In a report earlier this month, I detailed how Scott Dworkin used the fear of a link between President Trump and Russia to raise money for his Super PAC, The Democratic Coalition. He then paid $79,500 of the money raised to his own consultancy firm, Bulldog Finance Group. Additionally, thousands of dollars in donations went to pay others on the board of the Super PAC, including Jarad Geldner’s firm, FWD Communications. Since the release of the article FWD’s website has gone down, however you can still find it referenced on the company’s LinkedIn Profile and via the Wayback Machine.
In a follow-up report, I exposed a defamation lawsuit that was levied against The Democratic Coalition and how they used donor money to retain a law firm for that case, a case that was settled in court, but to date, the financial agreement has yet to be made public.
After my reports were published, Dworkin blocked me on Twitter and began to call my articles “Fake News” and “Russian Propaganda.” He then blocked most people who shared the article and had public arguments with other journalists who were citing my piece, such as Glenn Greenwald and Max Blumenthal. These actions led me to look further into the self-proclaimed “leader of the Resistance” and his consultancy firm, Bulldog Finance Group.
The Democratic Coalition 2015-16 FEC Report
Upon inspecting FEC reports of the 2016 election cycle, I found that The Democratic Coalition actually had been paying Bulldog further back than I accounted for in my original report. It turned out that Dworkin’s Super PAC had paid his consultancy firm $68,377.38 during the 2015-16 cycle, on top of the $79,500 I previously reported, which brings the total to $147,877.38 on record to date. Given The Democratic Coalition’s mission to resist President Trump, it is unclear how paying a consultancy firm helps to resist. Over a year has passed since they started taking donations, Trump is still the President and The Democratic Coalition is still funneling money into Dworkin’s firm.
Bulldog to the Rescue?
Since Scott Dworkin’s consultancy firm was paid close to $150,000 to consult his own Super PAC, I wondered what he might be charging Democratic candidates for consulting. I also wondered what type of help he was providing these campaigns, since he was, by his own proclamation, a “leader of the resistance.” Bulldog’s website states:
Scott Dworkin became inspired to create Bulldog Finance Group after witnessing first-hand the demand for a more modern approach to political fundraising for Democrats. To date, Bulldog Finance Group has fundraised in all 50 states and internationally.
But were any of the campaigns they worked on winning elections? Did the candidates he consulted feel like Bulldog made their campaign stronger? Immediately, I noticed that during the 2016 election cycle all candidates that I found in FEC reports who were making disbursements to Bulldog, lost their race. So I reached out to as many of the former candidates as I could who had used Dworkin’s services. I spoke to four candidates on the record, all of whom felt that using Bulldog was of no help, if not a detriment, to their campaigns.
I was first in contact with Matt Detch, a former member of the Secret Service under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who ran for Congress in West Virginia. We spoke on the phone and conversed through direct messages.
Detch told me he had wanted to serve his country from a young age. After serving in the military and secret service, he saw people struggling in his own community and he decided to run against the big money backed Republican in his district. Detch laid out in detail to me that he ran a grassroots campaign in 2016 and needed major help fundraising. He explained that Bulldog “aggressively” solicited their services, through emails and phone calls and that Dworkin personally promised him they would get him joint fundraisers with big Democratic names in the party. Detch was also told that he would gain access to call sheets that would open the doors to new donors. He signed on and paid Bulldog $1,500 to get started.
Did Bulldog and Dworkin produce on their results? Detch told me that he hired Dworkin’s firm for about three months and it was, in his words, a “disaster.”
He added, “Basically… what Bulldog [Finance Group] would do is help raise funds by getting ‘call sheets.’” These call sheets, according to Detch, were lists of democratic donors. “What Scott and Bulldog did was they took all of my [own] personal contacts and had me call them right off the bat. Then [they] never gave me donor lists. So all of my fundraising was done off contacts I had made that were literally already in my cell phone.”
That was not all. Detch and Dworkin would eventually have a falling out.
Detch told me, “his group was supposed to be helping with RSVPs for a fundraiser and just stopped working and stopped answering calls from me. They said I hadn’t paid a bill (which is possible, but nothing that one of his staff answering a phone couldn’t have solved). The really sad thing was that if a payment was missed to Bulldog it was when my community was hit by a (once in a) thousand year flood that devastated a lot of West Virginia. I would have been happy to pay Bulldog, but I could tell they wanted out… which was fine, whatever.”
After the flood hit, Detch shut down his campaign for two weeks to help his community deal with the damages. Dworkin never came to West Virginia to meet with him as promised and, after an email exchange, the campaign and consultancy firm went their separate ways.
Detch explained, “After hiring my next fundraiser (who was awesome) I heard that this was a tactic Dworkin used. He’d find a bunch of campaigns and charge them some sort of start-up fee, then figure out which campaigns were going to bring in lots of money and dump the other ones who already paid him.”
Detch had no personal issues with Dworkin or Bulldog employees, but said, “dealing with Scott was just a massive setback to my campaign. We never financially got off the ground because we thought we had a good fundraiser who in reality didn’t care [and] by the time I hired a good fundraiser it was too late, and the people who need help the most, like the ones hurt by that flood, [now] don’t have a good congressman.”
When I asked Detch what he thought about Dworkin calling himself a leader of the Resistance he responded, “Scott wants to be a ‘leader of the Resistance’ but he’s done damage to Democratic campaigns.”
During our conversation, Detch mentioned that a man named Jeff Kessler, who ran for Governor in West Virginia, warned him not to hire Bulldog. I immediately reached out to him.
I talked on the phone at length with Jeff Kessler about his experience with Bulldog Finance Group and his 2016 Gubernatorial campaign.
Before running for Governor, Kessler served as minority leader of West Virginia’s State Senate, President of the Senate/Lieutenant Governor, Acting President of the Senate and Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. In 2016, while running for Governor, he backed Bernie Sanders for President of the United States and introduced the Senator at rallies in West Virginia during the primary. Kessler was running against an establishment Democrat who had big money backing. His campaign, much like Bernie’s, was considered a grassroots fight against big money in politics.
First, I asked Kessler why he warned Matt Detch not use Bulldog. He explained to me that he thought it would be a waste of money for a grassroots campaign like the one Detch was running. “[I] just thought it was a waste, you pay them to watch you make calls.”
Kessler then detailed his personal experience with the consulting firm. He had hired Bulldog for his 2016 run for Governor. Once again, Dworkin’s firm promised to open doors to donors and touted his connections to big names in the Democratic Party.
What did Bulldog do for his campaign?
Kessler told me, “they compiled a list of donors from my own past donor lists.” This sounded eerily similar to what Detch had described about his interaction with Bulldog, yet whereas Detch paid Dworkin’s consultancy firm $1,500, Kessler told me he spent between “$20,000-$30,000 over a five to six month period.” At that point, he realized it was no longer feasible to keep Bulldog on.
Kessler lost his primary to billionaire Jim Justice. This is the same Jim Justice who, after becoming Governor, joined the Republican Party and endorsed Donald Trump’s Presidency.
I contacted the website of West Virginia’s Secretary of State to obtain Kessler’s campaign financial records. After a brief back and forth with one of their staffers, they emailed the report and I found that he spent a total of $17,923.21 with Bulldog, close to what was described in our conversation on the phone. In the end, his campaign did not have the resources needed to fight back against an opponent who was also a billionaire. Kessler told me that he did not blame Bulldog for his loss, but that they were, certainly, “not a good investment.”
Running in the Congressional Democratic Primary for Maryland’s 2nd District in 2016, Terence Strait ran a grassroots campaign against an incumbent Democrat. He decided to run because he wanted representatives who represented the people and not just rich corporate donors. He paid Bulldog a total of $3,000 for consulting. His campaign only made a total of $6,623.42 in disbursements between July 2015 and March 31, 2016.
I began our correspondence by stating that I noticed he used Bulldog during his 2016 campaign. He quickly replied, “Yeah, that was a poor decision on my part.” When I asked him to describe what they did for his campaign he said, “All they did was give me lists of people to call and ask for money. I am pretty sure I paid them more than I got out of those fundraising activities.”
I asked Strait if he was only given back his own contacts, like Matt Detch had reported, and he told me, “No, they gave me contacts that I didn’t have, but a lot of the information was wrong. People who had moved, people who had died, plus a lot of out of state numbers.”
When I asked him to detail some of their consulting practices he told me, “Well, one of Scott’s employees sat on the phone with me …it was some kind of [an] online setup. But that ended up being more stressful than helpful.”
Finally, I questioned him about the money Bulldog raised for his campaign and he stated, “I don’t have the numbers (I lost track of my treasurer after the campaign), but I am certain it was a net loss.”
Lastly, I spoke on the phone with William Ostrander, who ran for Congress in California district 24 in 2016. Ostrander ran for office to shine a light on the fight for campaign finance reform. His interactions with Dworkin and Bulldog were not pleasant. He described to me, just as other candidates had, that Bulldog asked for his personal contacts and then gave them back to him on a call sheet. His own personal contacts were not the only numbers he received. Ostrander explained, “they sent me a call list with people from the east coast. When I called those numbers, people started asking why a guy from California was calling them.”
Further, he described how Bulldog would send a set amount of phone numbers every month to “slowly drag you along.” After only a few months, Ostrander decided he would end Bulldog’s services because “he didn’t see the value in them.” That is when things became interesting.
Ostrander told me that Dworkin sent him threatening emails and even called him and threatened to sue for canceling services before the month was out.
He described Dworkin as an “unethical and unsavory character,” who was “living in the margins, exploiting people’s deepest concerns and passions.” Ostrander’s biggest concern was over the long-term effect Dworkin’s actions might have on the way people participate in politics. He told me, “people like Dworkin damage people’s faith and then they become apathetic and don’t get involved in government.”
Ostrander paid Bulldog $9,500.
During my investigation I found that at least 11 other campaigns (most of which were for Democratic candidates) had spent over a thousand dollars with Bulldog for their services and then lost their race in 2016:
- Hawks For Congress lost by over 100,000 votes and spent $15,810.97.
- Kai Degner For Congress lost by over 100,000 votes and spent $7,500.
- Shawn For New Hampshire lost by over 100,000 votes and spent $9,900. Through direct messages on Twitter, Shawn told me that he only worked briefly with Bulldog and did not think he would have much to add to the story.
- Elect Peter Clemens For Congress lost by over 100,000 votes and spent $9,500.
- Andy Millard for Congress lost by nearly 100,000 votes and spent $8,750.
- Santiago Ramos lost in the primary after spending $1,500.
- Greene for Congress lost by over 80,000 votes after spending $1,500.
- Kerri Condley for Congress lost in the primary and spent $6,365.16.
- Gallagher for New York lost in the primary with only 1% of the vote and spent $2,975.
- Pamela Keith came in third in the primary and spent $12,400.
David Cozad previously ran and lost his election for 6th Congressional District of Texas in 2014. On August 10, 2015, Cozad for Congress paid Bulldog $1,000. However, he does not appear to have participated in the 6th Congressional District elections in Texas in 2016, despite having a campaign website for a 2016 election.
Dworkin’s consultant firm, Bulldog Finance Group, took thousands of dollars from Democratic (and Independent) candidates during the 2016 election cycle and produced very little, if any, in terms of Democratic victories.The four candidates that I spoke to had nothing positive to say about their experience. Additionally, the firm received close to $150,000 in compensation for consulting Dworkin’s Super PAC, which was raising money off of Democratic donors. This was money that could have gone towards the candidates and causes.
While writing this report, I noticed Dworkin was using the news of the government shutdown to begin promoting a podcast that he would be hosting. Predictably, he is asking for donations to get The Dworkin Report up and running. This time, he is asking his supporters to help him raise $200,000! What will the money go toward? On the funding website Dworkin explains:
It feels like it’s been a lifetime since Donald Trump descended that gaudy faux-gilded escalator to announce his candidacy for the highest office in the United States – and to call Mexicans rapists. Since then, my team and I have been working to expose this man for the fraud he is, and we’ve had major success. Now, we need your help to dig deeper and find new angles. Help fund our podcast studio so we can remain an independent voice for The Resistance & push back even harder against Trump.
He asked people to raise $50,000 dollars for production.
How is this any different than what Dworkin claims The Democratic Coalition is doing? Where are there examples of the “success” he has produced? How will his podcast push back further against Trump than his television appearances on MSNBC and his Super PAC already do? In a seemingly endless loop of grift, Dworkin keeps finding ways to milk money out of the resistance for which he claims to care so much.
I reached out multiple times to Pam Keith, a 2018 candidate in Florida, but she has yet to respond to my requests for an interview. Bulldog Finance Group did not respond to requests for comment.