Controversial Republican campaign consultant John Yob of Grand Rapids emerged as the subject of “an extensive discussion” by the Republican National Committee members gathered in Nashville on Aug. 24 as the GOP officials apparently considered whether Yob should be barred from receiving RNC campaign contracts.
According to an email from John Canegata, a U.S. Virgin Islands’ representative on the 168-member RNC, he argued that Yob’s shadowy ways of doing business – through several obscure companies – should be of concern to top GOP officials.
As perhaps the ultimate wheeler-dealer in national GOP politics, Yob raised some eyebrows within the GOP in 2016 when he tapped his insider connections to quietly score a payoff of tens of millions of dollars to provide email lists of voters and donors to the RNC in their bid to get President Donald Trump elected. More recently, in July he received a $173,000 check from the RNC for the continuation of such work.
In his email message, Canegata cited a Detroit News story from Thursday that showed Yob has taken advantage of his radio stations and website – Converative Intel, what critics call “fake news” — to engage in propaganda that favors his candidate-clients and trashes their GOP election competitors.
Canegata suggested it is beyond the pale for heavy-hitter consultants to employ biased radio stations and websites to boost their clients’ viability at the expense of other Republican candidates.
Here’s his key message in the email to fellow RNC members:
I have attached the link below as a follow up to the topic I brought to your attention at our members only meeting. Our party has a strongmoral foundation. It can stand on its own merit. Our message is a good message. We can win elections without the “bad actors”… Our party should never reward bad actors. When we do business with the companies highlighted in the attached article, we are rewarding the
In advance of the 2018 election year, Yob’s Michigan clientele includes Senate candidate Lena Epstein, Secretary of State contender Stan Grot, and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who hopes to succeed Gov. Rick Snyder.
In a further expansion of his political empire, Yob recently purchased three conservative talk radio stations in northern Michigan, according to Federal Communications Commission records. His Mitten News LLC now owns WJNL (101.1 FM in Traverse City and 1210 AM in Kingsley) and WJML (1110 AM in Petoskey).
At the same time, Canegata has personal motivations for criticizing Yob, as the well-paid Michigan GOP strategist bought a $4 million oceanfront mansion in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2015 and then forcefully wrested control of the islands’ Republican Party from Canegata and hijacked their small delegation to the Republican National Convention in July 2016. The ensuing quirky political tussle received national attention in political circles.
Meanwhile, Yob’s tiny companies – at least on paper — continue to demonstrate an outsized ability to land RNC contracts. The newest campaign finance reports show that the RNC Chair, Ronna Romney McDaniel, previously the Michigan Republican Party chair, awarded Yob’s Conservative Connector company in July with a $173,000 payment for, again, providing email lists to the national GOP – just six months into the 2017 Trump presidency.
The Washington Post reported last year that a tangled web of Yob companies and connections, fostered through his GOP proxies, had cashed in bigtime. The Conservative Connector was barely on the political radar screen in 2012 yet four years later it had snagged $27 million in fees, a windfall that eventually reached $38 million.
Another lucrative connection Yob can continue to rely on is Ron Weiser, the new MIGOP chair who played a key role in the 2016 Trump fundraising operation. Weiser, a multi-millionaire, served on the national Trump fundraising cabal created by the RNC known as the Make America Great Again Committee.
He previously served as state party chair in 2009-11 and also as an RNC member, thanks in part due to his close political alliance with party patriarch Dick DeVos and his wife Betsy, Trump’s Education Secretary.
With the 2018 election year approaching, in Michigan Yob represents Epstein, one of several Republican who hope to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
He also works for Grot, the Shelby Township clerk, who eyes the Secretary of State post and worked under former SOS Candice Miller in the 1990s.
In addition, he’s consulting Calley’s bid to win the upcoming gubernatorial race while also assisting the LG’s petition drive for a part-time legislature. The drive got off to a disastrous start in May-June and in July Calley hit the reset button. But five of Yob’s companies have alreadly collected nearly $170,000 from the conspicuously funded campaign.
Nationwide, Yob’s resume as a campaign consultant extends to deputy political director of John McCain’s presidential bid in 2008, manager of Gov. Rick Snyder’s runs in 2010 and 2014, and national political director for Sen. Rand Paul in the 2016 presidential primaries.
More recently, Yob has taken a scattershot approach to securing GOP clients. He provides political services to Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, a persistent Trump critic, while also aiding ultraconservative Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, who last week lost the GOP primary to fill the Senate seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Brooks had blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for failing to win passage for the Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill. Brooks also pre-empted Trump by calling for McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, to resign.