A racist ad targeting Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and an obscure bill to allow a Native American tribe to open a casino in Massachusetts is connected to a longtime conservative, dark money operative, The Daily Beast has learned.
The Coalition to Restore American Values has been running ads since November 2018 that, among other things, feature Warren in an Indian headdress and warn against her “casino plan.” The group was registered to David R. Langdon, a long time culture warrior, in July 2018, according to Ohio state records.
The online ad was one of the first public salvos linking Warren to the project in an attempt to rally conservatives against legislation recognizing a Native American tribe seeking a new casino in Massachusetts. President Donald Trump himself has since declared his opposition to the legislation last week in a tweet that dubbed Warren “Pocahontas.”
The Coalition to Restore American Values has been trying to tie Warren to the measure since last year. In September, it ran an ad in The Hill newspaper, declaring in block letters “Pocahontas’ End Run On POTUS and the U.S. DOI”, using President Trump’s favorite racist nickname for the Massachusetts Senator. An accompanying website, nofauxcasino.com, features Warren in Native American garb beside a graphic depicting “The Fauxcahontas Casino.”
Langdon is an Ohio-based lawyer who also serves as treasurer for the Campaign for American Principles, the political arm of the American Principles Project, a conservative advocacy outfit. And APP, it turns out, put the Coalition to Restore American Values ad on Congress’s radar.
Last week, Jon Schweppe, APP’s director of government affairs, reached out to Jeff Small, executive director of the Congressional Western Caucus and a senior adviser to Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), urging the congressman to oppose legislation recognizing the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe in Massachusetts. The tribe plans to build a casino in Taunton, MA, and Schweppe explicitly invoked Warren in pressing for Gosar to oppose the measure.
“Warren's involvement is especially strange, given her past ideological opposition to casino gambling and her record of voting against gambling expansion—could this be about image rehabilitation after years of embellishing her fake Native American ancestry?” Schweppe wrote, before linking to the Coalition to Restore American Values ad.
Warren, who was a co-sponsor of the bill in the last Congress, is not actually involved in the bill at issue. In fact, the legislation doesn’t even have a Senate companion. But when Gosar circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter last week urging his colleagues to oppose the bill, he too invoked Warren’s supposed involvement. He also included a link to Schweppe’s email.
In an email to The Daily Beast, Schweppe downplayed ties between APP and CRAV. “I'm fairly certain [Langdon] does work for dozens of groups on the conservative side of things,” he wrote.
Langdon did not respond to a request for comment.
But the connections don’t end there. CRAV’s website was designed by the Drogin Group, a conservative digital vendor, according to the firm’s website. That website also boasts a testimonial from APP executive director Terry Schilling, who touts Drogin as “a well-rounded digital media vendor that is technically savvy and can also offer website design, brand strategy and messaging.” The Campaign for American Principles engaged Drogin’s services as late as October 2018 for digital advertising attacking Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), according to Federal Election Commission records.
Schweppe did not respond when asked directly if his group has any affiliation with CRAV.
Langdon’s and American Principles Project’s involvement in the push against the bill shows the degree to which the 2020 election is injecting itself into issues as seemingly obscure and regional as the recognition of a Native American tribe and its plans for a casino. Warren has been routinely criticized by Trump and others for claiming Native American heritage—though there's no evidence it secured her a post or a job.
But some opposition to the casino measure seems to be rooted in money as much as politics.
Several Trump-connected lobbying groups have been hired on behalf of Twin River Management Group, which owns a Rhode Island-based casino that would compete with Mashpee Wampanoag’s casino if they get the greenlight from Congress.
One firm hired by Twin River is run by Trump adviser Matt Schlapp, who has, since January, been lobbying Congress and the White House on their behalf. Twin River has paid his firm, Cove Strategies, $30,000 for its work so far this year.
An hour after Schlapp tweeted his opposition to the bill last Wednesday, President Trump himself tweeted his own call to kill the legislation—a move that effectively scuttled Republican support and stalled its progress on the House floor.
The legislation is expected to be up for a vote again on May 15. Without congressional action to enshrine their tribal rights, the casino deal in Taunton, Massachusetts will fall through.
Unlike Schlapp, APP doesn’t appear to have a vested financial interest in the Mashpee Wampanoag issue. Its top donors over the past few years include major conservative funders such as the Mercer family, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Missouri roofing magnate David Humphreys, and Equinox Partners president Sean Fieler, according to financial records left unredacted on the website of Florida’s secretary of state.
None of those funders appear to have an immediate interest in the construction of a new Massachusetts casino. Instead, APP’s opposition appears rooted entirely in Warren’s perceived involvement in the issue—and her ongoing campaign for the White House.
The legislation pulled from the House floor last week, Schweppe wrote, “amounted to a taxpayer bailout for a corrupt casino conglomerate, which wouldn't stand to benefit American families but would stand to benefit Senator Liz Warren, one of the leading Democratic candidates for President.”