Fort Worth oil heir Kenneth W. Davis Jr. is 89-years-old but continues to work every day as chairman of the Great Western Drilling Co. Impressive. Not too long ago, Davis decided to try something new: politics. The successful oilman cites unspecified "trouble" as his motivation to become political. "I never was involved in politics until I started wondering why we were having so much trouble," Davis told McClatchy News in November. "I saw what our federal debt was and that got me interested." Davis formed a SuperPAC, aptly titled Vote2ReduceDebt.
A really old, apolitical rich Texas oil guy suddenly wants to be involved in politics and starts a SuperPAC with a vague name? Sounds like just the recipe for shady, shadowy corporate politicking. Davis' Vote2ReduceDebt was clearly meant to be one of those big, evil and powerful SuperPACs that funnel secret money everywhere. But in the end, it turned out to be just a pathetic, wannabe-evil SuperPAC that you just sort of feel sorry for.
The SuperPAC's embarrassing failures are now laid bare in a report published today by investigative news nonprofit ProPublica, detailing why this SuperPAC was sad. Some of the saddest things about Vote2ReduceDebt:
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Founder Davis getting help from his brother, who is famous for being the richest guy ever tried for murder. OK, he's your brother, you love him and he was acquitted, but there were three eyewitnesses who said Cullen Davis shot and wound his estranged wife and murdered her boyfriend and 12-year-old daughter in 1976. So maybe he's not the person you want associated with your political organization? After Cullen Davis was famously acquitted, he went on to become a hardcore religious right-winger in Fort Worth, and it was his current social circles, ProPublica reports, "that Cullen mined for his brother's foray into politics." Major red flag.
The political operatives who would rather take Davis' money than donate to whatever shady cause they supported. One powerful Republican employed by Vote2ReduceDebt accused another of giving contracts to companies that weren't real and lying on his expense report about how many flights he took. He also accused the operative of organizing a fake phone bank event that was actually just people "pretending to make phone calls." The accused lazy phone-bank organizer, in turn, said his accuser was attempting to defraud Davis of $4 million to cover production costs on a proposed reality show about NASCAR.
The mean lady who trash-talked Mike Snyder As the in-fighting and counter-accusations piled up, Italia Federici, another SuperPAC employee, sent a lot of threatening texts to attorney Chris Gober, including one that trash talks an important Dallas celebrity. "Screw with this PAC at your peril," she warned. "Who do you think you are?... If you want to sue me/us... Do it! Otherwise, do your fucking job and stop being Mike Snyder's bitch." That's former NBC anchorman Mike Snyder to you, who founded a consulting company and went to work on the side of Museum Tower in its fight over glare from the glass tower reflecting onto the Nasher Sculpture Center. Snyder was caught making anonymous blog comments supporting the Museum Tower. At his new gig as media strategist for Vote2ReduceDebt, he apparently made an attorney his bitch. Actually, when put that way, Snyder is the only guy involved in this SuperPAC who sounds kind of cool.
Send your story tips to the author, Amy Silverstein.