A Politico columnist became the latest prominent voice Thursday to call for the dissolution of the Lincoln Project, the anti-Trump political action committee that has imploded in the past month from accusations of a sexual harassment cover-up, financial skulduggery, and a toxic work environment.
“Shut down for good,” John F. Harris advised the group, which just months ago had dreams of a media empire after raising $90 million in the past year and free press galore from CNN, MSNBC and other liberal outlets.
“Surely the Republican Party will benefit from more voices willing to be counted in opposition to Trump and Trumpism,” he wrote. “But taking a perilous stand on behalf of policies and principles—as a small number of lawmakers and commentators have done—is a little different from practicing the dark arts of the political operative for sexual and financial gain.”
Harris framed his argument by saying the group’s dissolution would benefit liberals, arguing the marriage between progressives and the Lincoln Project was “conflicted at the core.”
“Long term, the success of progressive politics depends on a revival of public faith that politics is genuinely animated by idealism and that government is effective. In short, it requires faith that, most times, things are on the level,” he rwote.
Co-founder George Conway and former senior adviser Kurt Bardella have also publicly called for the group to shut down with its credibility in tatters.
Even Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, an enthusiastic booster of the group, agreed with calls for it to go away.
The Lincoln Project’s downfall began after conservative journalist Ryan Girdusky published on Jan. 11 what sources told Fox News had been an “open secret” for years: co-founder John Weaver’s online predation toward young, gay men.
Eventually, reporting from numerous outlets uncovered Weaver had harassed dozens of men for years, one of them when he was 14, dangling social media clout and job opportunities from his powerful perch. It also came to light that several Lincoln Project co-founders knew about the allegations nearly a year before they claimed.
Subsequent reports uncovered the Lincoln Project funneled more than half its liberal donor money to firms run by its co-founders, and the workplace also found itself weathering claims it ran a toxic work environment where leaders like Steve Schmidt and Rick Wilson freely used offensive and homophobic terms.
Adding to the embarrassment in the wake of Weaver’s exit was the departure of Jennifer Horn, the only female co-founder, and claims by Schmidt and others that she was forced out after trying to bilk the group for more money. Then came the bizarre decision by the group to tweet out her private messages with a reporter about her experiences, which drew sharp criticism across the aisle.
The fallout for the group has been swift. Schmidt has resigned from the board and announced he would step back from public life, although he still continues to play a role with the organization.
Wilson is one of only two remaining co-founders, but he has paused his appearances on his popular Daily Beast podcast, The New Abnormal, pending an internal investigation of the group’s handling of the Weaver scandal.
Former employees and associates of the Lincoln Project demanded answers earlier this month from the co-founders after claims that leaders knew about Weaver’s behavior at the beginning of 2020.
“We demand a statement from Rick Wilson, Reed Galen, and Steve Schmidt confirming or rebutting this morning’s allegation,” the former Lincoln Project associates said in a statement. “Earlier this morning, TLP released an ad calling out the hypocrisy of GOP Senators. If they have time to do that, they have time to answer these questions: Did The Lincoln Project know in March 2020? Did Steve Schmidt lie in his recent statement that he was only aware in January 2021?”
Composed of former and current Republicans disgusted with Trump’s takeover of the party, the Lincoln Project irked Trump and delighted the press with its vitriolic advertising and trolling social media feed.
Yet the group failed to elect Democrats it supported in numerous 2020 Senate races, including Maine, North Carolina, South Carolina, Montana, Kentucky, and Iowa, and studies found its ads, while appealing to the liberal media, actually turned off conservative voters even more.
Despite its humiliation in 2021, the Lincoln Project has continued to have an active social media presence.
Fox News’ Evie Fordham contributed to this report.