April 22 — Great America PAC, a super political action committee that supports Donald Trump's presidential candidacy, was disavowed by Trump's campaign and asked to refund all contributions received in connection with fundraising to support Trump.
The demand came in a letter to the super PAC's treasurer, Dan Backer, from Trump's campaign attorney, Donald McGahn. McGahn, a former Federal Election Commission member now with the law firm Jones Day, provided a copy of the Trump campaign's letter, dated March 23, to Bloomberg BNA; it has not been reported on before.
The letter noted that Trump has criticized other candidates for seeking support from super PACs and benefitting from “untold millions of dollars being raised and spent” by these PACs, which can accept unlimited contributions for independent campaign expenditures.
“Mr. Trump believes the rules and regulations of super PACs are difficult to understand, and are interpreted differently by everyone,” McGahn's letter said. “Mr. Trump is personally funding his own campaign in connection with the primaries with his vast personal fortune, and has made it clear that he does not need the financial support of others.”
Trump has provided more than $36 million, so far, to his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, according to his latest disclosure report filed with the FEC. He also has welcomed support from individual contributors, who have given his campaign committee an additional $12 million, mostly in small contributions.
Questions were raised about Great America PAC when the super PAC filed a disclosure report with the FEC April 20, indicating a cash deficit of nearly $685,000 (See previous story, 04/22/16). The PAC reported independent campaign expenditures of more than $1 million for pro-Trump television ads, but apparently has not actually spent anything close to that amount.
McGahn's letter to Great America PAC said Trump's campaign respected the super PAC's rights “guaranteed under the First Amendment to speak your mind regarding politics, candidates and issues of the day,” but the campaign is concerned about “confusion that is likely to be caused by your efforts.”
The letter noted that Trump's campaign had previously asked the super PAC to stop using its original name, TrumPAC. In addition, McGahn said the campaign was providing notice that the super PAC is not authorized to use Trump's name and likeness in fundraising.
“We are formally disavowing such activities,” Trump's letter said.
Great America PAC did not immediately respond to questions from Bloomberg BNA about its activities. Asked for a response to McGahn's letter, the super PAC's attorney, Backer of DB Capitol Strategies, said in an e-mail: “Nice letterhead.”
The pro-Trump super PAC's latest FEC report showed most of its receipts were from a $250,000 loan from Goldenwest Diamond Corp. of Tustin, Calif., which is the parent company of jewelry store chain The Jewelry Exchange. The company's founder, Bill Doddridge, was listed in an earlier FEC report as giving $25,000 to Great America PAC. That was the bulk of the super PAC's initial funding, along with a reported $25,000 contribution from California political consultant Eric Beach.
The latest Great America PAC report also listed $100,000 in receipts from a campaign vendor called Revily Inc., but this was reported as an “in-kind” contribution related to “telemarketing services to be provided in later periods.”
In addition to reporting independent expenditures, the super PAC said it provided $5,874 in direct “earmarked contributions” to Trump's presidential campaign, through a separate account that accepts limited, small-dollar contributions in order to give directly to candidates.
Great America PAC received media attention in recent weeks as FEC reports on its independent expenditures reflected the first significant ad spending by a pro-Trump super PAC.
Tens of millions of dollars have been spent during the presidential campaign by super PACs trying to stop Trump from winning the Republican nomination, though this anti-Trump spending has slowed in recent weeks (See previous story, 03/31/16).
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