The PAC Side of Rick Santorum: Meet Rick’s Political Husband

Posted by By at 20 February, at 07 : 40 AM Print

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has endeared himself to social conservatives and voters seeking ideological purity, while at the same time fueling his political ambitions with contributions from the purveyors of moral decay – the tobacco and alcohol industries, and Wall Street banks.

How does he do it? Where’s the outrage from the Moral Majority?

Prior to the “housing bubble”, Mr. Santorum brokered an “unconventional mortgage deal”[1] for his home in Virginia, while his tribe was educated from cyber scholarships connected to a vacant piece of real estate in Pennsylvania.[2]

Where were the fiscal conservatives? Was the Tea Party on recess?

Santorum’s America’s Foundation (AF), ­a Leadership PAC he founded in 1995,  harvested big bucks from gambling interests, drug companies, and the Puerto Rican health insurance industry, yet the foundation is notoriously stingy, expends a disproportionally small amount promoting its mission, and has become a funding bonanza for Santorum’s presidential campaign.

Not a peep from the devoted.  Silence really is golden.

These are minor distractions to the faithful. What is important is the Messenger  – many Republican voters, thirsty for electoral salvation, embrace Mr. Santorum as the only viable option to counter the threat to our nation’s soul caused by Hollywood, homosexuals, Obama, and Mormons illegally entering non-caucus states.

This is an epic battle between good and evil. Or is it?

In fact, a review of media reports, official filings, and legal documents of Mr. Santorum’s political past, by RocktheCapital, shows a different side of the “values” candidate than his presidential campaign projects to voters.

Two Masters

Every crusade needs a righteous paramilitary, an oratorical guru, and money. Big money. As America gasps for spiritual oxygen, the nation may be saved by an infusion of big donor cash to Mr. Santorum’s AF. But any good pitcher needs a backstop. America’s Foundation has former GOP henchman Rob Bickhart to manage the PAC.

Mr. Bickhart – Rick’s political soul mate – was employed by the Republican National Committee (RNC) as its finance director until May 7, 2010. At the RNC, Bickhart encouraged the party faithful to rally around scare tactics to combat the multicultural hordes.

Mr. Bickhart made a $196,000 salary as finance director for the  Republican National Committee. He also negotiated a juicy sweetener, to the surprise of the RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen who conducted an internal review:

As part of my review, it came to my attention that Mr. Bickhart’s contract calls for his company, eCapitol Direct, LLC, to be compensated (this is in addition to his salary) $22,500 per $9,000,000 raised through direct marketing sources every two months. Based on budgeted direct marketing revenues for 2010, this will result in over $270,000 in additional compensation to Mr. Bickhart…This contract should be canceled.[3]

Bickhart’s consulting firm, eCapitol Direct “received $240,000 in fees paid in five installments beginning June 8 – about three weeks after he was announced as the RNC’s new finance director and about two weeks after he registered eCapitol Direct with the Pennsylvania Secretary of State’s office.”[4]

But Rob still moonlighted for Rick.

Rick and Rob don’t do background checks or character profiles on those who are willing to step-up and strike a blow against secular humanism. AF has assembled a virtual “Hall of Fame” of moral turpitude to fund the Holy War.

Donors include Altria, R.J. Reynolds, and U.S. Tobacco Corporation (”The Triumverate of Lung Cancer); Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing  (“The Booze Brothers”); and Wall Street profiteers.[5] Rick and Rob’s Foundation also received large contributions from gaming interests, drug companies, and the Puerto Rican health insurance industry.

Bickhart was fired by RNC Chairman Michael Steele (no stranger to extravagant expenditures)[6] amid questions related to both his tactics and his compensation package. It was a curious expense that cost Mr. Bickhart is job. His $1,946.25 reimbursement for the Young Eagles to go on a field trip to a bondage-themed night club in West Hollywood rubbed Steele the wrong way.[7] Perhaps if Dick Morris had chaperoned the event, Mr. Bickhart could have kept his day job.

Fortunately, Rick is committed to Rob.

Moral Real Estate

Mr. Bickhart’s company, Capitol Resource Group (CRG), is a “government affairs consortium operating under the credo “Furthering your priorities and protecting your interests is  our top priority.”

CRG received regular “consultation” payments from America’s Foundation – mostly in increments of $10,000 – and was still receiving them at the end of 2009 (which is the last posted filing by the PAC).  Since 2003, Capitol Resource Group has received approximately “$584,000 in finance consulting fees from the Pennsylvania Republican Party and the political action committee headed by former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), plus another $305,000 lobbying Congress and the federal government for Philadelphia area hospitals…”[8]

Between January 8, 2003 and May 8, 2007, the PAC also made its rent payments to CRG. Beginning in 2008, the rent payments were made to Miller Investment Management (MIM), and beginning July 16, 2009, they were made to SM Jenkins and Company (SMJ).  MIM and SMJ are both tenants in the building located at 100 Front Street, West Conshohocken, which also houses (or housed) AF and the Capitol Resource Group (albeit in different suites).

The office building at that location is owned by a company called Tower Bridge Associates. The president of that company is Donald Pulver of Philadelphia Courthouse debacle infamy.[9] No rent payments were made directly to Tower Bridge Associates.

The listed price for occupancy in that building is $2.08/square foot/month.  The AF office is listed as 1816 square feet. The monthly rent payment should be $3,777.28, at that rate.  The rent payments made by AF have been made irregularly, with some payments apparently covering more than one month.  But the monthly rent the PAC is paying appears to be about $1,242. That means the PAC should be counting approximately $2,500/month as an in-kind contribution.

The PAC may belong to America, but even Rob and Rick need a soft landing for hard money.

Won’t You Be My “Neighbor?”

Rick Santorum’s former Pennsylvania[10] charity  – Operation Good Neighbor (“OGN” or “the Operation”) was founded by Mr. Santorum in 2001 to champion “compassionate conservatism. OGN was based in Bryn Mawr[11] and began collecting charitable contributions in June 2001. According to Capital Resources Group, Operation Good Neighbor strove to “foster relationships between corporate America and non-profit organizations, working creatively and successfully to provide real support and genuine reform to America’s welfare dilemma.”

Mr. Santorum was Chairman until 2006. The Operation dissolved in 2007. A Consent Order with Pennsylvania Department of State stipulated, “Since the time that Respondent [Operation Good Neighbor] began soliciting contributions without first being registered through June 21, 2006, Respondent stated that it has received $1,294,912 in total contributions.” The charity paid a $7,500 fine.

Operation Good Neighbor took its nameplate seriously and was housed in the same building as Rick’s 2006 reelection campaign. Mr. Bickhart was the Executive Director of the charity, and at the same time finance chairman of Santorum’s failed reelection bid.

Mr. Bickhart was paid $75,000 over a four year period and billed the  Operation for $20,347 in “occupancy fees.”[12] “ Between 2001 and 2007, Bickhart, a former Senate staffer-turned-lobbyist, earned more than $100,000 from Santorum’s charity, and a whopping $700,000 in consulting fees from the senator’s PAC.” (12) Operation Good Neighbor  inhaled $1.6 million from 2001 to 2004 by exploiting the compassionate conservatism zeitgeist.  OGN spent only $501,000 of its proceeds on charities.[13]  “Santorum’s charity has also put money – $216,000 – into unexplained travel and meetings through 2004.”[14]

There is a lot to learn about self-empowerment in the isolated confines of suburban retail space. Or, is there? It seems the staff, mostly consultants and lobbyists, were perpetually in travel and conference mode. Remember, fiscal conservatism excludes travel, conferences, fine dining, and pit stops at Starbucks.

In 2005 and 2006 the percentage the charity contributed to programming increased to 51% and 58%. “Those numbers were below the 65 percent recommended by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance.”[15] The chairman of Operation Good Neighbor was the CEO of Preferred Real Estate, Michael O’Neill. Preferred Real Estate gave $25,000 to the charity. J. Brian O’Neill – Preferred CEO’s brother – pumped in an additional $10,000[16] Preferred Real Estate received a $8 million federal earmark directed by Santorum to develop a waterfront property in Chester.[17]

Nothing like pay to pray.

The Rapture: Santorum Upsets G.O.P. Race With Three Victories

Bickhart now works for Cozen O’Conner- a high-powered Philly-based law and government relations firm. Cozen hired Bickhart on August 2, 2011. Bickhart cements his outsider status by commuting to D.C. He continues to manage AF, and moonlights as finance director for Steve Welch’s (Governor Corbett’s candidate) bid to defeat democratic Senator Bob Casey.

Last year, AF spent $705,526 through December 31, 2011. This is a Leadership PAC and its mission is to assist other Republicans to get elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Yet the Foundation only made a $2,500 contribution to one House candidate, and a $5,000 contribution to a solitary Senate campaign.[18]

The PAC is expressly prohibited from directly aiding Mr. Santorum’s presidential bid.

Guess who the biggest recipient was?

Mr. Santorum has been diverting resources from the Foundation dating back to the 2008 election cycle. “In both the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, Santorum’s PAC only spent 4 percent of its revenues to benefit other candidates, and 96 percent paying for things that benefited Santorum, like direct mailings, travel and administration costs.”[19]

After Mr. Santorum’s holy hat trick, Rick and Rob can stroke the traditional engines of greed and fear, and emerge as America’s twin pillars of goodness and hope.

Not bad for a couple of outsiders.

Mr. Bickhart and Mr. Santorum have intentionally blurred the lines between private business, public charity, and electoral ethics. Bickhart has adroitly merged, managed and subsidized Santorum Inc.

Through good times and political ups – and downs – Rick and Rob have a maintained a common political marriage. That’s commitment.  It’s a marriage made in political heaven.

Finally, a same-sex Republican partnership that defines compassionate conservatism.

Photo by Gage Skidmore

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. With A Little Help form His Friends, Will Bunch, “The American Prospect,” February 20, 2006.
  2. State agrees to pay Penn Hills schools for Santorum, “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “ Eleanor Chute and James O’Toole, September 2, 2006.
  3. MEMORANDUM
    Date: 4/20/2010
    To: Executive Committee
    From: Randy Pullen, Treasurer
    Re: LIMITED REVIEW AND ANALYSIS OF POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
  4. Republican National Committee official behind ‘fear’ pitch under fire for fees,  “ Politico,” Kenneth P. Vogel & Ben Smith, March 5, 2010.
  5. With A Little Help form His Friends, Will Bunch, “The American Prospect,” February 20, 2006
  6. Michael Steele’s Spending Spree Angers Republicans, “ Politico,” Jeanne Cummings, February 23, 2010.
  7. Steele’s Fire RNC Finance Director, “ Politico,” Jeanne Cummings,  May 7, 2010.
  8. Republican National Committee official behind ‘fear’ pitch under fire for fees,  “Politico,” Kenneth P. Vogel & Ben Smith, March 5, 2010.
  9. Castille sues lawyer, firm over Family Court deal, “Inquirer,” Joseph Tanfani, November 02, 2011.
  10. Consent Agreement and Order between the Pennsylvania Department of State and Operation Good Neighbor Foundation, August 4, 2006.
  11. A ‘bad cocktail’ of politics, charity “Inquirer,”

    Tom Ferrick, Jr.,  October 29, 2006.

  12. Santorum aides live large off charity payroll, “Associated Press,” Kimberley Hefling,  February 25, 2006.
  13. Rick Santorum’s Charity, PAC Acted As Overlapping Piggy Banks For His Team, “Huffington Post,” Christina Wilkie, January 13, 2012.
  14. Team 4 investigator Jim Parsons first aired this report on Channel 4 Action News on March 8, 2006.
  15. Nonprofit Views Offered by the Republican Presidential Contenders, “The Chronicle of Philanthropy,” February 12, 2012.
  16. Santorum aides live large off charity payroll, “Associated Press,” Kimberley Hefling, February 25, 2006.
  17. Santorum Surge Brings Ethics Questions, “ABC News,” Matthew Mosk and Brian Ross, January 4, 2012.
  18. Open Secrets.org, “Center for Response Politics,” America Foundation: 2012 PAC Summary Data.
  19. Rick Santorum’s Charity, PAC Acted As Overlapping Piggy Banks For His Team, “Huffington Post,” Christina Wilkie, January 13, 2012.

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This post was written by:
- who has written 352 posts for Rock The Capital
Eric J. Epstein is RocktheCapital‘s coordinator and a community advocate for good government for over 25 years. Mr. Epstein is also Chairman of the Three Mile Island Alert, Inc., a safe-energy organization founded in 1977; President of EFMR Monitoring Group, Inc., a non-profit economic development corporation established in 1977, and Chairman of the Stray Winds Area Neighbors (SWAN), a smart growth association organized in 2005. Mr. Epstein was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Humanities at PSU-Harrisburg (1992-1999) and co-authored the Dictionary of the Holocaust, which was released by Greenwood Press (1997) - Email Eric Epstein

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