A bombshell CNN report exposed shady Sam Brown for starting a PAC last year purported to “help elect Republicans” that instead has been almost entirely used to pay off his own losing campaign debts – “a move one campaign finance expert likened to using the PAC as a ‘slush fund.’”
Brown launched the Duty First PAC in 2022 after losing his previous Senate primary by over 20 points, stating the PAC’s mission was to “help elect Republicans” and defeat Democrats. But reports show that as little as 2% of the funds actually went to the GOP candidates it alleged to support – instead being used to help pay off the over $300,000 in debts and personal loans Brown made to his failed 2022 campaign.
Nevada State Democratic Party Spokesperson Johanna Warshaw
“Sam Brown setting up a scam PAC to benefit himself while misleading donors isn’t just deceitful and wrong – it’s disqualifying. Brown keeps finding new ways to prove to Nevada voters that he’s nothing more than a fraud and a typical politician who will say or do anything to get elected.”
Read more about Brown’s shady dealings below.
CNN: Nevada GOP Senate candidate raised money to help other candidates – the funds mostly paid down his old campaign’s debt instead
By Abby Turner and Andrew Kaczynski
- Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sam Brown created a political action committee to “help elect Republicans” but most of its funds were spent paying down debt from his failed previous campaign. The group donated less than 7% of its funds to the candidates it was set up to support, according to campaign finance records – a move one campaign finance expert likened to using the PAC as a “slush fund.”
- Brown formed the Duty First PAC in July 2022, saying the organization would help Republicans take back Congress. A month earlier, Brown lost the Republican Senate primary to Adam Laxalt after raising an impressive $4.4 million for his upstart campaign, but his campaign was left with more than $300,000 in debt.
- Now Brown is running again in Nevada as a top recruit of Senate Republicans.
- A former Army captain, Brown made lofty promises when launching his PAC, Duty First.
- “With your support, we will: Defeat the socialist Democrats. Help elect Republicans who believe in accountability to the Constitution and service to the people. Stand with the #DutyFirst movement, chip in with a grassroots contribution today,” he said in a tweet announcing the PAC.
- “We’ll ensure that the socialist agenda of the Democrats does not win in November, and the Republicans continue to be held accountable to defending our Constitution and defending our conservative principles. The country’s counting on us,” Brown said in an accompanying video for the PAC’s launch in July 2022.
- Since then, the PAC raised a small amount – just $91,500 – and used the majority of their money – $55,000 – to repay debt from Brown’s failed campaign for Senate, which Brown had transferred over. Campaign finance experts told CNN this falls into a legal gray area.
- Of the $90,000 spent so far, just $6,000 made its way to five Nevadan Republican candidates’ committees. An additional payment for $1,000 was listed as going directly to congressional candidate Mark Robertson as a contribution but lists the amount as being directly paid to the candidate at his home – not to his committee.
- Instead, the Duty First PAC made over a dozen debt payments. A combined $23,000 was spent on website and software services used by Brown’s Senate campaign. Another $11,275 went towards paying down the failed campaign’s credit card, with an additional $3,000 spent on credit card interest fees.
- Duty First paid off over $1,200 in credit card debt accrued at a country club near where Brown previously lived in Dallas, Texas, and ran for the state house in 2014.
- Duty First PAC is also responsible for eventually repaying Brown $70,000 that he personally loaned his committees.
- According to a CNN analysis of Duty First PAC’s FEC filings, of all the money raised, less than 7% went to candidates. When considering Brown’s personal loans, debt the PAC took on from Brown’s campaign, and expenditures, fewer than 2% of the PAC’s funds went towards candidates in 2022.
- Despite this, Brown played up his PAC’s donations to candidates in interviews and in posts on social media.
- The PAC’s donations were from grassroots donors, who typically donated $50 or less.
- “The Duty First PAC proudly supports conservatives fighting for Nevada,” he said in a tweet after making the donations on November 7, 2022. “This past week, we donated funds to the four Republicans working to take back the House. Join us in supporting them right now!”
- Later, following the 2022 midterms in a late November interview on a local Nevada radio station, Brown played up the PAC’s work and said it would continue to work between election cycles.
- Campaign finance experts CNN spoke to said Brown marketing the Duty First PAC as a way for people to financially support conservative candidates was a “creative way” for Brown to pay off old campaign debts behind the scenes.
- “It creates a situation where contributors to a PAC may think that PAC is doing one thing, which is supporting political candidates, when in fact what it’s doing is being used to pay off long standing debts from a previous campaign,” said Stephen Spaulding, vice president of policy at Common Cause and former advisor to an FEC commissioner.
- Since the FEC has not issued an advisory opinion that would “apply to that candidate and any other candidate that has a very similar situation,” Spaulding said transferring debts between campaign committees and PACs is a gray area in campaign finance law. In Brown’s case, his candidate committee was rolled into a PAC, Sam Brown PAC, that was associated with his candidacy, which the campaign finance experts agree is a common maneuver for candidates. But what struck the experts as odd was that Brown terminated the Sam Brown PAC, and transferred his outstanding loans and debts to the Duty First PAC.
- “Unfortunately, Sam Brown, like too many other politicians, has given almost no money to other candidates and, instead, has used his PAC as a slush fund,” said Paul S. Ryan, executive director at Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation. “Many donors would understandably be upset if they learned their money wasn’t used to help elect other candidates like Brown – the reason they made their contributions,” he added.