Ben Smith has a blockbuster report that suggests former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman was ripped off. Not only was he persuaded to enter a fruitless trek for the nomination and pay advisers lavishly, but it seems someone helped himself to extra funds:
The Utah political action committee formed to launch Jon Huntsman’s bid for president made more than $200,000 in payments to a phantom company, one of Huntsman’s consultants told BuzzFeed Thursday.
Utah financial disclosure reports for Horizon PAC show three payments totalling $205,000 between February and April of last year to a company called “For Bahm Marketing LLC,” which does not exist in the comprehensive record of American companies maintained by the service LexisNexis.
The records also show a single $20,000 payment to the similarly-named “Bahm Marketing LLC,” a New York City political consulting firm. But Bahm Marketing’s owner, Steve Goldberg, said he had been surprised to see the payments to the other entity.
In a slightly buried lede Smith tells us: “Huntsman’s main consultant, John Weaver, said in an e-mail that Goldberg was ‘mistaken’ in thinking his firm hadn’t received the money. The payment related, Weaver said in the brief email, to Goldberg’s ‘expertise in modeling/profile creation.’” Huh? Weaver would have us believe that Goldberg didn’t know he got another $200,000? That seems like a preposterous explanation.
There were many conservative commentators, including Right Turn, that criticized Weaver for in essence conning a vain candidate with a rich dad into launching a campaign that in the end would benefit only the consultants. (“Outsiders viewed the campaign as an ill-advised boondoggle for the consultants. ‘BREAKING IN 2015: John Weaver to con another rich guy into wasting millions of dollars running a losing campaign,’ Commentary editor John Podhoretz joked on Twitter.”)
But Smith’s report is the first indication we have that there was more going on than just the usual consultant self-promotion. Given the acrimony on the campaign and number of staffers who bailed or were forced out, I suspect there will be plenty of people willing to talk — if nothing else than to make perfectly clear they had nothing to do with the missing money.
UPDATE (9:30 a.m.): In an update Ben Smith connects the dots: The money went to John Weaver. Funny didn’t he claim Goldberg had the money and didn’t know it?