Potential Hillary Challenger Paid Nearly $100,000 In Campaign Donations To His Family

Jim Webb
Jim Webb during a trip to South Korea in 2010. AP

Jim Webb’s family has made quite a bit of money from his political career.

Webb, a former Democratic senator from Virginia, launched a 2016 presidential exploratory committee last month. During his time in Congress, he chaired another committee, “Born Fighting PAC,” which in recent years, has paid nearly $US100,000 to his wife and daughter.

According to archived versions of its website, Born Fighting PAC is dedicated to supporting “candidates and entities” who support economic fairness, “reorienting our national security posture,” and developing greater accountability in government. However, Federal Election Commission reports show the committee, which received nearly $US1 million in donations, gave a relatively small portion of that money to political candidates and groups. At the same time, nearly 10% of the contributions received by the PAC went to Webb’s family.

Since he declared his interest in the 2016 race, Webb has been identified as one of the main potential rivals for Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Webb, who first entered the Senate in 2006, announced he wouldn’t run for re-election in the beginning of 2011.

Records show his committee essentially ceased political activities once Webb revealed his decision to depart Congress. However, Born Fighting PAC continued to contribute to Webb’s family long after it stopped giving to the candidates and groups it was ostensibly established to support. 

Campaign finance reports show the committee has not given any money to political candidates or groups since the end of 2010. However, his PAC has continued to take donations. In fact, over $US100,000 from the final balance in Webb’s Senate campaign account, which is now closed, was transferred to the committee after he left office at the start of last year.

The majority of the money Webb’s wife and daughter received from the committee came after it stopped giving money to politicians and political groups. 

Business Insider contacted Webb’s staff about this story on Monday afternoon and they asked for a list of specific questions. They have not yet responded with answers. 

Records show Born Fighting PAC has received $US961,515.34 in contributions from individuals, politicians, progressive groups, businesses, unions, and Democratic party organisations since it launched at the end of 2006. Of this money, $US91,999.91 went to Webb’s daughter, Amy Webb Hogan, and wife, Hong Le Webb. 

Webb Hogan began receiving money from her father’s PAC in 2009, when she earned $US2,000 for “website consulting services.” In each year from 2010 through 2012 she received $US12,000 for the same purpose. Last year, Webb Hogan was paid $US14,500 from the committee. Of the money Webb Hogan was paid last year, the reports said $US13,500 was for “administrative consulting services” and $US1,000 was for “website services reimbursement.”

This $US1,000 went to Webb Hogan last year even though —  based on archived versions of the “Born Fighting PAC” site  — it was not updated at all during this period apart from a short, two sentence note thanking donors for their “past support.”

So far in 2014, Webb Hogan, who has sometimes acted as her father’s spokeswoman, has been paid $US24,412.20. The final report, which covers the period from Nov. 24 through the end of the year will not be filed until the beginning of 2015. All of the money Webb Hogan received from the committee so far this year was identified as being related to “administrative consulting services” apart from $US329.46 that was labelled “website services reimbursement.” 

Jim Hong Le Webb
Jim and Hong Le Webb. BornFighting.com

Hong Le Webb was first paid by Born Fighting PAC in 2008 when she received $US253.37 for travel expenses. She did not receive any money from the committee again until this year when, as of last month, she received $US14,834.34. 

Most of the money the committee paid to Hong Le Webb in 2014, $US13,800, was listed in the reports as compensation for “website services.” She also received nearly $US700 for travel expenses and $US335 that was identified as “reimbursement” for a P.O. box. However, none of the records show Born Fighting PAC as having ever been based at a P.O. box.

The money for web-related services that was paid to Webb Hogan and Hong Le constitutes the bulk of the payments they received from Born Fighting PAC. It is not clear whether Hong Le, a lawyer, or Webb Hogan, a former real estate agent, have any other professional experience designing or managing websites.

Neither Webb Hogan or Hong Le Webb responded to requests for comment from Business Insider on Monday.

Along with the members of Webb’s family, the committee has also hired professional web designers to work on the site. This includes work on the site done in the same period his PAC paid Webb’s family for their “website services.” 

According to the records, Born Fighting PAC paid a man named Kevin Druff $US3,570 for “website design services,” hosting, and domain registration. In an email to Business insider on Monday, Druff said he was on the staff of Webb’s 2006 Senate campaign. Druff, who is a professional web designer, said he built the site with another former campaign staffer. 

Based on archived versions of the committee site, it was not redesigned again until June of this year. The campaign finance reports show Webb paid a profession firm, L.A. Design Studio, $US10,000 in three separate payments this year, all of which came within weeks of when the new design apparently went live. L.A. Design Studio did not respond to a request for comment on this story. 

Jim Webb pointing

Archived versions of the Born Fighting PAC website indicate it was only updated once so far this year. Hong Le Webb nevertheless received $US13,800 for “website services” in addition to the money that was paid to L.A. Design Studio. 

These payments to Webb’s family members aren’t the only aspects of the committee’s finances that raise questions. 

The latest Federal Election Commission report, which covers the period up to Nov. 24, shows Born Fighting PAC only has $US69,391.84 of the nearly $US1 million it received left on hand. In total, the committee spent about $US900,000 from 2006 through last month. Of this, the records show that, over the years, just $US200,027.04 of the money donated to the PAC went to political candidates and groups. 

In other words, Webb’s committee only used about 20% of the money it spent to support its stated mission. 

This is relatively poor performance. One Democratic operative who spoke to Business Insider said leadership PACs “generally contribute 40% to 60% of the money they receive” to other candidates and groups. Born Fighting PAC seems to have had relatively high overhead even though the records show the committee did not have office space and barely employed paid staffers apart from Webb’s wife and daughter. 

In the letter from Webb posted on the committee’s site in June, he concluded by asking supporters for further donations. 

“If you trust my vision and are able to help, I can pledge to you that I will do my best to help bring greater fairness and a more sensible foreign policy to our country,” Webb wrote. “Your contribution will not be wasted.”