AOC Urges Lincoln Project Fund 'People Who Actually Made a Big Difference' After GOP Voters Stay With Trump

New York Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has called on the Lincoln Project anti-Trump conservative PAC to shift its funding to grassroots organizers who "actually made a difference" in this week's election, after its expensive outreach struggled to peel away Republican voters.

The Lincoln Project garnered significant media attention during the campaign, raising at least $67 million in its bid to win over "independent-leaning men, those college-educated Republicans, the suburban Republican women."

Among its co-founders were Steve Schmidt, who was Republican Sen. John McCain's 2008 campaign manager, and George Conway, husband of former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

But for all its agitation and social media reach, the Lincoln Project struggled to peel away Trump's Republican supporters. The president increased his share of the GOP vote in 2020 compared with 2016—boosting turnout from 90 to 93 percent.

The Lincoln Project is now being criticized by prominent Democrats on the left of the movement, who claim the group wasted tens of millions of dollars that could have given candidates the edge in down ballot races.

AOC—a figurehead of the progressive wing of the party—said on Twitter Friday evening: "It's not too late for them to do the right thing. Lincoln Project should take the L and publicly pledge to give a lot of their fundraising to the people who actually made a big difference."

The New York representative said the group should also "consider using their fundraising juggernaut to get resources to those orgs." This could help the project recover some of its damaged reputation, Ocasio-Cortez said. "There's potential incentive bc @ProjectLincoln is def in scam territory w these results. It's a pretty bad rep even tho GOP has a thing for failing up."

"Come clean, say 'listen, we thought it'd work, it didn't,& in good faith we're gonna raise X mil for these ppl who deserve it,'" Ocasio-Cortez continued. "And for folks who think it persuaded Republicans, I'd be interested to see data on how effective their videos and NYC billboards were at persuasion. Especially data that justifies $67,000,000."

Ocasio-Cortez said she was ready to admit she was wrong if independent data could show that the Lincoln Project's outreach was able to pull Republicans into line behind Biden. "I'll publicly apologize" if so, she said. "But we just haven't seen any."

But others said Ocasio-Cotez's argument was flawed. Author and journalist Kurt Eichenwald, for example, said Ocasio-Cortez was overlooking how broad the Lincoln Project's activities were.

"@ProjectLincoln had get out the vote programs around country, major polling operations, ads in key states," Eichenwald replied. "They even brought lawsuits to keep votes going. And they are already putting out ads for Atlanta. We need to stop attacking allies."

Reed Galen, a Lincoln Project co-founder, replied to Ocasio-Cortez: "Hi Congresswoman. We have 500,000 individual donors who gave an average of less than $60. I think it's up to them to decide whether @ProjectLincoln is worth their investment. As far as taking 'the L' -@realDonaldTrump is a one term president. And WE were in the fight."

Still, progressives will likely continue to focus on the Lincoln Project amid the post-mortem of the election. Though Biden looks likely to take the presidency, the Democrats fared worse than hoped in the House and Senate races. They may get another shot in January if the two Georgia Senate races go to a run-off as expected.

David Sirota, a former senior advisor and speechwriter for Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential run, said the Lincoln Project was "an epic failure." He told Hill.TV: "They went to liberals and said 'give us money to help us defeat Republicans, that's our job."

"So, when Donald Trump actually increases his share of the Republican vote in 2020 versus 2016 when there wasn't the Lincoln Project, that's just statistically an epic failure."

"So imagine if that $67 million had gone into winning state legislatures, it could be a totally different ball game for the next ten years," Sirota said. "But, instead it went to Republican operatives at the Lincoln Project, to produce YouTube videos that made MSNBC-watching liberals feel smug, but didn't actually move any voters."

Lincoln Project, AOC, funding, grassroots, 2020 election
The Lincoln Project drives their truck with a digital billboard featuring Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner around New York on November 1. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images/Getty