, which were discovered for Raw Story by public records activist Michael Petrelis, are often difficult to decipher. It's not clear where the plane was on any given day of a multi-day trip because each trip's entire itinerary is listed on each day the trip occurred. The governor's spokesman also identified a few areas where he said the logs are incorrect.

Raw Story pieced together Noem's schedule using posts on social media and press reports detailing her whereabouts. The flight logs did not include any information about the events for which state planes were being used or who was on the state planes at the time. However, the governor's spokesman did provide Raw Story with a full accounting of the trips in question.

It is also unclear exactly how much each trip cost taxpayers. Raw Story calculated a ballpark estimate by determining the air mileage of each itinerary and multiplying that by $5.95, the cost-per-mile cited on the flight logs for the use of a King Air 200, the plane on which all of the flights in question occurred.


Flight logs obtained through a public records request for Raw Story by Michael Petrelis.

Among the flights was travel in April 2019 from Pierre to Watertown to Rock Springs, Wyoming and eventually Las Vegas. That trip is estimated to have cost taxpayers more than $13,400.

Noem appeared in Las Vegas during that time at the annual meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, a $1,750-per-ticket gala held at the Venetian Resort. The luxury hotel and casino was owned by Adelson, then a member of the group's board of directors.

The group's mission is to "foster and enhance ties between the American Jewish community and Republican decision makers," according to its website. Noem spoke at the organization's annual soiree alongside Trump, then-Vice President Mike Pence, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other national GOP figures.

A YouTube video of Noem's speech shows she spoke effusively about Trump and his love of Israel, touted her governing philosophy and even gave a shout-out to South Dakota's one full-time rabbi and the state's tiny Jewish community, which consists of a few hundred people.

"She views this trip as part of her role as South Dakota's ambassador," Fury wrote in an email. "President Trump and Vice President Pence were also at the meeting. While she was there, she met with... members of Congress to discuss various South Dakota priorities."

Adelson died last month, but while he was alive, he and his wife donated millions to Republican causes. In 2019, each gave $4,000 to Noem's gubernatorial campaign, the maximum individual donation allowed by the state. So did Republican Jewish Coalition board member and Manhattan financier Paul Singer, another major Republican donor, according to Noem's campaign finance disclosures.

Unlike federal financial records, South Dakota does not require campaigns to specify the date of the donation, so it's unclear whether the donations were tied specifically to Noem's appearance at the Las Vegas event. Fury declined to disclose the specific dates of the contributions but said Noem did not meet with Singer or the Adelsons at this RJC meeting.

Noem also has notable financial backers in Wyoming. Fury said landing there was nothing more than a refueling pitstop. He similarly explained many other cities on several itineraries as fuel stops, including Janesville, Wisconsin; Peoria, Illinois; and Flint, Michigan.

That summer, Noem traveled to Dallas to speak at the Turning Point USA Young Women's Leadership Summit, an annual invite-only event that offers young conservative women activism training and networking opportunities with Republican leaders. Later in the trip, Noem attended a meeting of the Western Governors Association in Vail, Colorado — undoubtedly a legitimate use of the state aircraft for nonpartisan state business. But the Dallas jaunt is estimated to have cost South Dakota taxpayers more than $7,200.

"All of this is official business," Fury wrote.

Between Sept. 27 and Sept. 29, 2019, the governor's plane flew from Rapid City to San Antonio, before coming back to Watertown and Pierre. In San Antonio, Noem spoke at the NRA Women's Leadership Forum, a women's arm of the gun rights advocacy organization. The estimated cost of that trip landed at more than $13,500.


Noem speaking to the NRA Women's Leadership Forum in San Antonio, which she visited during one of her trips on a state aircraft.

Fury maintained that this, too, was a business trip, and highlighted the fact that the first legislation Noem signed into law was a " constitutional carry" bill, a measure heavily supported by the NRA that allows people to carry concealed pistols without a permit in South Dakota.

"Governor Noem has worked to highlight South Dakota as one of the most 2nd Amendment-friendly states in the country," Fury wrote. "She has worked to attract Americans who respect freedom – including our 2nd Amendment freedoms – to move to South Dakota. As such, this meeting is official business."

Others disagree. South Dakota Republican state Rep. Taffy Howard has been critical of Noem's use of taxpayer money and sponsored an unsuccessful House bill to force Noem reveal the cost of her security detail, something the governor has so far refused to do. When asked about some of the itineraries on the logs, Howard said she had concerns.

"I'm a member of the NRA, but I would probably consider that to be political," she said in an interview. "Our elected officials should be cautious as to how they spend taxpayer funds, so we need to be asking questions. If taxpayer funds are being spent on travel that's questionable, we have every right to find that information and dig into it. I don't care what party you're in."

Mixing business and pleasure

Other flights out of the state were perhaps less political, but also not obviously tied to state business. In June 2019, Noem appeared at a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Women in Business event. The state plane flew at that time to St. Paul, Minnesota at an estimated cost to taxpayers of more than $4,000. Fury said it was a legitimate state cost.

"Governor Noem has aggressively worked to attract Minnesota businesses to South Dakota, and this meeting was part of those efforts," he said. The meeting was a full year before Noem launched an ad campaign to lure Minnesota business owners tired of Covid-19 restrictions.

An October 2019 trip to Indianapolis, estimated to cost more than $9,400, coincided with the Protect the Harvest Denim and Diamonds gala, a banquet and silent auction fundraiser. Protect the Harvest is a nonprofit founded by Lucas Oil owner Forrest Lucas that exists to "fight back" against "the growing threat posed by the radical animal rights movement."

"Agriculture is the largest industry in South Dakota's economy," Fury said, defending the trip as state business.

The next month, a state aircraft flew from Pierre to Watertown, then on to White Plains, New York, landing in an airfield just outside of New York City.

Noem posted on her Instagram account that she went there to watch the South Dakota float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the tenth year in a row the float had been part of the festivities. She said she was "proud of the relationships built between this partnership and opportunities ahead."

"This is a major annual effort on behalf of South Dakota's tourism industry," Fury said. "While there, the Governor attended the Inflation Celebration to help highlight the importance of the Mount Rushmore float. This absolutely qualifies as part of the Governor's role as South Dakota's ambassador."

But on Instagram, Noem also went on to describe how she, most of her immediate family and her close friend U.S. Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) had a fun-filled weekend, posting several photos and a video of her doing a distinctive dance in front of Tom's Restaurant, famous for its cameo in the Seinfeld television show.

"We had a great day at the parade, visited Bryant Park, @rockefellercenter, shopping at Macy's for 10 minutes then getting out of there because it was CRAZY busy, visiting the @seinfeldtv cafe, (I'm doing the Elaine 'excited' dance here) and Thanksgiving dinner at the Plaza," Noem posted.


Noem outside the restaurant made famous by Seinfeld, which she visited during one of her trips using a state aircraft.

In a later Instagram post, she added that "@repjasonsmith spent Thanksgiving with us in NYC enjoying the parade, Radio City Music Hall Christmas spectacular, ice skating in Central Park.....all super fun."

That flight is estimated to have cost South Dakota taxpayers more than $17,200, almost as much as Noem's campaign reported spending for all travel costs in all of 2019.

The itinerary shows that journey concluded on Dec. 1, 2019, which would have placed Noem's 48th birthday, Nov. 30, 2019, within the trip, with stops in Flint, Michigan; Janesville, Wisconsin; Sioux Falls and Pierre. Fury, however, contended all this was an error on the flight log. He said Noem flew home to Watertown on her birthday and that the plane refueled in Flint on the way to New York and in Janesville on the way back.

Other flights took Noem to meetings of the Republican Governors Association, which states on its website that it is "dedicated to one primary objective: electing and supporting Republican governors." Noem has served on the group's executive committee since 2019.

Fury said these were not political meetings.

"These RGA meetings include policy sessions and face time with other Governors," he said. "They are not political in nature, and thus they are absolutely state business. Previous South Dakota governors have used state aircraft to fly to RGA events as well."

A November 2019 flight to Boca Raton for the RGA annual meeting is estimated to have cost more than $20,000. In May 2019, the state plane flew to Louisville, Kentucky, again stopping in Watertown on the way back to Pierre, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $10,500. The trip coincided with the RGA Corporate Policy Summit.

Another trip coincided with a National Governors Association meeting in Salt Lake City, but also included a prior stop in Aspen for an RGA meeting. That gathering garnered heavy press coverage because former White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders attended amid rumors she would run for governor of Arkansas, and because Pence and Ivanka Trump attended other events nearby. Fury said in addition to the National Governors Association meeting, Noem attended a rodeo in Salt Lake City during her time there.

"One of Governor Noem's biggest efforts as South Dakota's ambassador has been highlighting South Dakota as a top destination for national rodeo events, and this stop was part of those efforts," he said.

South Dakota Democratic state Sen. Reynold Nesiba, the sponsor of the senate bill seeking transparency in Noem's travel security costs, thinks these trips should not have been made on the state aircraft. Nonpartisan groups like the National Governors Association or the Western Governors Association are one thing, he said, but a partisan governors' group is an overtly political organization.

"This looks like somebody who is personally and politically benefiting from South Dakota state assets," Nesiba said. "Conservatives of all people should be saying nobody should be politically or personally enriching themselves at the public trough."

This kind of criticism is nothing new for governors: when Rick Perry governed Texas, he took flack for taking trips having to do with the RGA, as did former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin. Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory took heat for frequent trips home to Charlotte on the taxpayer dime. The New York Times recently scrutinized Gov. Andrew Cuomo's use of the state airplanes and helicopters. Oklahoma's and California's former governors recently weathered scandals of their own.

Even South Dakota has its own recent state-plane scandal, which is why the state law limiting its use exists in the first place.

In-state, but personal

Before Nesiba ran for office, he was a university professor and a leading activist in favor of passing a ballot initiative limiting how state airplanes can be used. The efforts followed a high-profile scandal after the state Democratic Party obtained flight logs for then-Gov. Mike Rounds, now one of the state's two U.S. senators.

The Argus Leader ran an expose noting Rounds had been flying himself and others on a state plane to his son's high school basketball games. Rounds argued that he reimbursed the state from campaign funds, but voters were nonplussed and approved the ballot measure anyway.

Now the law mandates "any aircraft owned or leased by the state may be used only in the conduct of state business." State vehicles can be used to travel to and from a governor's home, but that exception is not applicable "regarding the use of any aircraft owned or leased by the state or any of its agencies," the law reads. The law does not specify who decides what's state business, and no one has ever been charged or convicted under the statute.

Noem's flight schedule did not sync up with her son's basketball games like Rounds' flights did, but her flight logs do appear to show some intersections with family events.

The state aircraft made two separate stops at Custer State Park on May 30, 2019, according to the flight logs. That would have been two days before Noem attended the wedding of her eldest daughter there. In between the two flights to the park, the aircraft made stops in Vermillion and Aberdeen, where social media posts and news articles show Noem was visiting youth groups.

Fury explained that the state plane picked Noem up in Custer, "where she was helping her daughter Kassidy prepare for her wedding" and after the meetings in Vermillion and Aberdeen, "she was then dropped off in Custer, where she had begun her day." The plane, meanwhile, began and ended the day without Noem in its hangar in Pierre, he said.

"Picking her up for official travel is part of the official travel, and the same is true for dropping her off," Fury said. "In the specific instance of Custer, Governor Noem originally got herself to Custer at her own expense."

It is indisputable, however, that picking her up increased the cost of the trip. The extra stops in Custer more than doubled the estimated cost of the trip over what it would have cost to fly from Pierre, turning what would have been a roughly $3,100 trip into one that cost upwards of $6,700.

The state plane also made frequent stops in Watertown, the city which contains the closest airport to Noem's family home in Castlewood. In all, the logs show some 30 trips that included stops in Watertown — including a stop there on half of all the weeks during Noem's first four months in office.

"The state aircraft is based out of Pierre," Fury explained. "If the Governor is in Watertown and needs to fly to a destination, the plane flies to Watertown to pick her up. Or it may drop her off in Watertown at the end of a day of official travel. Some of her travel includes events in Watertown itself."

Fury said they interpret this to be an appropriate use of the state airplane under state law.

"Under this statute, it would be inappropriate for her to simply use the state plane as a shuttle between Watertown and Pierre – and she has never used it in such a manner," he said.

Still, the estimated cost to taxpayers for this was $37,000 over what those itineraries would have cost had those trips not included a Watertown stop. By contrast, flight logs for Noem's predecessor, Gov. Dennis Daugaard, show the state aircraft made three trips per year to Watertown in each year during his second term between 2015 and 2018.

Some of Noem's trips to Watertown clearly did include state business, for instance, the 17th annual Governor's Luncheon at the Lake Area Technical Institute in April 2019 and a Sept. 2020 stop to present Watertown with a "Large Community of the Year" award.

Other times, however, her reason for being Watertown appeared personal. For instance, in April 2019 and September 2019, Noem posted photos online about her son's high school prom and homecoming. Both days, the state plane appears to have left Pierre, picked her up from Watertown for business around the state, before dropping her back off in Watertown and then heading back to Pierre without her.

Noem and her husband, first gentleman Bryon Noem, have spoken openly about the difficulties of her serving as governor while her son was completing his last year of high school. Her husband runs an insurance business that keeps him tied to the family home. Where Noem spends most of her time was a subject of speculation locally during her first year in office.

"I am gone a lot, and he is left to handle all things related to kids, ranch, and house," Noem wrote in a heartfelt Instagram post celebrating her husband. In a September 2019 profile of the state's first first gentleman, he told the Black Hills Pioneer, "I go back and forth, she goes back and forth; we make it work."

But some in South Dakota expressed small sympathy for the governor, noting that she signed up for the job and is given a large house in the capital, while many members of the citizen legislature regularly make longer journeys by car to Pierre.

"Taxpayers provide the governor with an incredible residence to live in and incredible accommodations to work in, and shuttling her back and forth to her family farm is not the responsibility of the taxpayers," said Steve Hildebrand, a Sioux Falls-based political strategist, who helped run President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. "Legislators from all over the state drive every week to Pierre for legislative session, a longer trip than it would be from Watertown to Pierre."

Others, however, said these kinds of trips should be forgiven.

"Part of what you've got to do to attract talented people to serve is make some of the pain and vagaries of the job a little bit easier," said Mark Mickelson, a former Republican state representative who considered running for governor in 2018.

A jet for a jet setter?

Mickelson said the worst thing that could come out of all this is that lawmakers reconsider Noem's request for a new aircraft. Mickelson should know something about that: his father, then-Gov. George S. Mickelson, died along with seven others in 1993 when a state-owned airplane malfunctioned and crashed.

"When it comes to buying new and safe aircraft, it's something the state ought to do," he said. "It's not a place to cut corners."

Noem has cited the Mickelson crash as a reason to update the state fleet. At a news conference last week, the local press asked Noem about out-of-state trips and whether she plans to upgrade to a jet over the current propeller fleet.

"In all of last year, I used the state aircraft to leave the state once, and it was to go to Minneapolis to catch a commercial flight for an official event," she said.

Fury clarified that there were actually two out-of-state trips last year, adding a flight to Washington, D.C. for a National Governors Association meeting. He didn't answer whether the change in flight patterns in 2020 was due to Covid-19 lockdowns reducing the frequency of travel or for another reason. Noem was slated to speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition event again in 2020, but it was cancelled due to the pandemic.

"This is not something I'm making a decision on," Noem said about the jet at the press conference. "We will contract with people who are experts at choosing the correct aircraft for the state's needs."

Will the request be a harder sell for lawmakers who question whether the state's needs were well served by Noem's trips in 2019? As states reopen, live events resume, and Noem's profile grows, it remains to be seen if the state would ground a rising Republican star — or at least try to ensure she's not misusing taxpayer money on her way up.

Trump is a 'dead man': Chuck Hagel casts doubt on 'irresponsible' former president's political future

Former President Donald Trump may be huddling with Republican leaders, considering founding his own political party, and pledging to carry on his agenda, but at least one prominent former official thinks Trump is done for in politics.

Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a frequent vehement Trump critic, told Raw Story in an exclusive interview that he thinks that politically, Trump is a "dead man" — regardless of the outcome of the Senate impeachment trial slated to start next month.

That's because Trump's biggest problem, bigger even than being the first president ever to be impeached twice, is that he may still face legal consequences at the state level for what Hagel described as his various shady business entanglements.

"I'm not worried about Mr. Trump coming back on the scene politically. He's a dead man," Hagel said, speaking days before the inauguration of President Joe Biden. "He can say what he wants: 'I'm going to run again in 2024.' I doubt that's going to happen, because he's got some immense personal problems that he's going to face."

Trump met Thursday with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where the two men discussed working together to win Republican Congressional seats in 2022, according to statements from both camps shared with the press. Trump has also reportedly recently discussed with associates starting a new political party called the "Patriot Party." And a recent statement opening the Office of the Former President pledged Trump would "carry on the agenda of the Trump Administration through advocacy, organizing, and public activism."

But Hagel said Trump will be too busy sorting out his legal issues to be a credible player on the political scene, for instance, a still-active investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. into Trump's business dealing or the case in the Southern District of New York in which onetime Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to a slate of charges, including paying hush money to former porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about an affair she and Cohen said she had with Trump. Trump has denied the allegations.

But Hagel also said Trump will be busy presiding over the demise of his hotel empire, implying that polite society will shun him while the hooligans who attacked the U.S. Capitol in Trump's name ahead of the counting of the electoral votes will not be able to help.

"That crowd is not going to float him with millions and millions of dollars worth of loans to keep him in business. They're not going to occupy $500-a-night rooms at his fancy hotels. No, that's a different crowd," Hagel said. "He's got immense problems here, and there is no way that his properties, his hotels, are going to be enhanced by his service in the White House. They're going to be considerably diminished."

Despite his prediction that Trump's personal affairs are on the brink of unravelling, Hagel said it's important that the Senate pursue the impeachment trial while Trump is out of office.

Hagel served as a Republican senator representing Nebraska from 1997 until 2009, when he joined the Obama administration in intelligence roles and eventually as defense secretary. But Hagel has been in government much longer than that. He recalled casting his first ever vote on top of a tank in Vietnam during the war there — for President Richard Nixon — and later coming to Washington, D.C., to work as a staffer to Rep. John Y. McCollister (R-Neb.) during the Watergate years.

"I mean, even Nixon didn't come close to what Trump has been saying and doing," Hagel said. "He has shown that he was the most irresponsible leader in the history of this country, for not just what he did the last few weeks, but what he continued to do for four years, and he's decimated our governing institutions here in Washington."

But despite thinking Trump is worthy of impeachment for his general misgovernance of the country, Hagel said the targeted article of impeachment against Trump, singling out his actions leading up to the insurrection at the Capitol, is the right move. To those who are calling for Congress to move on, Hagel said the former president must be held accountable.

"You have a president that has been inciting this," Hagel said. "I know all the arguments, 'Oh, why don't we just unify the country and let go?' No, you can't do that. No, because that's a very bad and dangerous precedent you set for the country. No, he's got to be held accountable, like any of us, and that accountability is right. I think impeachment was right."

If he was still a senator, Hagel said, he would vote not just to find Trump guilty during the impeachment trial, but also to bar him from ever serving as president again. If the former president was convicted by the Senate — which Hagel said is unlikely, but not impossible — the chamber would probably hold a separate vote on whether to disqualify Trump from office moving forward.

"President Trump should be disqualified because of what he's done to this country," Hagel said. "This is all a result of, the culmination of, the actions and words of an irresponsible, erratic President of the United States. I mean, that's the thing that's just so astounding. We've never had that before at this scale."

Unlike recent comments from his former colleague James Comey, who was director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation while Hagel was secretary of defense, Hagel said Biden doesn't need to look at a potential pardon for Trump anytime soon.

"That would be my advice to Biden: You don't need to make that decision now," he said. "I think a lot of things have to play out yet before, at least in my opinion, there would be any talk of pardoning him."

Hagel also bemoaned the state of the Republican Party he was a part of for decades. He said that under Trump, the party became an organization dedicated only to advancing Trump's goals. But the party had problems long before that, moving away from what he called the core ideas of Republicanism: Fiscal restraint, international engagement, free and fair trade, competent governance and a strong national defense. Now, he said, the GOP needs to move away from Trump and find a new leader while also figuring out what it even stands for anymore.

"They've got to figure out leadership, they've got to figure out who they are, they've got to figure out where they're going, what direction they would want to take this country," he said. "The party is bigger than one person, bigger than a president."

EXCLUSIVE: Sydney Powell and Mike Lindell may be in for a big surprise when they launch their Super PAC

WASHINGTON — Onetime "Stop the Steal" lawyer Sydney Powell and MyPillow founder Mike Lindell will need to look for a new bank for their new Super PAC.

Late Friday, Powell and Jesse Binnall, an attorney who represented the campaign of former President Donald Trump in its attempt to overturn the presidential election results in Nevada, filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission forming the new super PAC called Restore the Republic, which Powell has said also involved Lindell and the brother of Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn.

Powell wrote on her Telegram account:

"Today we are proud to announce the formation of Restore the Republic PAC, which will be dedicated to supporting candidates who will fight vigorously for our Constitutional rights, freedom of speech, and the sacred right of free and fair elections...The American people deserve a voice that exposes and rejects the self-interest of political parties, the control of tech giants, and the lies of the fake news... Join this new endeavor co-founded by Mike Lindell and Joe Flynn at www.RestoreTheRepublicPAC.Com"

As required by the FEC, they listed the bank they'll be using: Arkansas-based Bank OZK (formerly known as Bank of the Ozarks).

But a day later, a spokeswoman for the bank told Raw Story that not only does the company have nothing to do with the new political action committee, it doesn't even handle that kind of banking.

"We have done a thorough inquiry and determined this entity has no account at Bank OZK, has no account pending, and has never had an account here. Per our established policy, the PAC is not eligible for an account with Bank OZK," Susan Blair, executive vice president and spokeswoman for Bank OZK, said. "We have policies in place prohibiting accounts for certain entities. We don't publicly disclose the specifics of those policies."

PACs are legally required to have separate bank accounts, rather than accounts commingled with, for instance, the personal money of a PAC treasurer. Filing false information to the FEC could be a federal crime, said agency spokeswoman Judith Ingram. She said the agency has a process for confirming that information campaigns or committees submit is accurate, including potentially "questionable contact or bank information."

Usually, the agency will send a letter to a PAC, including a reminder that "knowingly and willfully making any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation to a federal government agency, including the Federal Election Commission, is punishable," under federal law, she said.

Still, even though it is a felony to make false statements to the FEC, the agency would not likely target Powell and her collaborators with legal action if the group cleans up its statement of organization, said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance expert at the Washington, D.C., law firm Harmon Curran.

"Realistically, they probably listed the Bank of the Ozarks as the campaign depository because they intended to open an account there and will be surprised when they find out that it's against bank policy," he said. "If they will open an account with another bank and file an amended Statement of Organization, the FEC will probably give them a pass."

Powell and Binnell did not respond to separate emailed requests for comment.

It remains to be seen, however, what financial institution would want to hold money for a super PAC headed by Powell, who promoted conspiracy theories about rigged voting machines, and Lindell, who was captured in photos at the White House earlier this month carrying notes that appeared to include the suggestion that Trump invoke martial law or the Insurrection Act.

Corporations, driven by public outcry after the violent attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters earlier this month that resulted in five deaths and a military lockdown in Washington, D.C., have been going to lengths to distance themselves from the politicians or political figures who pushed the discredited notion that President Joe Biden did not actually win the election.

Just last week, following a public outcry on Twitter, the Loews Hotels chain cancelled a reservation that Sen. Josh Hawley had previously booked for a February fundraiser at their Orlando resort, noting the company is "horrified and opposed to the events at the Capitol and all who supported and incited the actions."

Meanwhile, companies from GE to Coca Cola to Facebook have paused political action committee donations, with some companies even singling out and freezing donations to the 147 Republican lawmakers who objected to the count of the Electoral College votes just hours after the Capitol had been cleared of rioters.

Major financial institutions like JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo have all made statements noting they would either pause donations to candidates or political action committees, or factor the Capitol riots into their decision-making when it comes time to cut political checks. That begs the question whether the same institutions would agree to hold money for a group whose stated aim is to continue to promote the same conspiracies.

In fact, it seems like it's just bad PR. The fact that Bank OZK's is not involved in the machinations of this super PAC may save the relatively small regional lender a headache; some Twitter users had already been tagging the financial institution on Twitter, asking questions such as, "Do you want your bank's reputation to be linked with this person who fought tooth and nail to overturn our election without *any* evidence?" and "Y'all support insurrection dollars and misinformation frenzied donations running through your bank???"

Though the FEC documents only cite Powell and Binnall's involvement in the PAC, Powell noted on social media that she's partnered in the effort with "MyPillow guy" Lindell and Joe Flynn, the brother of Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who has promoted QAnon and the Capitol Stop the Steal rally.

Powell, who has been banned from Twitter for promoting QAnon conspiracies, shared a screed outlining the PAC's goal on her account on Telegram, a social media site favored by right-wing extremists. She intimated that the super PAC would be used to target political candidates in both the Democratic and Republican parties who do not believe that the election results were fraudulent.

"The PAC will promote candidates who fight for truth and the Rule of Law, and we will strenuously oppose any candidate who discards the Constitution for his own short term or political gain—regardless of her party," Powell wrote. "Eighty million people were just disenfranchised by the inauguration of a President not elected by lawful votes. The Democrats abandoned their base and the Republicans betrayed theirs."

Powell has also started a similar group called Defending the Republic, which notes on its website that it is not yet taking donations as the group's 501c3 nonprofit status is pending.

The bank snafu marks an inauspicious start for the PAC, though it is not the first time Powell has filed erroneous documents to a government. Her legal team caught bad press after filing court challenges to the election results that were rife with misspellings, geographical errors and just plain false information.

It's also not clear how involved Trump or his team are in this new effort. The super PAC lists its address as a UPS Store a roughly 25 minute drive from Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Powell's practice is based in Dallas and Lindell lives in Minnesota.

Powell alleged a vast conspiracy in which several states' elections were falsely skewed in favor of Biden by manipulated electronic voting machines run by a company with alleged ties to the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. The lawsuits in states such as Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin were thrown out. Powell filed an appeal challenging the results in Georgia directly to the Supreme Court, but withdrew the lawsuit earlier this week.

Defeated GOP congressman appears to be in major financial trouble as he faces DOJ probe

Things continue to look grim for ex-Rep. Ross Spano. The Justice Department is still investigating the Florida Republican for campaign finance irregularities and he ultimately lost his Congressional seat in an August primary.

Now, in a sign that Spano's 2021 might not be much better than his 2020, his campaign revealed that it's heavily in legal debt with close to no money in the bank to pay it off.

Spano's campaign revealed in paperwork filed with the federal government Monday that it owes more than $128,000, with about half of that total promised away to law firms representing him in the campaign finance probe stemming from allegations he took tens of thousands of dollars in loans from two friends and then illegally personally loaned that money to his campaign in 2018.

What's more, the campaign revealed it only has about $23,000 left in the bank, after several dismal fundraising quarters preceding his primary loss, according to Federal Election Commission records.

The main reason he has almost no campaign money left is that he had to basically empty his campaign account after he lost the primary to Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin, who dispatched Spano in a close primary and went on to win the congressional seat in November against a Democrat. Franklin was sworn into office earlier this month.

The FEC filing revealed that Spano returned some $150,000 to donors, something he had to do to avoid committing another potential campaign finance violation, said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance expert at the Washington, D.C.-based law firm, Harmon Curran.

When donors contribute money to a campaign, they have to designate whether it's for a primary election or a general election. The FEC mandates this because donors are limited in the amount of money they can give. Individuals can give $2,800 in the primary and that same amount again in the general, while political action committees can give $5,000 per each election.

But often, donors give that money well in advance of the general election. Unfortunately for Spano, he didn't make it that far in the process in 2020, so he had to give money back to donors who had earmarked it to be used for the general election, lest he anger FEC regulators any further.

"It basically wiped out his campaign," Kappel said. "He lost in the primary, so he had to give back all the money he had received that was designated for the general elections — all the individual contributions and all the PAC contributions."

Some of those donors who received refunds included billionaire Home Depot founder and GOP megadonor Bernard Marcus and his wife Billi; Manhattan real estate investor Steven Roth; Heritage Foundation trustee Barb Gaby; and Las Vegas casino moguls Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta. The list also includes House Minority Whip Steve Scalise's Eye of the Tiger PAC, and PACs representing Honeywell, FedEx and national credit unions.

The problem is that doesn't leave him enough money to repay his debts. The former congressman, his campaign manager, and a D.C.-based ethics attorney who has represented Spano in his campaign finance probes did not respond to emails requesting comment about how he plans to pay down the debt.

Spano, who practiced law before entering politics and is still registered with the Florida bar (though the group did announce it was investigating him last year amid the campaign finance probe), could pay his debt out of his own pocket. He could also raise money from donors with the express purpose of paying down his debt, though that tends to be a hard sell for donors after a congressman is no longer in office.

Still, it's fair to wonder whether the law firms will ever be repaid for their work on his behalf. Other campaigns, after all, have incurred massive legal or consulting debts that they haven't repaid for years, most famous among them, Newt Gingrich, who still owes more than $4 million in fees from his failed 2012 presidential run, and Fox News personality "Judge Jeanine" Pirro, whose campaign was more than $850,000 in debt when she cut short her 2006 bid for the Republican nomination to challenge then-Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton in New York.

That has led to the phenomenon of "zombie campaigns," or campaign committees that continue filing reports with the FEC years after the candidate is no longer running for office because the FEC won't let them close their accounts until they pay off their debts.

Spano's campaign reported owing more than $24,000 to the D.C. firm Berke Farah, which represents members of Congress in ethics matters, and more than $22,000 to the Orlando office of Holland and Knight. The campaign also owes $18,000 to a Florida political consulting firm.

The campaign's largest creditor, however, is still Spano himself. The campaign reported that it owes Spano nearly $60,000, after he loaned that amount to campaign in 2018.

That money, and other loans like it, were the things that got Spano in hot water in the first place. The day before the 2018 election, the Tampa Bay Times reported that he may have illegally accepted $180,000 in personal loans from two friends and then passed it off as a personal loan to his campaign committee, an arrangement that is forbidden under campaign finance law.

Since later 2018, Spano's defense in the matter has been that he and his friends entered into the financial arrangement on bad advice from campaign consultants. He reported paying back the loans, and has repaid himself some of the money from his campaign.

'It wasn't stolen': Former t​op Trump aide calls on the president to tell his supporters the truth

As violent, rioting supporters of President Donald Trump smashed windows and broke into the U.S. Capitol in apparent attempts to stop Congress from counting the Electoral certifying President-elect Joe Biden's victory, a former top aide to Trump appears to have had enough.

Alyssa Farah, who has been a top communications aide not just to Trump, but also to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows when Meadows was a member of Congress, tweeted at Trump to "condemn this now" because "you are the only one they will listen to. For our country!"

But two hours later, when Trump's condemnation amounted to little more than a video egging on the false claims that the election was stolen while telling protesters to go home, Farah seems to have had enough of humoring her former boss.

Farah, who resigned from the White House last month, tweeted some hard truths at the mob surrounding the Capitol.

"Dear MAGA- I am one of you. Before I worked for @realDonaldTrump, I worked for @MarkMeadows & @Jim_Jordan & the @freedomcaucus. I marched in the 2010 Tea Party rallies. I campaigned w/ Trump & voted for him. But I need you to hear me: the Election was NOT stolen. We lost," she wrote on Twitter.

"There were cases of fraud that should be investigated. But the legitimate margins of victory for Biden are far too wide to change the outcome. You need to know that," Farah continued. "I'm proud of many policy accomplishments the Trump Admin had. But we must accept these results."

Why now? Farah said in an interview after sending the tweets that the violent images of Trump rioters breaching her former workplace led her to the belief that it was time to speak up.

"Republicans need to be honest with their voters: we lost," she said. "It's wrong to mislead and make millions who supported Trump think there is a path to victory. We shouldn't be surprised this turned violent — but it's incumbent on the president to denounce this and tell his supporters: it wasn't stolen."

Farah, who was Trump's director of strategic communications and also held positions in the Pentagon and Vice President Mike Pence's office, now joins the small group of former members of Trump's inner circle who have since come around to criticizing the president. That includes, among others, Olivia Troye, Pence's former homeland security advisor, who criticized the administration's response to coronavirus; Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who called him a racist and a con-man; and former Cabinet secretaries like Jim Mattis and Rex Tillerson.

Also joining that group on Wednesday, though less stridently, was former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Mulvaney, who had recently written an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal predicting that Trump would leave peacefully if he lost the election, called on the president to act on Twitter.

"The best thing @realdonaldtrump could do right now is to address the nation from the Oval Office and condemn the riots. A peaceful transition of power is essential to the country and needs to take place on 1/20," Mulvaney wrote on Twitter.

Mulvaney did not respond to a request to comment further.

They are hardly the only former Trump aides speaking out now. Former Chief of Staff John Kelly, who has been critical of Trump but speaks out rarely in public, told ABC's Jon Karl that the scene on Wednesday was as "un-American as anything I have seen" and took a shot at Meadows, noting this is what happens when you "let Trump be Trump" — a quote that has been Meadows' mantra as chief of staff.

Troye, who has been sharply critical of Trump almost daily since leaving her White House post, tweeted that Trump had incited this riot.

"Anyone who thinks Trump's additional rallying cries during his speech today & his tweets didn't incite what's happening at the US Capitol today—is part of the denialism that led us to this moment. #Trumpism isn't patriotism-It's #DomesticTerrorism," she wrote.

Other Republicans who are often tight-lipped spoke out, too. President George W. Bush released a statement, and although he didn't name drop Trump, he did allude to "falsehoods and false hopes" that have inflamed the mob attacking the Capitol.

"This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic," he Bush said in the statement. "I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some of our leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement."

Here's the truth behind those ads claiming David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler will bring partisan 'balance'

The blonde woman, her loose khaki cardigan hanging off her shoulders, nursing a green ceramic mug in her lily-white, naturally lit kitchen, says earnestly into the camera with her slight Southern lilt that she thinks "America needs balance."

That's why, she says, as a Georgian and mother of three, even though she voted for President-elect Joe Biden in last year's presidential election, she's supporting "David and Kelly" — Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, that is — in the Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections that will decide the balance of power in the Senate, and in Washington, D.C.

The problem is the shadowy Texas-based group that has pumped $2.5 million since just before Christmas behind the digital commercial featuring this unnamed woman won't have to disclose its donors until well after the votes are cast in the Senate elections. When it finally does disclose that information, it's highly likely the effort will be revealed to be funded not by people concerned with maintaining partisan balance in Washington, but by people concerned with maintaining Republican power in the Capitol.

That's because the political action committee that funded the ad, Georgia Balance, has worked with a digital marketing company that is run by Republicans and works exclusively with Republicans. Its treasurer is a former George W. Bush administration employee who has also managed other Republican PACs that have employed similar donor-shielding tactics.

The reason the committee won't have to disclose who funds it is because it is what's referred to as a pop-up PAC. That means it takes advantage of a loophole in campaign finance reporting deadlines. Since it was created after the last deadline by which organizations are legally obligated to reveal their donors, it won't have to tell the public where its money came from until the next deadline, which isn't until the end of January, well after Tuesday's election will be decided.

Still, it is required to reveal when it spends large amounts of money in the race, so voters can know that money is being spent, just not who supplied it.

Often with a group like this, the only clue about its true intentions is where that money was spent. For instance, another pop-up PAC formed just before the 2020 election spent more than $1 million on ads boosting a conservative third-party opponent to South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, even though that opponent had already dropped out of the race. The money was spent on a Democratic aligned marketing firm. The effort was later revealed to have been funded by a Democratic group called Lindsey Must Go PAC that was supporting Graham's Democratic opponent, Jaime Harrison.

Similarly, Georgia Balance was created on Dec. 16, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. About a week later, the day before Christmas Eve, it filed paperwork disclosing it had spent some $2.4 million on digital ad production and placement and website design supporting Loeffler and Perdue, who are locked in a tight matchup against Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively. The group revealed another $135,000 in ad spending on New Year's Eve.

The tell is that all of that money was spent on a Washington, D.C., firm called Targeted Victory. The group is run by the former digital director of Sen. Mitt Romney's failed 2012 presidential campaign against President Barack Obama. It works exclusively with Republicans, counting among its biggest patrons this election cycle the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, and Trump-aligned Super PAC, America First Action.

It also worked with several high-profile Senate campaigns, as well as the campaigns of several Republican challengers to Democratic House members.

The treasurer of the PAC is another giveaway. Cabell Hobbs, of the Texas and Virginia based RightSide Compliance, has worked with Republican political committees going back more than a decade. Hobbs did not respond to a request for comment.

One of those is a Super PAC affiliated with President Donald Trump's former national security advisor John Bolton, which controversially spent more than $1 million on data on the disgraced and now-defunct voter profiling group, Cambridge Analytica, and was accused by a campaign finance watchdog of unlawfully communicating with Sen. Thom Tillis' 2014 campaign.


More recently, another pop-up PAC Hobbs managed gained press attention in Maine because it was spending money against a Republican running in a primary race to take on Democratic incumbent Rep. Jared Golden. Flyers from the group accused state Sen. Eric Brakey of not being sufficiently loyal to Trump, and only after the primary election was it revealed the group was funded by various conservative groups likely working on behalf of one of his primary opponents.

EXCLUSIVE: Hollywood producer bankrolled mysterious super PAC funded flyers calling Connecticut's first black congresswoman a socialist

WASHINGTON — During her first reelection bid earlier this year, Connecticut’s first black congresswoman, Rep. Jahana Hayes, was attacked as “too radical” in mailers showing her standing in front of a scene that looks like burning, violent looting and tying her to “the Squad.”

Keep reading... Show less

President Donald Trump’s not the only Republican asking for a recount in a race that’s probably way out of reach

WASHINGTON — On the heels of news Trump’s team will ask for a partial recount in Wisconsin, New Jersey state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. filed paperwork Tuesday to form a recount fundraising committee that can challenge the results of his race against incumbent freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Malinoswki in the northwestern New Jersey congressional swing district.

Keep reading... Show less

EXCLUSIVE: 'Blood of Liberty' PAC formed by right-wing political operative looking to rebrand himself as a 'center right' post-Trump player

WASHINGTON — He helped President Donald Trump win Florida and managed conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer’s congressional campaign. Now Scott Barrish is trying to reinvent himself as a centrist.

Keep reading... Show less

Experts: Trump’s election court cases are going nowhere

WASHINGTON — With the presidential election rapidly slipping away from him, President Donald Trump has initiated a patchwork strategy of legal challenges to contest vote counting in states around the country to underpin his unsubstantiated claims the election is being stolen.

Keep reading... Show less

Scandal-plagued GOP congressman could get into even more legal hot water if he wins re-election

Scandal-plagued Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn defended himself against a report that he appears to have made use of rent-free office space care of a campaign donor by telling the local press last month the story was nothing but partisan lies.

Keep reading... Show less

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Raw Story Investigates and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.