The American Conservative Union is one of the oldest, most stolid conservative political organizations in the United States. Its annual rankings of members of Congress are widely anticipated and reported by mainstream political journalists, and its conferences and meetings receive significant, often live, coverage by TV news networks. ACU staffers write columns setting the political agenda in a number of insider newsletters like The Hill that have a prior record as a platform for insiders to write puff pieces in pursuit of their money-driven agendas.
So it is no small news that Politico breaks this morning, that ACU head David Keene and Executive Vice President Dennis Whitfield sought a $2,000,000 – $3,000,000 million payment from FedEx in order for Keene to endorse FedEx’s side of a dispute with rival UPS about government subsidies to the corporations, and to mobilize his mailing list of American conservatives across the country to support FedEx in a fake grassroots (aka “astroturf”) operation. FedEx refused to pay up, and David Keene signed on to a letter endorsing the conservative rectitude of UPS instead.
There you have it: the conservative movement, literally selling itself and its “principles” off to corporate America.
P.S. This particular payola scandal has signs of extending beyond the boundaries of the American Conservative Union. At the end of the letter trying to extract money from FedEx for its “astroturf” support, the ACU mentioned a go-between meeting featuring Burson-Marsteller lobbyist, prominent Republican strategist and former McCain for President staffer Charles R. “Charlie” Black. Charlie Black is a big DC player; let’s watch to see whether the extent of his involvement in this pay-to-play scandal in American conservatism is disclosed or hushed up.