Conservative group pushing immigration reform has insider ties, shady finances

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American Action Network (AAN), a group helping push the Senate immigration reform billm has had some questionable financial practices come into focus. They have been paying money to fundraisers who raised no money, paying money to event planners when they had no fundraising events, and paying money for media work to a pharmaceutical lobbyist and ex-PhRMA V.P. with no history of doing media work after they also received $4.5 million from PhRMA themselves.

Last Week, Jonathan Strong at NRO wrote:

Senior GOP aides of a super PAC linked to Speaker John Boehner are lobbying House Republicans to pass the Senate “Gang of Eight” immigration bill, legislation that Boehner has said he will not bring to the House floor.

The lobbying effort is coming under the umbrella of the American Action Network , a nonprofit 501(c)(4) “action tank” led by former senator Norm Coleman, which is touting the “major positive economic impact” of the Senate bill in e-mails sent to individual House Republican offices.

AAN is housed in the same office as the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC associated with Boehner, and the two organizations share senior aides, including Brian O. Walsh, the president of both organizations, and Dan Conston, the spokesman for both.

Strong also reported today that the White House is using AAN’s materials on immigration reform:

Assistant Press Secretary Bobby Whithorne just tweeted out a link to the embeddable widget that allows users to find out how many jobs the Senate bill would create in his congressional district. That was promptly re-tweeted by the official White House account to over 4 million people. American Action Network, a 501(c)(3) “action tank,” created the widget, which was sent to GOP congressional offices. The group shares an office and key personnel with the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC for which Boehner has recently headlined fundraisers and with which he is strongly associated.

A MinnPost article on immigration reform also discusses American Action Forum (AAF), which is affiliated with AAN:

One of the most recent commentaries comes from economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an adviser to Republican politicians and the head of the conservative American Action Forum. Holtz-Eakin says a serious modernization of U.S. immigration policies would generate significant economic growth. Conversely, he warns that a lack of immigration would lead to contraction of both the U.S. population and its economy due to low birth rates among U.S.-born women.

In light of AAN’s recent immigration activities, it is a good time to take a look at some of their questionable financial moves.

Here’s their most recent 990 (from July 2011-June 2012):

American Action Network 990 by Jeff Quinton

Former FEC chair Michael Toner was the lawyer for the Tim Pawlenty-associated Freedom First PAC and Pawlenty forPresident. Wiley Rein, his law firm, now represents AAN and AAF.

7 of the 10 fundraisers listed as fundraisers for AAN in their most recent IRS report were also paid consultants to the Pawlenty for President campaign.

  • McIntosh Co.—Caitlin McIntosh
  • Vandenberg & Associates—Casandra Vandenberg
  • PKL Consulting—Pam Kiney Longmus
  • Marriott Strategy—Paige Marriott
  • New Frontier Strategy—Phil Musser
  • North Hills Partners—Phil Musser
  • Creative Direct—a direct mail firm for Pawlenty for President

The fundraisers raised no money for AAN during the time period they were paid. Phil Musser, who was deputy campaign manager of Pawlenty’s presidential campaign was paid $40,000 via New Frontier Strategy and North Hills Partners (two companies located at his home address.) On the AAN report, Musser is listed as a fundraiser for these two companies. On the Pawlenty for President reports, payment to North Hills is referred to as payment for strategy or consulting. Phil Musser is not known as a fundraiser in the DC political community. Creative Direct did extensive consulting for the Pawlenty campaign. The tax form shows Creative Direct did direct mail for AAN and raised no money – not one red cent – from that mail.

AAN’s IRS Form 990 reports that no fundraising events were held from July 2011-June 2012.  As I have just showed, there were no funds raised by the outside fundraisers who were paid for their services. In light of these two facts, what justifies these fundraisers receiving such a high level of compensation?

During this same time period the Romney for President campaign was holding fundraising events to help retire debt for the Pawlenty campaign. The fundraisers paid by AAN were paid similar amounts to what they had been previously paid by Pawlenty for President (in $5,000 increments.)

Elizabeth Verrill of EV Consulting, an outside fundraising consultant, was doing fundraising for AAN during the time period for this report but is not listed on the above form. Verrill also received $40,000 from the National Republican Congressional Committee in October 2012 for services rendered to the NRCC. AAN President Brian O. Walsh was at the NRCC from 2007-2010.

AAN also paid $2,534,650 to Mohler Consulting for “media advocacy services.” The address listed for Mohler Consulting is the Maryland home address of Dave Mohler. There are no records of Mohler Consulting doing media advocacy services prior to or after this payment. Dave Mohler is also a full-time paid pharmaceutical lobbyist for his other company, East End Group, LLC. A search of the site lobbyists.info reveals that East End Group earned $2,531,500 on lobbying (a large part of it pharmaceutical-related) in 2011. PhRMA, the trade association for the pharmaceutical industry, gave AAN $4.5 million in 2010. Mohler was previously Senior Vice President at PhRMA and they were a lobbying client of East End in 2011 and 2012.

AAN said on the same 990 that they spent no money on lobbying, yet they paid a pharmaceutical lobbyist $2.5 million through his home business. PhRMA gave AAN nearly 15% of its income in 2010.

AAN also paid $198,000 for event services to the ABAD Corporation operated by Pedro Regalado Abad, a.ka. Peter Regalado. Regalado is the business partner of Jorge Arrizurieta, a former staffer for Sen. Connie Mack. Arrizurieta is a well-known Cuban-American in Miami with ties to Wayne Huizenga, the Fanjuls, Jeb Bush, Rep. Connie Mack, the mayor of Miami, and many others. Arrizurieta was the Latin American Policy Advisor to the Mitt Romney campaign in 2008 and 2012. He was also appointed to government posts by President George W. Bush and Gov. Jeb Bush.

abad-miamiThe ABAD Corporation’s address is in a rundown house in a low-income neighborhood in Miami. There are over 15 different corporations with the same address set up through Peter Regalado or Teresa Regalado. ABAD Corporation has been defunct and then active and then defunct again according to Florida state records. The company was only an active corporation in Florida from July-September of 2011 as far as the time period covered for the AAN tax report is concerned. Peter Regalado’s most recent business venture is selling travel neck pillows like the ones sold in airports and train stations. Regalado and Arrizurieta also share a business office at the five-star Biltmore Hotel in Miami.

What services did AAN pay ABAD nearly $200,000 for in the three month period ABAD was active during that tax year?

I previously wrote about AAN and the RNC attempting to bring Lady Gaga to the 2012 Republican National Convention. They denied it, and I wrote more proving their coordination on bringing celebrity talent to the convention.

Summing things up, we have a situation where American Action Network was:

  • Paying money to fundraisers who raised no money
  • Paying money to event planners when they had no fundraising events.
  • Paying money for media work to a pharmaceutical lobbyist and ex-PhRMA V.P. with no history of doing media work after they also received $4.5 million from PhRMA themselves.

During this same time period, the Pawlenty presidential campaign was trying to retire its huge campaign debt. These same vendors and consultants who were paid by AAN also were consultants who worked for the Pawlenty campaign.

I’ve laid out the facts and I’ll let you, the reader, decide what’s going on here.

Jeff Quinton

Jeff Quinton is an award-winning blogger who has been aggregating and blogging since 1998. He has worked as a reporter, in government, and as a communications professional in DC.

Quinton is a native South Carolinian who has lived in Baltimore for 8 years. He is a recent convert to the Catholic Church and is active in the Knights of Columbus.

Quinton is a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the Army National Guard. He is also an Eagle Scout.