Since he declared his candidacy for president, a number of “scam PACs” have taken advantage of the havoc Donald Trump—who needs to raise $1 billion if he wants to even be competitive in the general election—has wrought upon the Republican donor class. Now, as more of these groups insinuate themselves into the fundraising chaos, the financiers who have resigned themselves to a Trump candidacy aren’t sure where to send their money.
Last week, Nevada gazillionaire Sheldon Adelson pledged $100 million to support Trump, and encouraged others to follow suit. Giving one’s money away, however, is apparently more difficult this year than in the past. “I haven’t heard from anybody,” Dallas investor Doug Deason told the Washington Post. “I think they’re just really unorganized. They need to get on it.”
The Trump campaign has been forced to officially disavow at least sixteen super PACs since October, Federal Election Commission filings show. The very first super PAC to support Trump, the Make America Great Again PAC, shut down last fall after raising $1.7 million. (It did not make any pro-Trump expenditures, Politico reports.) “I know that people maybe like me and they form a super PAC, but I have nothing to do with it,” Trump said last week.
This, according to Politico, is in no small part a problem of the Trump campaign’s own making: It has not, for example, bought ads on Google directing people who search his name to the official campaign website.
Thus it can be hard for online contributors to distinguish among the groups touting support for Trump. An outfit called Restore American Freedom and Liberty has blasted out emails trumpeting the latest polls showing Trump tying Hillary Clinton, ending with a big red CONTRIBUTE button. According to its campaign finance disclosures, the group has raised more than $215,000 but spent just $2,000 on ads — split between Ted Cruz and Ben Carson. Most of the money went to a New York company called Amagi Strategies, for what the disclosures said was fundraising, management and research.
Amagi Strategies is also the main beneficiary of other unauthorized PACs. The group’s treasurer, Denver lawyer Alexander Hornaday, and Amagi CEO Tyler Whitney didn’t answer requests for comment.
The Great America PAC—run by a former Rand Paul campaign staffer, Eric Beach, and Ronald Reagan’s campaign manager, Ed Rollins—has spent more than $1 million on pro-Trump ads, more than any other super PAC. “If you have many elements trying to do their own thing, it can confuse the message of the campaign,” Rollins told the Washington Post. “We’re all marching forward without clear direction at this point.”
But Roger Stone, a longtime Trump ally and advisor, has called the committee a “scam.” In turn, Politico reports, Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, has called Stone’s super PAC, the Committee to Restore America’s Greatness, a “big-league scam.”
Doug Watts, national executive director of the Committee for American Sovereignty—which launched just last week, pledging to raise $20 million by the Republican convention in July—is unperturbed by all the jockeying for position. “There might be some confusion and some donors may get multiple solicitations, but this is standard operating procedure,” he told the Post. “I expect two or three or maybe even four very legitimate super PACs that are in support of Trump.”
In an email, Lewandowski wrote to the Post, “Mr. Trump continues to disavow all Super PAC’s.”