Before President Biden formally withdrew his nominee as the nation’s top firearms regulator on Monday, a new conservative opposition research group was gearing up for a victory lap.
why it matters: Democrats hailed a research campaign during the Trump era that effectively opposed some of their top candidates. Two veteran Republican activists from the American Accountability Foundation didn’t see a comparable mechanism for the GOP, so they set out to create one.
- AAF co-founder Tom Jones was a senior employee of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).
- The other co-founder, Matt Buckham, worked in Donald Trump’s White House Office of Presidential Personnel, which oversees nominations to Senate-confirmed positions.
- “We know they put [David Chipman] Up because he aligned with the Biden administration over guns. … you know there will be advocacy issues abundant there,” Buckham told Nerdshala. “But is this person qualified, what is his character, what is his background? Those are questions the group was not digging into.”
running news: Chipman, who lobbied for gun safety group Everytown after leaving the ATF, was the first high-profile Biden nominee to withdraw from the idea.
- His nomination immediately drew opposition from gun rights groups such as the NRA.
- In withdrawing the nomination, the president acknowledged that Chipman was unlikely to get the 50 votes needed for confirmation in the Senate.
What’s new: During an interview, Jones took credit for helping to unearth and publicize allegations by former aides of Chipman at the ATF—where he was a special agent until 2012—that he humiliated agents of color receiving promotions.
- Jones said he learned of the allegations while speaking personally to some of those former aides. The AAF compiled all that they said, then shared his findings With Daily Caller.
- Within a week, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee were demanding additional hearings about Chipman’s nomination.
- The AAF also helped organize a letter from seven retired ATF agents and investigators opposing Chipman’s nomination to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
- Jones shared the Chipman research memos with Justice Committee Republicans — while publicly publishing the memos on the AAF’s website — and suggested potentially damaging lines for Chipman’s hearing.
Between the lines: AAF’s research largely ignored the policy. Its strategy was similar to the type of research that political campaigns compile on their opponents: public record excavations and research focused on Chipman’s background.
- The group focuses on a suite of high-profile Biden nominees, and has established a website, BidenNoms.com, as a public repository of their research.
- The AAF was formed earlier this year as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, meaning it cannot engage in political activity despite its founders’ background in GOP politics.
- A spokesperson told Nerdshala it expects to work on a $750,000 budget this year. During the interview, Jones and Bakham declined to identify any of their donors.