Lincoln Project founder Steve Schmidt unloaded on his former organization in a lengthy Twitter thread Wednesday, calling on it to dramatically reform or disband in the wake of a Showtime documentary that shows “despicable and unethical behavior.”
Schmidt wrote it “should either be professionalized and reformed or shut down,” and specifically called out fellow co-founders Reed Galen, Rick Wilson and others as liars and fame-seekers.
“The @Showtime documentary documents some of the most despicable and unethical behavior I have ever seen,” he tweeted after watching the five-part docuseries that got behind-the-scenes access to the group.
Schmidt, who frequently unloads on his foes on Twitter, said he left the organization last year because he gave the Lincoln Project an ultimatum: him or Galen. Founded in 2020 as an anti-Donald Trump PAC by disgruntled Republicans, it received liberal media acclaim for its vitriolic, trolling ads, but its reputation collapsed in a wave of humiliating scandals in 2021.
Schmidt said Galen had to resign, and fellow co-founders Mike Madrid, Ron Steslow and Jennifer Horn “destroyed the organization” with “their fame seeking and narcissism.”
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In another stunning move, he went after co-founder Rick Wilson over raising money for an anti-Trump film he never made. Wilson raised nearly $65,000 for a film called “Everything Trump Touches Dies,” and its GoFundMe page claimed it would be released in January 2018. He continued to give updates into 2019 but said the film wasn’t ready to be completed. Schmidt said Wilson should return the money.
Wilson “is a brilliant ad maker who clearly should never have any leadership or management responsibilities whatsoever in an organization,” Schmidt tweeted, adding he was troubled that Wilson never made the movie he promised. “I asked him about it 500 times. No movie. I was not comfortable with this.”
Madrid, Steslow and Horn long ago left the Lincoln Project. Regarding Galen, Schmidt appeared to be alluding to the John Weaver sexual harassment scandal that broke in early 2021; Schmidt and others denied reported allegations that they were made aware, months before the public was, of online sexual harassment allegations against him.
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Weaver was condemned by his co-founders after the reports and resigned last year, but things only got worse, as a flood of stories ensued about the organization’s self-dealing and financial mismanagement – the Lincoln Project paid $27 million alone to Galen’s consulting firm in 2020 – and a toxic work environment. Schmidt was widely panned when he said he would open the group’s books for audit only when the Trump organization did, and it was later revealed he ordered Kurt Bardella, now a Democratic advisor, to publish the private messages of Horn with a reporter in an effort to embarrass her.
Its woes didn’t end there, as the Lincoln Project was behind a hoax to smear Glenn Youngkin supporters in Virginia as racists last year. The group posed five people with Tiki torches outside the Republican gubernatorial candidate’s bus in Charlottesville, in an effort to invoke imagery of the White supremacist violence in the city in 2017. The stunt was widely panned as desperate, gutter politics, and Youngkin went on to victory over Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
Schmidt distanced himself from the hoax at the time, and he also tweeted Wednesday he wanted the group to operate at the “highest ethical standards.” According to the New York Times, flushed from the Lincoln Project raising a staggering $90 million in its first year of operations, Schmidt at one point had designs on building a billion-dollar media company with some of his co-founders.
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Some reviews of the documentary have commented on the pomposity on display, as well as the hypocrisy of lifelong GOP hatchet men making a fortune off blasting a party they helped form over decades.
“We also definitely didn’t need so much footage of various fans — including celebrities — and Lincoln Project members talking about how cool, popular and great the organization is,” Michael Arceneaux wrote for NBC News Think.
For his part, Schmidt still feels that his anti-Trump organization, which went 0-7 in competitive Senate races trying to defeat Republicans in 2020, has a place in history.
“”The Lincoln Project was the most successful disruptive political start-up of the modern era outside of the Barack Obama presidential campaign. It is the most effective Super PAC in US political history, and it found deep resonance in the country,” Schmidt wrote Sunday on his Substack.
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He also promised not to start another political organization.