Veterans of failed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s campaign have quietly taken on their next venture: ownership of a right-wing news site run by a former Breitbart writer who’s called Alex Jones “my Walter Cronkite.”
The site, Big League Politics, is a notable outpost of pro-Trump viewpoints and anti-liberal conspiracy theories on the internet. Its editorial division is run by Patrick Howley, a former writer for prominent conservative news sites such as Breitbart News, the Daily Caller, and the Washington Free Beacon.
Since its founding, Big League Politics (BLP) has been a standalone corporate entity. But earlier this year, it was acquired by Mustard Seed Media, a company run by a political consultant who previously worked for Moore’s campaign.
A merging of an ostensible news website with a political operation doesn’t happen every day, and for good reason. Under its new ownership, Big League Politics will be in a position to cover high-profile political figures that are simultaneously paying consulting fees to the site’s new owners.
But what made this new media-consulting hybrid even quirkier was what came after the acquisition.
Earlier this month, @MooreSenate, the Twitter account belonging to Moore’s campaign was transferred to Big League Politics. The account’s 75,000 or so followers were kept intact, but metadata shows that the account’s handle and profile were changed. The website’s official Twitter account, meanwhile, was rebranded as Howley’s personal account.
Asked about the acquisition of @MooreSenate, Reilly O’Neal, who runs Mustard Seed Media, enthusiastically confirmed that it now owns Big League Politics.
“Big League Politics is a fast-paced news site led by a team of talented investigative reporters, filmmakers, and citizen journalists who are determined to report the truth when the mainstream media won’t,” O’Neal told The Daily Beast in an email.
O’Neal declined to provide details about how BLP came into possession of the Moore campaign Twitter account. But he himself has business ties to the failed Alabama candidate. Moore’s campaign paid two of O’Neal’s other companies more than $730,000, according to Federal Election Commission records. It paid another $130,000 in total to GOP consultant Noel Fritsch, a firm Fritsch runs, and another firm that lists his home in D.C. as its mailing address.
Both Fritsch and O’Neal have collaborated on a number of political projects and, a source familiar with Big League Politics’ operations says both are now heavily involved with the website.
Fritsch did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did Howley.
In conservative journalism circles, the BLP editor in chief is seen as a talented writer who is nonetheless prone to unhinged outbursts. At the Daily Caller, he was known to send rambling, occasionally incoherent, late-night emails to the entire newsroom.
His far-right politics and conspiratorial take on opposition to President Donald Trump color the editorial tone of Big League Politics, which he has led since its inception last year. Among the under-covered stories that BLP has focused on is a conspiracy theory surrounding the 2016 murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich. The site has published dozens of stories fueling speculation that the murder was related to the release of DNC emails that the U.S. intelligence community believes were obtained by Russian hackers.
In a column for the Daily Caller shortly after Trump’s inauguration, Howley hailed a leading Seth Rich conspiracist, right-wing radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, as a journalistic paragon, and detailed the nefarious “deep state” conspiracy out to undermine the new, transformative president.
“Barack Obama from the White House pushed us in the direction of outright civil war in the streets,” Howley wrote. “Now, he’s acting like Robert E. Lee if he’d never surrendered at Appomattox, waging a guerrilla campaign in the foothills to destabilize the American republic for years to come. And unlike Lee, he’s acting under the supervision of George Soros and his Muslim Brotherhood overseers.”
Those sorts of conspiracy theories have earned Big League Politics attention and traffic on the pro-Trump right. But the site has had a hard time translating that traffic into a steady revenue stream, according to a plugged-in source familiar with its operations.
Its initial deal with Mustard Seed, which put the company in charge solely of advertising, was a way to boost its promotional efforts and bring in some ad dollars. But O’Neal was more interested in taking over the site wholesale, though the terms of the site’s transfer to Mustard Seed remain unclear.
In its new corporate form, Big League Politics is under the auspices of consultants who’ve made millions campaigning for the types of political candidates that receive friendly coverage from Howley and his crew of reporters.
Big League Politics has written favorably, for instance, about Paul Nehlen, the white nationalist Republican candidate challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan. Nehlen’s campaign has paid Fritsch about $32,500 in salary and consulting fees since last year. It’s also paid Capital Square Funding Group, O’Neal’s fundraising firm, about $7,000 this cycle.
The site has also extensively covered Corey Stewart, a former candidate for Virginia governor and now a contender for U.S. Senate in the state. Stewart’s gubernatorial campaign paid Fritsch and O’Neal’s consulting firm, Tidewater Strategies. His Senate campaign has paid Capital Square and Fritsch’s Southern Pines Strategies.
Big League Politics isn’t O’Neal’s first foray into the political news business, and at least one other media property he controls has promoted his consulting firm’s clients. First in Freedom Daily, a North Carolina-centric conservative news site owned by Mustard Seed Media, has promoted political efforts by two of O’Neal’s clients: North State Leadership Council and North Carolina Gun Rights.
Stories promoting both of those groups were written by Spencer Hardison, who works for Tidewater. Hardison began contributing to Big League Politics this month.