CREW Exposed

Meet The New CREW, Same As The Old

Call it the watchdog that wasn’t.

The real agenda of the “non-partisan” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has long been the city’s worst-kept secret. CREW postured as a watchdog that was equally-dedicated to exposing corruption on the political left and right. But as we and others have documented, most of CREW’s spears were launched at Republicans; the group only took on Democrats after the Party had given up on them, too.

In 2014, CREW dropped the non-partisan pretense when it was added to David Brock’s network of left-wing attack groups. During the most recent election cycle, CREW co-founder Norm Eisen (who became the organization’s board chair this year)  was a prominent critic of now-President Trump. With voters rejecting Brock’s preferred candidate, CREW is now gearing up to defeat Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

The Washington Free Beacon obtained documents outlining the strategy from Brock’s recent meeting with the left’s big-money donors:

[CREW] is now integral to his plan to take down the president. The documents handed out to donors at the weekend’s conference detail the group’s expected legal avenues for doing so.

“CREW will relentlessly probe [Trump’s] global conflicts of interest and administration ethics problems through aggressive use of research, open records requests, legal action, and [Freedom of Information Act] litigation,” the documents state. …

Brock’s network is redirecting significantly more resources into CREW’s legal strategy. It will double the group’s budget to $5.8 million this year, documents state, and increase its staff to 38, more than doubling the size of its legal team while adding staffers to its communications and research divisions.

The activity of CREW’s former executive director, Melanie Sloan, is somewhat more mysterious. As we wrote last year, her firm Triumph Strategy looks very similar to the types of organizations she once opposed.  The Triumph website is now defunct, and Ms. Sloan is listed as a partner at Summer Strategies, which shares a phone number with Triumph. The websites of both organizations contained zero client detail or identifying information, although perhaps that’s the selling point: Starting in 2015, Ms. Sloan teamed with PETA to attack UniverSoul Circus, portraying herself as a disinterested “Washington mother” and “conscientious consumer” who was concerned about the organization’s animal welfare practices.

Her partner at Triumph, Michael Huttner, is the CEO of Fenton Communications (infamous for its alar and apples hoax) and known for his work as a Democratic operative. Huttner’s name shows up in the leaked emails of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, where he was making a familiar pitch: A “hard-hitting accountability” attack on then-front runner Jeb Bush, with a focus on “investigations, ethics, and character.” He explained that these attacks could then be leveraged by Democratic groups Priorities USA and American Bridge.

CREW’s leadership may have changed, but it’s clear that both the old and new leadership are still using the tired “ethics watchdog” playbook. Too bad no one’s buying it anymore.

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