While Politico’s Martin and Burns took a wide-angle view of the shady super PACs trying to exploit West’s folk-hero status on the right in the service of unrelated causes or personal enrichment, nearly six weeks earlier National Journal’s Shane Goldmacher had focused on one of those groups—the Coalition of Americans for Political Equality, or CAPE PAC.

Goldmacher’s story emphasized how the group set up “look-alike campaign websites” that mimic the candidates’ actual pages, in the process fooling even some seasoned political operatives into making donations. (This tactic had been dropped by the time Politico published its investigation this week, though the group still uses official-sounding URLs to attract visitors.)

As for where this money goes, the fees Goldmacher reports CAPE PAC’s leadership as collecting are modest—but the sums going to a couple obscure vendors who don’t seem to have other campaign clients are not. Toward the end, meanwhile, the article offers this nice bit of factchecking about the PAC’s claimed work on behalf of particular Republican candidates:

CAPE PAC has a strong Web presence, with nearly 100,000 followers on Twitter and 50,000 on Facebook. In a press release touting its work for Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who is running for Senate, CAPE PAC claimed to have promoted a #VoteFlake hashtag on Twitter, posted a YouTube ad, and placed a “polling-place locator” on its website. The YouTube video had only 170 views as of the end of August; no one other than CAPE PAC’s Twitter account appears to have used the #VoteFlake tag.

“We are troubled with its deceptive website and collection of donations,” Flake spokesman Andrew Wilder said.

To aid Allen West, CAPE PAC stated in a July press release that it “secured airtime” that month. But a veteran media buyer and West’s campaign could find no record of such an ad airing on TV.

And the last word, appropriately, goes to a small contributor:

For donors such as Jesse Knight of Salt Lake City, who contributed $250 to CAPE PAC, the biggest question is what is happening with his money.

“I thought I was donating it to Romney,” Knight said. “That’s what they portrayed.”

Knight accidentally clicked “donate” multiple times. CAPE PAC officials were accommodating in returning his duplicative donations, he said.

But it wasn’t until a reporter contacted him that he learned he hadn’t contributed to Romney at all. “I want 100 percent going to the guy I’m voting for,” Knight said.

Thanks to good reporting like this, that very reasonable expectation is more likely to be a reality.

 

Greg Marx is a CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.