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Steve Schmidt, Anti-Donald Trump Lincoln Project Co-Founder, Resigns

Newsweek logo Newsweek 2/13/2021 Darragh Roche

Lincoln Project co-founder Steve Schmidt has resigned from the group amid a series of troubling news reports and serious questions about the anti-Donald Trump political action committee's finances.

Schmidt announced his decision to step down from the group's board in a statement on Twitter on Friday and he referenced recently revealed allegations against co-founder John Weaver. At least 20 men have accused Weaver of sending them unsolicited sexually explicit messages.

"Presently, the Lincoln Project board is made up of four middle-aged white men. That composition doesn't reflect our nation, nor our movement," Schmidt said.

"I am resigning my seat on the Lincoln Project board to make room for the appointment of a female board member as the first step to reform and professionalize the Lincoln Project."

His announcement comes following an Associated Press report that members of the Lincoln Project knew about "at least 10 specific allegations of harassment against co-founder John Weaver, including two involving Lincoln Project employees" in June of last year.

This contradicted the group's previous claims that they only found out about the accusations in January when they became public. An employee in payroll reportedly sent an email about the allegations to former Lincoln Project member Ron Steslow in in June, according to the AP.

Schmidt mentioned his own experience of sexual abuse with a boy scout camp medic named Ray in his statement, saying "John Weaver has put me back into that faraway cabin with Ray. I am incandescently angry about it."

He also issued an apology to Lincoln Project co-founder Jennifer Horn, who left the group last week citing "grotesque and inappropriate behavior" and "longstanding deceptions."

The Lincoln Project claimed Horn had asked for large sums of money, including a $250,000 singing fee and a salary of $40,000 per month. The PAC's official Twitter account later shared what appeared to be private messages between Horn and a journalist, a move that former member George Conway suggested was a violation of federal law.

Horn said she had disagreed with the group's initial statement and handling of the Weaver allegations and she'd been "yelled at, demeaned and lied to."

"She deserved better from me. She deserved a leader who could restrain his anger. I'm sorry for my failure," Schmidt.

Questions have also been raised about the Lincoln Project's finances, including what Schmidt was paid during his time with the group. Of the $90 million the group has raised since its inception, just $27 million was spent on ads for broadcast on TV or the internet.

The group won widespread support from across the political spectrum for its slick ads attacking former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies, but it appears tens of millions of dollars have gone on fees for consulting firms controlled by the members of the PAC.

Recent spending by Lincoln Project members have been highlighted amid discussion of its finances. Schmidt purchased a house in Kamas, Utah for $1.4 million last year, while Weaver paid $313,000 in back taxes to the IRS in October relating to a tax bill dating back to 2011.

His resignation is unlikely to bring an end to serious concerns about the PAC's governance and spending.

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