The Lincoln Project’s one female co-founder, former NH Republican Party Chair Jennifer Horn, resigned Friday. Unlike her fellow co-founders Mike Madrid and Ron Steslow, who claim to have resigned from the group in mid-December, Horn issued a statement to multiple news outlets announcing her resignation on the day it occurred.
Her full statement, as published by Newsweek, reads:
“Upon careful consideration, I have terminated my relationship with the Lincoln Project, effective immediately. John Weaver’s grotesque and inappropriate behavior, coupled with his longstanding deceptions concerning that behavior, are sickening. It is clear at this point that my views about how the Lincoln Project’s efforts are managed, and the best way to move the Lincoln Project forward into the future in the wake of these awful events, have diverged.
“I originally joined the Lincoln Project because I recognized Donald Trump as an existential threat to our country and our way of life. As a conservative woman and the only high-ranking Republican Party official on the Lincoln Project team, both as former New Hampshire Republican State Party Chairwoman and former member of RNC Executive Committee, I have brought my credibility, integrity and professionalism to the Lincoln Project’s efforts every day to defeat Donald Trump and Trumpism. I have given that fight every ounce of my heart and soul during this past year, and the success experienced in that fight is undeniable but also unfinished.
“While I end my association with the Lincoln Project today, I remain fully committed to fighting Trumpism going forward, to preserving our democratic Republic and to giving a voice to those who have none.”
The Lincoln Project quickly put out a statement slamming Horn and claiming that Horn’s departure came after she asked for more pay, a board seat, and to have a podcast. According to the latest FEC reports, Horn was paid $110,000 between December 2019 and January 4, 2021.
“Forty-eight hours ago, at a moment when the Lincoln Project was under attack from the Trump administration and their propaganda allies, Jennifer Horn requested an immediate ‘signing bonus’ payment of $250,000 and a $40,000 per month consulting contract.
“This followed a Christmas Eve communication from Jennifer, where she demanded a board seat on the Lincoln Project, a television show, a podcast hosting assignment, and a staff to manage these endeavors. She also stated her goal was ‘to establish immediate and long-term financial security.’
“These demands were unanimously rejected by the management committee and board. We immediately accepted Jennifer Horn’s resignation from the Lincoln Project.’ We wish her the best in her future endeavors.”
Her fellow co-founder Steve Schmidt retweeted it with some commentary of his own.
Podcast. I voted no. Would do so again. I wish Jennifer well. We are in the Democracy fight. Our values diverged. The fight continues. @ProjectLincoln
— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) February 6, 2021
He “voted no and would do so again”? What reasons might Schmidt have for that vote? Why isn’t the only female co-founder a member of the board? And why is Schmidt faulting Horn for wanting to be paid for her services, naming dollar amounts, and detailing internal communications when he didn’t offer any commentary about the male co-founders who resigned?
Sure, a $250,000 signing bonus and $40,000 a month sounds like a lot of money. For some context, let’s review the amounts other co-founders and their firms received from the Lincoln Project since its inception in 2019. (I first covered the apparent self-dealing going on within the SpitePAC™ in April 2020, and my colleague Shipwrecked Crew recently updated those amounts.)
Schmidt’s company, SES Strategies LLC, was paid a flat $1,500,000 in December 2020 for “political strategy consulting.”
The Lincoln Project raised $4.8 million between November 24th and December 16th hyping the Georgia Senate runoff elections.
— Rob Pyers (@rpyers) December 30, 2020
Curiously, an FEC report filed February 4 revealed that Schmidt returned the “disbursement” on December 31, 2020.
Anyway, what Schmidt was paid pales in comparison to the total amounts paid to the companies of other co-founders. The chart below shows what the companies of Reed Galen, Ron Steslow, and Mike Madrid were paid from the time the PAC was founded in late 2019 through January 2021, including both operating expenditures and independent expenditures (IEs, monies spent supporting or opposing a particular candidate).
Lincoln Project expenditures to companies associated with co-founders. Data: https://www.fec.gov/data/committee/C00725820/?tab=summary&cycle=2022
Two companies associated with Reed Galen, Summit Strategic Communications and Ashton Media (Galen is listed as the company’s contact on two Ohio media buys; interestingly Horn is listed as an advisor or board member to the Lincoln Project on both forms) received a stunning $42,447,758.28 in disbursements from the Lincoln Project.
Whether one includes the $110,000 paid to Horn or not, more than 80 percent of the PAC’s disbursements were made to companies controlled by co-founders. I was unable to find any disbursements to a company controlled by Rick Wilson or to him personally, but would be surprised if he wasn’t paid through another entity. It doesn’t seem plausible that he did all of that work for free.
Also cashing in was Senior Advisor Kurt Bardella, who joined the team in July 2020. While he was personally paid $70,000 in consulting fees, his company Endeavor Strategy Communications was paid $30,000 for “media booking services” and $470,439 for IE digital advertising against Donald Trump, David Perdue, and Kelly Loeffler.
The $10,000 monthly retainer paid to Horn was the same amount paid to numerous consultants with far less political experience or credibility among the Never Trump ranks, many of whom are also Democrat activist/staffers. One communications consultant, Keith Edwards, was paid $20,000 a month from July through January (with the exception of November) through his company, Thats Good Media.
With all of those figures in mind, Horn’s request isn’t so out-there. In her statement Horn didn’t bring up any money/contract issues and didn’t slam the Lincoln Project; she only condemned (correctly) John Weaver. So why did the Lincoln Project and Schmidt personally immediately attack Horn and essentially accuse her of being a grifter? They didn’t condemn Weaver for weeks.
Well, according to Tara Setmayer, a Senior Advisor to the Lincoln Project, Horn brought it upon herself.
Given Jennifer’s unfortunate statement to the NYT, it was necessary to be fully transparent about what actually transpired. Everything in our statement is factual and backed up.
— Tara Setmayer (@TaraSetmayer) February 6, 2021
Horn’s “unfortunate statement to the NYT”? In re-reading her statement one sentence stood out as possibly being considered “unfortunate” by the remaining members.
It is clear at this point that my views about how the Lincoln Project’s efforts are managed, and the best way to move the Lincoln Project forward into the future in the wake of these awful events, have diverged.
Perhaps Horn was dismayed at the amount of money paid to the companies of co-founders and senior advisors. Perhaps Horn wasn’t pleased that it took the Lincoln Project weeks to even vaguely address the allegations against John Weaver even though Schmidt admitted that Lincoln Project execs heard “chatter” during the summer of 2020 that Weaver might be involved with men. Perhaps Horn wasn’t happy with the group’s response over the past week, after the New York Times published what can only be described as a bombshell story, reporting that 21 men had come forward – with receipts – with stories of Weaver attempting to seduce them and offering jobs (including at the Lincoln Project) for sex.
Who knows. But judging by the swift response that seems designed to intimidate, there’s probably a lot more to the story.
(NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect that Jennifer Horn was listed as an advisor or board member to the Lincoln Project on media buys requested by Ashton Media, and not as an advisor or board member of Ashton Media.)