Good day Austin:
Is the Republican Party under President Trump becoming a cult?
I ask, because of late, some of the behavior seems cult-like.
Last week, the four candidates in the two party runoffs in the 21st Congressional District – Republicans Matt McCall and Chip Roy and Democrats Joseph Kopser and Mary Wilson – appeared at a League of Women Voters forum in San Marcos.
I wasn’t there, and it didn’t make the Rivard Report’s coverage of the event, but in the seven-second clip tweeted by Jason Johnson, McCall said this:
I support the president’s policies. I don’t necessarily want him to watch my daughters. But I support his policies.
It was intended, I think, as a funny line – McCall can be funny and people laughed – and perhaps as a bit of an ice-breaker in a bipartisan setting, but also with an element of truth: You don’t have to believe that President Trump is perfect in every way to support his politics, or even have MAGA on your campaign signs.
Only, it seems in the current political climate, and amid the 2018 midterm elections, maybe you can’t.
Jason Johnson was the chief strategist for Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign. He is a campaign consultant for Chip Roy, Cruz’s former chief of staff and the former head of a pro-Cruz super PAC in the presidential campaign, who is the front-runner in Tuesday’s runoff election. Johnson is also an adviser to Texans ARE, a super PAC formed to advance Cruz’s re-election to the Senate.
I emailed Johnson last week to ask about the tweet, in light of what Cruz had to say about Trump on the last day of Cruz’s presidential campaign in 2016: “I will tell you, as the father of two young girls, the idea of our daughters coming home and repeating any word that man says horrifies me.”
For one, Cruz and Trump were competitors in the same race and Cruz’s comment was, to use Trump’s phrase, a counter-punch after being attacked. Furthermore, the Cruz comment referred to the possibility of his children repeating far from PG-13 language from the campaign trail. McCall is running in a GOP primary with #MAGA on his signs and for some reasons thinks it wise to talk about his discomfort with the notion of President Trump keeping watch over his daughters.
Yes, I suppose what Cruz said to reporters about Trump the morning of the May 3 Indiana primary loss to Trump that ended his candidacy was “a counter-punch.”
But it was much more than that.
It was Cruz, fueled by his own sense of honor and outrage and decency, offering a more thorough and devastating and personal attack on a political opponent than I had ever seen in politics.
As he said, prefacing his extended remarks to reporters in Evansville, Ind.: “I’m going to do something I haven’t done for the entire campaign.I’m going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump.”
From Cruz on Trump and women:
He will betray you on every issue across the board. And his strategy of being a bully in particular is directed as women. Donald has a real problem with women. People who are insecure, people who are insecure about who they are — Donald is terrified by strong women.
He lashes out at them. Remember, this is the same Donald Trump who last week here in Indiana proudly touted the endorsement from Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist who served three years in prison here in Indiana for raping a 17-year-old girl. And in Donald’s world, he said Mike Tyson was a tough guy.
I don’t think rapists are tough guys. I spent a lot of years in law enforcement dealing with rapists. Rapists are weak. They’re cowards and they’re bullies. And anyone that thinks they’re a tough guy, that reveals everything about Donald Trump’s character.
Donald Trump said Bill Clinton was targeted by unattractive women. You know what? I have been blessed to be surrounded by strong women my entire life.
Today’s voting day here in Indiana. The president of the United States has a bully pulpit unlike anybody else. The president of the United States affects our culture. I ask the people of Indiana, think about the next five years if this man were to become president.
Think about the next five years, the boasting, the pathological lying, the picking up “The National Enquirer” and accusing people of killing JFK, the bullying. Think about your kids coming back and emulating this.
For people in Indiana who long for a day when we were nice to each other, when we treated people with respect, when we didn’t engage in sleaze and lies — and I would note one of the lies he engages in, listen, Donald Trump is a serial philanderer, and he boasts about it. This is not a secret. He’s proud of being a serial philanderer.
I want everyone to think about your teenage kids. The president of the United States talks about how great it is to commit adultery, and how proud he is, describes his battles with venereal disease as his own personal Vietnam. That’s a quote, by the way, on the Howard Stern show.
Do you want to spend the next five years with your kids bragging about infidelity? Now, what does he do? He does the same projection. Just like a pathological liar, he accuses everyone of lying. Even though he boasts about his infidelity, he plants in David Pecker’s “National Enquirer” a lie about me and my family, attacking my family. He accuses others of doing what he is doing.
I will tell you, as the father of two young girls, the idea of our daughters coming home and repeating any word that man says horrifies me.
Trump’s defense of Mike Tyson was the focus of an ad during the Indiana primary by Trusted Leadership, a pro-Cruz super PAC.
Trump: You have a young woman who was in his room late in the evening at her own will who was seen dancing at the beauty contest, dancing with a big smile on her face.
From the Washington Post’s David Weigel on April 30, 2016:
Trusted Leadership PAC, one of the many groups backing Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign for president, has announced a six-figure online Indiana ad buy that exploits an issue Donald Trump actually introduced to the race. In 30 seconds, the spot compares the backing of Cruz (R-Tex.) by Gov. Mike Pence (R) to the friendship between Trump and Tyson — which was tested when Tyson was convicted of rape in Indiana and Trump defended him.
Tyson’s rape case dates back to July 1991, when a Miss Black America contestant was attacked by the champion boxer in an Indianapolis hotel room.One of the leaders of the effort to keep Tyson out of prison is Donald Trump.
“I love it, he sent out a tweet,” Trump said. “Mike. Iron Mike. You know, all the tough guys endorse me. I like that, okay?”
Trump did not mention the context of the rape case, after which he said the boxer had been “railroaded” and suggested that the accuser had been exploitative. Still, his out-of-nowhere comment rumbled through Indiana media. Greg Garrison, who had been the lead prosecutor on the Tyson case, told audiences of his radio talk show that Trump had made an inexplicable mistake.
“Did nobody in that whole entourage of yours know that that snake raped a lovely kid in this town?” Garrison asked. “I think I’d beef up my intelligence operation a little bit.”
Carly Fiorina, Cruz’s newly minted running mate, took her own shot at Trump during a Friday news conference.
“Sorry, I don’t consider a convicted rapist a tough guy,” Fiorina told reporters. “And I think it says a lot about Donald Trump’s campaign and his character that he is standing up and cheering for an endorsement by Mike Tyson.”
The next day, Trusted Leadership PAC — which is not permitted to officially coordinate with the campaign — announced a $375,000 ad buy, of which the Mike Tyson ad, “The Company You Keep,” is part.
Chip Roy was executive director of Trusted Leadership.
That Cruz’s comments about Trump’s character were more than a counter-punch in the heat of battle is evidenced by his refusal, even under enormous pressure, to endorse Trump for more than four more months, until a Facebook post on Sept. 23, 2016 that begins as follows:
This election is unlike any other in our nation’s history. Like many other voters, I have struggled to determine the right course of action in this general election.
In Cleveland, I urged voters, “please, don’t stay home in November. Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket whom you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”
After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.
I’ve made this decision for two reasons. First, last year, I promised to support the Republican nominee. And I intend to keep my word.
Second, even though I have had areas of significant disagreement with our nominee, by any measure Hillary Clinton is wholly unacceptable — that’s why I have always been #NeverHillary.
Six key policy differences inform my decision…
Nowhere in his endorsement does Cruz vouch for Trump’s character or his treatment of women.
Two weeks later, the Access Hollywood tape was made public, and it seemed possible that Cruz’s timing had been off.
Here’s the transcript from the New York Times:
Following is an unedited transcript of the tape in which Donald J. Trump repeatedly made vulgar comments about women. Mr. Trump was filmed talking to the television personality Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood” on the set of “Days of Our Lives,” where Mr. Trump was making a cameo appearance. They are later joined by the actress Arianne Zucker. The transcription is by Penn Bullock of The New York Times.
Donald J. Trump: You know and …
Unknown: She used to be great. She’s still very beautiful.
Trump: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it.
Trump: I did try and fuck her. She was married.
Unknown: That’s huge news.
Trump: No, no, Nancy. No, this was [unintelligible] — and I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping.
She wanted to get some furniture. I said, “I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.” I took her out furniture —
I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.
Billy Bush: Sheesh, your girl’s hot as shit. In the purple.
Trump: Whoa! Whoa!
Bush: Yes! The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man!
Trump: Look at you, you are a pussy.
Trump: All right, you and I will walk out.
Trump: Maybe it’s a different one.
Bush: It better not be the publicist. No, it’s, it’s her, it’s —
Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
Bush: Whatever you want.
Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.
Bush: Uh, yeah, those legs, all I can see is the legs.
Trump: Oh, it looks good.
Bush: Come on shorty.
Trump: Ooh, nice legs, huh?
Bush: Oof, get out of the way, honey. Oh, that’s good legs. Go ahead.
Trump: It’s always good if you don’t fall out of the bus. Like Ford, Gerald Ford, remember?
Bush: Down below, pull the handle.
Trump: Hello, how are you? Hi!
Arianne Zucker: Hi, Mr. Trump. How are you? Pleasure to meet you.
Trump: Nice seeing you. Terrific, terrific. You know Billy Bush?
Bush: Hello, nice to see you. How you doing, Arianne?
Zucker: Doing very well, thank you. Are you ready to be a soap star?
Trump: We’re ready, let’s go. Make me a soap star.
Bush: How about a little hug for the Donald? He just got off the bus.
Zucker: Would you like a little hug, darling?
Trump: O.K., absolutely. Melania said this was O.K.
Bush: How about a little hug for the Bushy? I just got off the bus.
Trump overcame the Access Hollywood tape. He survived and thrived. He was elected president of the United States.
As Cruz recently wrote of Trump for the TIME 100:
President Trump is a flash-bang grenade thrown into Washington by the forgotten men and women of America. The fact that his first year as Commander in Chief disoriented and distressed members of the media and political establishment is not a bug but a feature.
The same cultural safe spaces that blinkered coastal elites to candidate Trump’s popularity have rendered them blind to President Trump’s achievements on behalf of ordinary Americans. While pundits obsessed over tweets, he worked with Congress to cut taxes for struggling families. While wealthy celebrities announced that they would flee the country, he fought to bring back jobs and industries to our shores. While talking heads predicted Armageddon, President Trump’s strong stand against North Korea put Kim Jong Un back on his heels.
President Trump is doing what he was elected to do: disrupt the status quo. That scares the heck out of those who have controlled Washington for decades, but for millions of Americans, their confusion is great fun to watch.
OK. I understand the politics at work here.
But still, does this mean that Cruz is recanting those things he said about Trump’s character and his treatment of women? Does he no longer believe what he said then or think it matters?
It seemed before the midterms got into full swing that a Republican could hold the position that, Trump might not be perfect, but I love what he is doing in Washington.
But now, it seems, a Republican candidate must adopt the public posture that Trump is perfect, or suffer the consequences.
And nowhere is this more evident, or in its own way poignant, than in CD 21.
Roy and McCall are ideological twins – two peas in a Constitutional conservative pod. On the issues there is no telling them apart. Roy’s argument is that he is more experienced, battle-tested, electable and prepared to lead in Washington.
But, in order to defeat McCall, Roy and his allies are depending on depicting McCall as insufficiently loyal to Trump, not so much on policy, but in terms of the developing cult of personality around Trump that denies that Trump has any of the flaws that Cruz and Roy were at the forefront of identifying.
Indeed, the new paradigm is that Trump’s flaws are part and parcel of what Jeff Roe, who managed Cruz’s presidential campaign and is managing his Senate campaigns, described in the New York Times in March as the maddening brilliance of Mr. Trump.
It is undoubtedly difficult to differentiate Trump policies from the Trump persona, because the Trump persona dominates news coverage. But Republican candidates for Congress have to try. Tactically, that means being laser-focused on generating local news coverage of policy accomplishments, even when the national cable news fixates on the latest Trump outrage.
And guess what? Despite breathless coverage of the daily outrage generator in the White House, the economy is improving. The tax cuts will, and in fact already are, spurring growth, freeing capital for investment, creating jobs and returning overseas profits to our shores. There is a message to sell. So sell it.
I would go further and argue that it is the Trump persona so vilified in the media that has in fact made bolder, more sweeping reforms possible than would have been conceivable under almost any other Republican who might have been elected.
Which brings us to national radio host Mark Levin and his involvement in the CD 21 runoff.
For some time, Levin has been closely allied with Cruz and Roy.
He had Roy on his show when the CD 21 field was forming.
Roy was back on last week
In this interview, Levin said, “This is a race that’s bigger than Texas, it’s a national race.” And, of Roy, “he’s one of us.”
In summing up Roy v. McCall, he said, “One is a Reagan conservative and the other is a Gerald Ford RINO as far as I’m concerned.”
“Do I have that about right?”
No, not really.
If Matt McCall is a Gerald Ford RINO, Mark Levin is Anderson Cooper.
“I guess the establishment types have thrown a lot of money into this race,” Levin said to Roy. “Are they funding a lot of your opponent’s ads?”
Roy doesn’t directly answer, but the answer is “no.”
Before closing out his interview with Roy, Levin tells his audience, ” if his weaselly opponent wants to come on, we’ll bring him on.”
“I’m a fair guy. I really am, if his weaselly opponent wants to come on, I’ll give him a shot.”
And he does. Sort of.
It’s worth listening to. Here’s just a small sampling.
LEVIN: I’ve been trying to find out about you and I really can’t find a lot.
I went into Texas often, I worked with the tea party movement in Texas often, and I just don’t remember you. Were you involved in the tea party movement?
What have you done for conservative causes?
MCCALL: What did President Trump do before he was president?
LEVIN: Now you’re President Trump?
Did you work on the Cruz campaign or the Trump campaign?
MCCALL: Why is that a prerequisite for anything?
LEVIN: I didn’t say it was a prerequisite, I asked you a question. Why are you so defensive?
And I’m trying to know you and the whole country’s trying to know you and you won’t tell me.
McCall asked Levin why he couldn’t ask him the same issue questions he posed to Roy?
LEVIN: Because I’m interviewing you and I’ll do it anyway I damn please and I don’t know who the hell you are?
Pause here to flash back to Mark Levin warning about Trump – way back in 2011.
During the last two years when many of you were spending your resources and time caring about your country, engaging, trying to deal with an out-of-control president and out-of-control Congress that was destroying your country, spending your own money to go to rallies, spending your own money to set up websites, you the Paul and Paulette Reveres, what was Donald Trump doing? Did he go to a single rally? Did he contribute to a single Tea Party cause?
Well he was spreading his contributions around and we’re supposed to believe that every businessman does that. Really? Every businessman man gives money to Chuck Schumer? Anthony Weiner? Really? Every businessman. I’m not aware of that.
Well, as recently as Feb. 2010, a little over a year ago, right in the teeth of the tea party movement, Mr. Trump gave $2,000 to Anthony Weiner in his primary. In 2009, in the teeth of the tea party battle, he gave $400 to Schumer in his primary battle, and $1,600 to the Schumer campaign for the general election. In November ’09, he gave $2,300 to the Hillary Clinton campaign for president campaign, I guess to help pay off her debt, I don’t know. As well as another $1.700 the day before. He gave $2,400 in October 2009, right into teeth of the Florida battle, to Charlie Crist for Senate. I don’t see any contributions to Marco Rubio. In the primary he gave $2,400 to Charlie Crist, so he bet against Marco Rubio twice …
He goes on about other contributions Trump made, about how Trump said he supports universal health care, and how he wanted to impeach President Bush for the war in Iraq.
Levin recalled Trump saying how impressed he is by Nancy Pelosi, though he was disappointed she didn’t pursue the impeachment of President Bush.
Levin was certain in his judgment of Trump.
Five years later, here Levin was, via Real Clear Politics,on Trump.
Conservative talk radio host and Ted Cruz supporter Mark Levin devoted ten minutes of his Thursday radio program to laying out the case that Donald Trump is not a true conservative, and that his willingness to compromise on basic issues is a bad omen for a potential Trump presidency.
Levin begins describing Trump’s apathetic reaction to North Carolina’s ‘bathroom bill’. “Leave it the way it is,” Trump said. “People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate.”
Levin disagreed. “This should be a no brainer for a conservative,” Levin said about supporting the state bill forcing people to use the restrooms corresponding to their biological birth gender. “This should be a no brainer for any rational person.”
Ted Cruz was similarly perplexed today by Trump’s support for the transgender right to go to the bathroom of their choice, wondering: Have we gone stark raving nuts? Grown adult men, strangers, should not be alone in a bathroom with little girls…
Levin said that Trump’s willingness to compromise on such a basic issue proves that his talk about being a conservative was just an “act,” put on to win the Republican primary, and now that the primary has moved on to “liberal states” like Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania — Trump is going to start “acting” nore liberal.
“I’m just telling you folks something. Should he be the nominee, I honestly believe we’re going to get crushed. This is just my opinion. His negatives are so damn high. Even with white males… But should he win. Many of you are going to be very disappointed. He will resort to the dealmaking. And dealmaking without principles is a very dangerous thing,” Levin concluded.
From Breitbart in April 2016:
Talk radio host Mark Levin, who has endorsed Republican presidential candidate Texas Senator Ted Cruz, declared, “I am not voting for Donald Trump. Period” and “count me as never Trump” on Friday.
Well, never is a long time.
Back to Levin’s interview with Matt McCall.
LEVIN: I’m looking here. You were in front of the League of Women Voters. Did you speak in front of the League of Women Voters?
MCCALL: (laughing a laugh of foreboding) Yes, I certainly did.
LEVIN: This is all over the internet. You know what I’m talking about.
MCCALL: I don’t know if it’s all over the internet.
LEVIN: Oh, it’s all over the internet, I can tell you that right now.
So you’re in this liberal forum. The League of Women Voters. They don’t much like me by the way. And you say you wouldn’t want Trump to watch your daughters.
MCCALL: Yes sir.
LEVIN: Is that true? You wouldn’t’ want Trump to watch your daughters?
What is remarkable here is that Levin says this with an air of incredulity, as in, how could any father not leap at the opportunity to have his daughter watched by a man who has been accused by multiple women of unwelcome sexual advances, who bragged about how one of the perks of owning beauty pageants was being able to see the contestants naked in the dressing room, who it appears had an affair with a porn star to whom he, in one way or another, paid hush money, and who has even said very odd things about his attraction to his own daughter.
In other words, how could any self-respecting defender of conservative values hoping to win a Republican seat in Congress possibly suggest that there was any plausible reason not to want his daughter to be watched by the Supreme Leader, whose virtue has been sanctified by the power he holds?
And yet, I wondered as Levin talked about this, would his daughter have any say about being presented to the Supreme Leader to be watched?
Back to the interview and McCall’s attempt to explain his blasphemy.
MCCALL: It’s kind of paraphrase of what Ted Cruz said.
LEVIN: I’m not worried about Ted Cruz, I’m talking about you.
MCCALL: Exactly right.
LEVIN: Well, what are you worried about? What are you worried about?
MCCALL: I wouldn’t want Brad Pitt watching my daughters either.
LEVIN: I didn’t ask about Brad Pitt.
What are you worried about. You think Trump would hit on your daughter?
MCCALL: Would you want Bill Clinton to watch your daughters? Do you have daughters?
LEVIN: I wouldn’t want Bill Clinton watching my daughters in any respect and yes I have a daughter and I wouldn’t mind Donald Trump watching her.
MCCALL: May I give the quote? May I give the quote?
LEVIN: Go ahead. I watched it. Right on the internet. But go ahead.
MCCALL: I said I completely support President Trump and his policies. I don’t necessarily want him to watch my daughters but I completely support the president and his policies. It was a joke, and I think the president probably has a pretty good sense of humor too.
LEVIN: I don’t think he’d care for that, but it doesn”t matter.
The Chip Roy campaign got exactly what it wanted from McCall’s interview with Mark Levin.
It is effective.
A frustrated McCall has given up on trying to explain to Levin what he did for the tea party movement aside from run against Lamar Smith.
And yet, one would think that Levin would have admired McCall for putting it all on the line, against all the odds, to take on, when others wouldn’t, Lamar Smith, the embodiment in both the Levin and McCall worldviews of the stayed-too long, superannuated Republican leadership that is precisely the problem in Washington.
Isn’t that a higher level of service to the movement than attending tea party rallies and posting on Facebook?
In his best moment in the interview, McCall notes for Levin that, on average, it takes a candidate two-and-a-half tries before being elected to Congress.
I don’t know if that is true, but Levin seems to buy it.
“Really,” said Levin.
If so, McCall is on his way to Congress. What is unmistakably true is that if McCall had not run twice before, he would not have emerged from the primary field of 18 to be in the runoff with Roy today.
And, of course, there are the creepy parts of the interview that are not in the clips being distributed by the Roy campaign.
But, the heavy assault on McCall is not on his disinclination to have Trump watch his daughters, but on, well, read on …
From my May 4 story on the race:
The Club for Growth, the limited government advocacy group that was pivotal to electing Cruz and key allies to the U.S. Senate, has poured more than half a million dollars through its super PAC, Club for Growth Action, into helping Roy, the most so far for the group in any congressional district nationally, according to figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, with more to come.
“We think Chip will be the better, reliable conservative, both in his votes but also in his tactics, and knowing, from the day he gets to Washington, how to represent those values in Congress,” Club for Growth President David McIntosh, a former congressman, told the American-Statesman.
McIntosh said the super PAC will launch a TV ad blitz, first on satellite and then cable, starting Monday, opening with positive portrayals of Roy and then going negative on McCall as needed.
“Once we make an endorsement, the club is all in, and we’re going to support that person hopefully all the way through to victory in November,” McIntosh said. “In the closing days we’ll probably try to make the contrast that Chip can win and hold the seat, and we’re not sure with Matt’s record of losing a couple of times, he would.”
For his part, McCall says he’s being unfairly attacked.
“They just did a mailer that tried to pair me with Nancy Pelosi, which is absurd,” McCall said of a Club for Growth mailer.
The mailer features darkly sinister photos of McCall and the House Democratic leader.
“What’s the difference between Matt McCall & Nancy Pelosi,” it asks. “Nancy Pelosi is honest about being anti-Trump,” it answers.
On the flip side, it says, “Matt McCall claims he supports President Trump’s agenda, but on the campaign trail he cynically dredges up the same false conspiracy theories that liberals use to try to discredit Trump’s historic election victory.”
“It’s a straight-up lie that I am anti-Trump,” McCall told the Statesman. “Who would ever think that that’s ever heard me? I’ve been running on Trump’s policies since before he was running on them.”
“They just made it up out of thin air,” McCall said. “This is who they are. He is part of the swamp. This is what the swamp does. These are his supporters.”
Asked to explain the mailer, McIntosh said, “the liberal press and Nancy Pelosi were trying to lump Trump with Cambridge Analytica and all the problems they had on Facebook, and McCall had tried to do that to Chip in one of the debates, that he had worked with Cambridge Analytica, sort of taking the same kind of personal swipe at Chip the way Pelosi and liberals do every day up here in Washington against Trump.”
“It’s the type of political swamp-type maneuver that the Democrats use against Trump and it looked like McCall was willing to do that against Chip,” said McIntosh, who said he stood by the fairness of the attack on McCall.
The only clue to what the mailer is talking about is, in small print at the bottom, the citation of an April 12 tweet by Patrick Svitek of the Texas Tribune — which the person receiving the mailer would have to search on Twitter — in which Svitek reported an exchange between McCall and Roy, apparently informed by a Gilbert Garcia story in the San Antonio Express-News that said that, “as the person in charge of Cruz’s constellation of Super PACs at a time when Cambridge Analytica’s abuses were publicly known, he should bear some accountability for the continued funding of those abuses.”
From Garcia’s March 28 story
The company was launched on the strength of a $15 million investment by hedge fund billionaire — and Republican mega-donor — Robert Mercer. Mercer threw his support behind Cruz in the 2016 Republican presidential race and served as the primary financier for the pro-Cruz Super PAC, Keep the Promise I.
The Cruz campaign organization and Keep the Promise I pumped millions into Cambridge Analytica for voter data that the campaign hailed at the time as revolutionary in its ability to micro-target potential supporters.
By late 2015, however, Cambridge Analytica faced public accusations that it harvested personal information from millions of Facebook users without their consent, using the innocuous, deceptive pretense of a personality questionnaire for which participants received a dollar.
When The Guardian approached Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler at that time, he dismissed any concerns by saying the Cruz campaign had “done our due diligence.” He added, “My understanding is all the information is acquired legally and ethically with the permission of the users when they sign up to Facebook.”
That statement was false and the scope of the problem became more obvious over the past week, with a New York Times story revealing that Cambridge Analytica’s illicit data harvesting affected more than 50 million Facebook users.
That’s where Roy comes in.
With Cruz’s network of Super PACs lacking strategic cohesion, Roy left his job in the Texas attorney general’s office in March 2016 to become executive director of Trusted Leadership, an umbrella organization that oversaw the activities of Cruz’s Super PAC network. Two months later, Cruz withdrew from the presidential race after losing the Indiana primary to Donald Trump.
Mercer shifted his support to Trump, Keep the Promise I rebranded itself Make America Number 1 and Cambridge Analytica joined a Trump digital operation led by San Antonio web consultant Brad Parscale.
The fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal has been massive and swift.
Facebook, which is facing threats of a user revolt, suspended Cambridge Analytica last Saturday. Robert Mueller, special counsel for a Justice Department investigation into Russian campaign meddling with the 2016 election, has requested the emails of Cambridge Analytica staffers who worked on the Trump campaign.
The revelations also have focused new attention on the Cruz campaign, the initial beneficiary of Cambridge Analytica’s transgressions.
Roy joined the Cruz campaign team fairly late in the game. But as the person in charge of Cruz’s constellation of Super PACs at a time when Cambridge Analytica’s abuses were publicly known, he should bear some accountability for the continued funding of those abuses.
“I think I voted for Cruz in the (2016) Texas primary,” McCall said. But he said he quickly became a “Trump guy,” unlike Cruz, who denounced Trump in those extraordinarly blunt terms on the last day of his presidential campaign, and refused to back him to a cascade of boos in his speech to the Republican Naitonal Convention in July, not endorsing him until two months later.
“I was very very turned off by what Cruz did at the convention,” McCall said. “It proved me wrong and a lot of my friends who said, `It’s all about Ted,’ right. I was trying to defend Ted as a constitutionalist, but it does seem to be all about Ted.”
Here is McCall’s response to the Pelosi mailer on Facebook.
McCall likens the Club for Growth mailers to an episode from the Cruz campaign the night of the Iowa caucuses.
From the New York Times”
As Iowa Republicans headed to the caucuses on Monday night, Senator Ted Cruz’s campaign left recorded messages for supporters with “breaking news” that Ben Carson would drop out of the race, and told them to “inform any Carson caucus-goers of this news and urge them to caucus for Ted instead.”
The false report, echoed in an email and in a text message sent to campaign volunteers, was trumpeted by at least some Cruz precinct captains when they addressed their caucuses. When Mr. Carson’s wife, Candy Carson, arrived at two precincts to speak on his behalf, she was furious to learn that speakers for Mr. Cruz had suggested moments earlier that her husband was quitting the race.
The Cruz campaign on Friday acknowledged it had made a coordinated effort to spread the story. But it defended its actions as an honest mistake based on “reports,” namely CNN anchors echoing Twitter messages from a reporter saying that Mr. Carson was heading home to Florida after Iowa, rather than to New Hampshire or South Carolina, where the next contests were to be held. However, those messages were followed almost instantly by another from one of the reporters stating that Mr. Carson would remain in the race “no matter what.” A senior strategist for Mr. Carson, Jason Osborne, had reiterated on Twitter: “Not standing down.”
The Carson campaign, which has angrily accused Mr. Cruz of dirty tricks, escalated the feud on Friday by using the audio recording of the message left by Cruz supporters in a fund-raising email. “Hello,” the call began, “this is the Cruz campaign with breaking news: Dr. Ben Carson will be suspending campaigning following tonight’s caucuses.”
Mr. Cruz, who won the Republican caucuses, apologized to Mr. Carson this week. At a news conference in Washington, Mr. Carson said that Mr. Cruz had not gone far enough in addressing the situation and called on him to fire the staff members who spread the false rumors.
Mr. Carson’s fourth-place showing in Iowa, where he got 9.3 percent of the vote, was equal to or slightly better than his support in polls before the caucuses, raising doubts about whether the Cruz disinformation swayed many voters. Nonetheless, the issue has become a distraction to Mr. Carson ahead of the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, and it has raised questions about the tactics of the Cruz campaign.
“It’s really demoralizing. People are angry,” Mr. Osborne said. “Every day, as more information comes out, he’s getting more animated about it,” he added, referring to Mr. Carson.
The Club for Growth has doubled and tripled down on its McCall-Pelosi campaign.
And from Tuesday:
Club for Growth Action Unveils “Pelosi” Ad in TX-21
Washington, DC – Today, Club for Growth Action announced the release of a 30-second ad that will begin airing on broadcast throughout Texas’s 21st Congressional district; the ad exposes the weakness of Matt McCall’s candidacy. This is an additional $140,000 expenditure on top of an existing ad buy.
Upon release of the ad, Club for Growth Action President David McIntosh remarked, “There is a reason that Matt McCall was decimated the past two times he ran for Congress. He has demonstrated he’s not a viable candidate. Given how close Pelosi and the Democrats may be to gaining control of Congress, Republican voters simply cannot afford to leave this race in the hands of a weak candidate like McCall.”
Club for Growth Action
Matt McCall just might make Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House.
McCall has run for Congress twice before. He got swamped.
With Democrats so close to controlling congress, if McCall loses again… Hello, Nancy.
And McCall must know he’s weak, ‘cause now he’s using the same fake news attacks against Chip Roy that liberals use against Donald Trump.
McCall for Congress? Pelosi for Speaker.
Club for Growth Action is responsible for the content of this message.
From The Hill on Oct. 21, 2016, just a couple of weeks before the presidential election (which Donald Trump won):
Club for Growth President David McIntosh on Friday defended the conservative group’s decision to spent millions of dollars in its failed bid to defeat Donald Trump in the GOP presidential primary.
“Knowing what we know today confirms the problems we saw early on with a Trump nomination,” McIntosh said during an appearanceon C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” that will air Sunday.
McIntosh, a former GOP congressman from Indiana, was referring to recent polling that shows Democrat Hillary Clinton with an enormous advantage over Trump in the electoral college.
“I think it was a good call,” he added. “I think we called it right on what would happen if Trump were the nominee.”
This cycle marked the first time the free-market, limited-government group had waded into a GOP presidential primary. The Club waged a $7 million assault on Trump, arguing that the Manhattan business mogul and reality TV star was no fiscal or social conservative.
Some of that money, McIntosh argued, helped propel the club’s preferred candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), to victory in the Iowa caucuses. But the Club and other anti-Trump forces couldn’t compete with all the free air time Trump was receiving on cable TV.
David McIntosh, the group’s president, argued that “momentum is shifting away” from Trump following his losses to Sen. Ted Cruz(R-Texas) over the weekend in Kansas and Maine. Cruz and Trump also tied for delegates in Louisiana’s primary.
“Republican voters don’t want a big-government liberal like Donald Trump at the top of the GOP ticket,” McIntosh said.
“They know that Trump would cost Republicans the White House, the Senate majority, and, ultimately, the Supreme Court. It will be no surprise to see the numbers tighten in tomorrow’s primaries and caucus.”
McIntosh then called the front-runner out for his “far-left positions on taxes, health care, bailouts and the abuse of eminent domain” before making a reference to Trump’s satement in Thursday’s debate that he was changing his position on green cards for high-skilled workers.
“And now he sounds like the worst kind of politician, warning voters that he will change positions when he feels like it,” McIntosh said.
“The shell game that is the Trump candidacy needs to be stopped.”
And there’s this from FactCheck.org in April 2016:
Donald Trump repeatedly has accused Club for Growth of airing attack ads against him because he refused to give the conservative group a $1 million donation – or what Trump calls “a form of extortion.”
Club for Growth tells a much different story. It claims Trump offered to make a donation – or what the group now calls “a setup.”
It’s impossible to know for sure who is telling the truth. But at the least, those who have heard Trump’s anecdote should know there is another side to his story, and that there is more context and history to the rift than Trump lets on. We’ll lay out some of that history, and the facts where possible, and let readers make up their own minds.
I last saw McCall Monday night at a TX21 Indivisible forum in South Austin.
McCall was there, his sense of humor dangerously intact, offering a civil defense of his Constitutional conservative values, though I am sure his very willingness to be at an Indivisible event invites suspicion from Trump cultists.
Antoinette was there, if anyone from the Austin resistance wanted a yard sign.
As we said goodnight, McCall offered a parting shot:
The Club for Growth spent $15 million attacking Trump and now they are attacking me. And Chip Roy ran the largest super PAC against Donald Trump, trying to defeat him, and now he’s after me. And he’s telling me I’m a non-Trumper. Are you friggin’ kidding me?