In May, the campaign finance watchdog the Campaign Legal Center reported that former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie raised over $15 million in the last two years in part by allegedly misleading older donors, who were under the impression they were giving directly to the president’s campaign. “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.”
At the time, a senior administration official said that the president would be annoyed by such a prospect, because he “does not like when people are perceived to be profiting off of him” and because “every dollar groups like Bossie’s and similar groups raise is a dollar the campaign does not.” Bossie’s group ultimately spent just 3 percent of funds raised on direct political activity.
If that administration official has the right read, the president may not be thrilled by a new Politico report which states that “a growing mass of pro-Trump PACs, dark money groups and off-brand Facebook advertisers neither affiliated with nor endorsed by Trump’s campaign” have raised over $46 million during the 2020 cycle. There are over 265 unaffiliated groups raising money on Facebook alone.
One such group examined by Politico, the Great America PAC, has raised $11.1 million since 2017; though it reports spending of $4.5 million on ads in support of the president, FEC and IRS documents show that it paid out $2.7 million to consultants in 2017 and 2018. In 2017, Great America paid over $955,000 to a lobbying firm that is owned by the PAC’s own co-chairman, Eric Beach, for “management services.” Another group has more concerning finances at a smaller scale: The Tea Party PAC has raised a little over $600,000 this year, with close to $360,000 going to the firm Retromedia, which is registered to Steve Eichler, the PAC’s president and founder.
The groups, which use Trump’s likeness on Facebook and Twitter pages and use his voice on robocalls, aren’t appreciated by the real Trump campaign. Politico reports that the campaign has “sent letters to the Federal Election Commission calling for all outside groups except America First to cease operations,” referring to the Trump-affiliated super PAC. That strategy could be a lot more effective if the White House hadn’t kneecapped the ability of the FEC to properly enforce election laws by keeping the regulatory agency under its four-commissioner minimum.