A shadowy, Republican-affiliated group is working toward the 2022 mid-term elections through a “Mighty Michigan” Facebook page by identifying persuadable voters who favor the GOP on hot-button cultural issues.
The nonprofit behind this effort seeks to engage in a novel strategy to make the GOP more acceptable to moderate voters by subtly reshaping the “cultural narrative,” according to The Washington Post.
Is this an attempt at recruiting the RINOs? Not so much.
According to a solicitation letter sent by the parent organization, the American Culture Project, the initiative amounts to this: “We’ve created a persuasion machine that allows conservatives to reach, engage and move people to action like never before. Now is the time to expand and capitalize on this machine, setting the political playing field in advance of the 2022 election.”
The letter, obtained by the Post, emphasizes “cancel culture” and “woke supremacy” on the liberal left. The solicitation warns that the left, because of its clout within cultural institutions, has more access to centrist voters while the right is stuck “within its own echo chamber.”
Goal is a database of personal information on voters
Through their various Facebook pages the group plans to collect personal information online to create a database that will allow targeting of voters using “language consumed by those in the persuadable middle.”
Mighty Michigan (logo pictured above) is among the most popular of the American Culture Project’s social media pages, gaining about 30,000 followers since it was created in the fall of 2019.
The project has established Facebook pages in five states: Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Virginia. It is reportedly seeking to expand to six more: Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.
The goal is to build an audience that includes at least a quarter of each states’ voters, the March solicitation explains, giving the project political sway in key states that could shift control of Congress to the Republicans in 2022.
On their website, Mighty Michigan refers to their group as nonpartisan. Their Facebook page says “Mighty Michigan is a taxpayer advocacy group working to knock the dust off the rust belt.”
Yet, nearly every post on their Facebook page in recent months consists singularly of criticism aimed at Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her various emergency restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Donors are hidden from the public
Because the American Culture Project is registered with the IRS as a nonprofit engaged in “social welfare” projects, it does not have to pay taxes or disclose the donors who keep the operation running.
Isaac Stanley-Becker of the Post reports that the project is rather secretive about its activities. The American Culture Project website offers little information while a tax filing identifies their mission as the “promotion of free market solutions to complex national problems.”
The project is led by an Illinois-based conservative activist, John Tillman, who also oversees a libertarian think tank. Tillman has also created a news network which publishes on a website called the Center Square. The Center Square articles report on news items in three dozen states with a special emphasis on the Midwest and Michigan.
This approach to online messaging is one of a growing number of unorthodox journalistic initiatives undertaken by operatives from both political parties.
Tom Wheeler, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, commented to the Post about the American Culture Project’s activities:
“It raises deception to an art form, and it aids in the de-democratization of media and of public life.”