Secret Republican group budgets millions for media and influencer programs
According to a recent report by The New York Times.
The coalition, known as The Rockbridge Network, includes prominent conservative billionaires like Peter Thiel and Rebekah Mercer. The network aims to “disrupt but advance the Republican agenda” with its new politics and media programs. According to a network brochure obtained by the Time“The Rockbridge Network will replace the current Republican ecosystem” of activist and media organizations with “more action-oriented and effective people and institutions.”
The brochure does not reveal details of these new media ventures, but sets a working budget of $8 million for 2021. Named initiatives include “public relations and messaging, a rapid-response communications team for activists and conservative leaders, polling funding, sponsorship of region-specific coverage and influence programs, investigative journalism, documentaries and other cultural influence and renewal projects.
Members of the Rockbridge Network met this week at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club for private meetings and a closed-door speech from Trump himself, the Time reported. The meeting comes as Republicans put together their strategies ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
The pamphlet’s focus on “influencer programs” follows a year of massive spending by the Trump wing of the Republican Party on similar initiatives. Last December alone, Trump’s “Make America Great Again PAC” paid out more than $50,000 to influencer marketing firm Legendary Campaigns, according to FEC records. Additionally, the Republican National Senate Committee paid the company a similar amount for “advertising.”
Trump’s team has previously tapped Legendary Campaigns, a “partner organization” of Urban Legend Co., for online advertising. The company, led by former Trump White House digital chief Ory Rinat, reportedly paid popular conservative influencers “fees in return for driving engagement — such as email signups, donations and purchases – for the company’s customers”. Axios reported last year.
During the 2020 election cycle, platforms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter dramatically changed the way political campaigns could advertise on their platforms. Twitter banned political ads outright, while Facebook and Google began requiring much more detailed information from political buyers. This prompted new funds to flow to companies like Legendary Campaigns for advertising partnerships with content creators.
In December, The edge detailed the latest efforts by conservative academic group Turning Point USA to bring influencers into the movement. At the time, TPUSA boasted more than 400 “ambassadors” and its 2021 investor prospectus called for more than $7 million for the organization’s media arm.