To help elect pro-Trump conservatives, former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie has raised $15.4 million over the past two years with his group, the Presidential Coalition. But according to a report from Axios and campaign finance watchdog the Campaign Legal Center, the Presidential Coalition has spent just 3 percent of their fundraising on supporting such candidates. The other 97 percent of the sum was spent on further fundraising and administrative costs, including Bossie’s six-figure salary.
Searching through IRS filings, the CLC found that Bossie’s group spent $445,972 on books to send to donors — most notably Trump’s Enemies, co-written by Bossie himself. $650,000 of the Presidential Coalition funds went to other organizations in which Bossie is involved in, including Citizens United. (Since 2000, Bossie has been president of Citizens United, and oversaw the PAC during the landmark 2010 case in which the Supreme Court determined that corporations can broadcast political messaging with no upper spending limit.)
Campaign ads obtained by Axios emphasize Bossie’s relationship with Trump, with the president’s face on the outside envelope and a picture of Trump and Bossie on the final page of the mailer. In a related analysis released on Sunday, Axios determined that most of the donors that Bossie’s group targeted were retired. On Facebook, their ads are “overwhelmingly targeted to, and viewed by” users over 65, according to the Campaign Legal Center. And as Axios states, “One of the Presidential Coalition’s top fundraising vendors, the telemarketing firm InfoCision, paid a settlement after being accused by the Federal Trade Commission of engaging in ‘false and misleading’ tactics and accused by former employees of preying on the elderly.”
Together, these strategies reportedly gave the impression that Presidential Coalition fundraising was going directly to Trump’s reelection. “I gave them money after seeing their mailers, and because I think Trump deserves it,” an 86-year-old Minnesotan told Axios. “I’m old and easily fooled I guess.” Another retiree in their 70s said that they “thought the money was going toward the president.” One of the Presidential Coalition’s biggest individual donors, 85-year-old George Kunkel, said he thought “the money goes toward supporting the president.” In 2017 and 2018, Kunkel gave $101,000 to the group, of which Bossie is the president.
This targeting of older Americans is consistent with larger trends of online behavior within the demographic. As Buzzfeed News reports, “older Americans are more likely to consume and share false online news than those in other age groups, even when controlling for factors such as partisanship … and are less likely to register the brand of a news site they consume information from.” It appears that older Americans may also be less likely to identify direct-to-candidate fundraisers versus groups like Bossie’s.
Bossie — who was once reprimanded by Fox News for telling black co-guest Joel Payne that he was “out of his cotton-picking mind” — claimed the Axios report was “fake news brought to you by a collaboration of the biased liberal media and unabashed left-wing activists.” But, in terms of backlash, Bossie shouldn’t be concerned with any media outlet as much as he should be concerned by the response of President Trump.
“The problem the president is going to have with this is, one, he does not like when people are perceived to be profiting off of him, and two, these are not max out donors,” a senior administration official told Axios. “This is money that many likely think is going towards the president’s re-election effort when it is not. So effectively every dollar groups like Bossie’s and similar groups raise is a dollar the campaign does not.”