The Strange Dream Team Behind A Last-Minute Outside Spending Boost For Roy Moore

Janet Porter, serving as a spokeswoman for Roy Moore's Senate campaign, being interviewed by CNN's Anderson Cooper on December 6, 2017 (Screenshot via CNN)

Shortly after Alabama chief justice Roy Moore’s surprise defeat in a special election for the U.S. Senate last year, a PAC run by Texas anti-LGBTQ activist Steve Hotze reimbursed Religious Right activist and Moore campaign spokeswoman Janet Porter for $3,900 in travel expenses and paid $10,000 to a law firm that had been representing Moore in his fight against media outlets that had reported on child molestation accusations against him. The group also poured about $91,000 into last-minute ads in the final days before the election, including one radio ad accusing Moore’s opponent of trying to “start a race war.”

This activity was paid for in part by a last-minute infusion of cash from donors including Sean Fieler, a New York-based major donor to anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ causes, and Michael Peroutka, a longtime supporter of Moore’s who, along with funding Christian nationalist causes, is a former board member of the neo-Confederate League of the South.

According to FEC records, in the nine days before the December 12 election, Hotze raised $175,000 for his Restore Our Godly Heritage PAC, including an $80,000 loan from Hotze. On Election Day, the PAC reimbursed Hotze for $50,000 of the loan.

Peroutka and Fieler each gave Restore Our Godly Heritage PAC $10,000 in the nine days before the election. The committee also got financial help from Texas state senator Donald Huffines and from Art Ally, the head of a Florida “biblically responsible” investment fund, each of whom also gave $10,000. Andrew Schlafly, a son of the late conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, put in $1,500. Peroutka, Hotze, Ally and Schlafly had also given directly to Moore’s campaign.

In mid-November, shortly after the Washington Post reported on Moore’s alleged sexual advances on teenagers, Porter flew to Alabama, where she and Hotze led a press conference of Religious Right activists defending Moore.

Porter, an Ohio activist with a long history of anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ extremism, later started appearing on television as a spokeswoman for Moore’s campaign, where she made a national name for herself with off-the-wall cable news interviews.

In the days after the election, Hotze’s PAC reimbursed Porter for an $1,100 Montgomery hotel bill, $770 for airfare, and $2,000 for other travel expenses. Moore’s campaign did not report any payments to Porter that we could find.

Another interesting payment from Hotze’s PAC was a $10,000 legal retainer to the accident and injury law firm Garmon & Liddon on December 27, more than two weeks after the election. One of the firm’s attorneys, Trenton Garmon, had been representing Moore, his wife Kayla, and their Foundation for Moral Law in threatening to sue media outlets that reported on the charges against Moore. He also made a memorable appearance on national TV defending Moore. Restore Our Godly Heritage did not provide the FEC with details on the services it had engaged Garmon for.

But the bulk of Restore Our Godly Heritage’s last-minute spending appears to have gone to ad production and placement, including the “race war” ad, which the PAC did not appear to publicize but which Politico reported on at the time.