Donald Trump’s new nominee for the Federal Reserve Board created a controversial political group with Paul Erickson, a conservative operative charged with fraud whose girlfriend pleaded guilty to being a Russian agent.
Stephen Moore and Erickson founded the not-for-profit Citizens for the Republic to advocate for Reaganite policies during the 2008 election, according to records from the time. Moore was president and Erickson was executive director.
The group changed its name to American Issues Project and in August 2008 mounted an aggressive advertising campaign tying Barack Obama to William Ayers, a leader of the Weather Underground domestic terror group in the 1970s. Obama and Ayers had served together on the board of an education foundation in Chicago.
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By the end of 2008, Moore, then a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, had quit the group with a third co-founder, Richard Sharp. They were replaced with other allies of Erickson based in Florida and do not appear to have been involved with the Ayers advertisement.
In an email exchange last July following the indictment of Erickson’s girlfriend, Maria Butina, Moore told the Guardian he was no longer close to Erickson, who was indicted last month in South Dakota on charges of wire fraud and money laundering.
“I haven’t seen much of Paul since he was with the Romney campaign in 2012,” Moore said.
Asked if he had seen Erickson or spoken to him during the 2016 election, Moore said: “No, he seemed to have dropped off the map. Did get a Christmas card from him!”
In December 2018, Butina pleaded guilty to working to infiltrate the American conservative movement as an agent for the Russian government. She is the only Russian convicted by the US for interfering in the 2016 election.
Trump announced on Friday that he would nominate Moore, 59, for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board. Moore is likely to face sharp questioning from Democratic senators over his stridently political writings and remarks.
The president said Moore, a frequent commentator on cable television, was a “very respected economist”. But he was criticised as “manifestly unqualified” for the role by Justin Wolfers, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan, among others.
Moore once denounced soccer as socialist, was blacklisted by the Kansas City Star for making too many errors in an article, and was accused by the Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman of not being able to count.
Obama’s presidential campaign was angered by the Ayers advertisement and filed a complaint against American Issues Project with the Federal Election Commission, alleging it broke several federal campaign finance laws.
The FEC general counsel recommended a finding that there was reason to believe American Issues Project had indeed broken the law, but the Obama campaign’s complaint was ultimately dismissed by the FEC commissioners in a 3-2 vote.