Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Response to To Be Perfectly Honest

(See: Just Above Sunset: To Be Perfectly Honest)

Here's Stephanie Cegielski, writing in xojane.com about being hired for Donald Trump's SuperPAC, "Make America Great Again":
Almost a year ago, recruited for my public relations and public policy expertise, I sat in Trump Tower being told that the goal was to get The Donald to poll in double digits and come in second in delegate count.
Her article, an interesting appeal from a disillusioned former employee, asks fellow Trump supporters to stop supporting him, and tells of the original intention of the PAC to just help raise his awareness, apparently mostly to give him bragging rights -- "Hey! I ran for president," he could tell the world, "and I did really well!" -- that ended up exceeding everyone's expectations, including probably those of Trump himself.

But hidden within that story is another, that of Trump and his campaign giving the appearance of illegally coordinating with a SuperPAC he has denied knowing anything about, even though it appears Stephanie, the Trump defector who worked for the PAC, reports having that PAC meeting in Trump Tower.

This summer [2015], Trump appeared at at least two events for the Make America Great Again PAC, which took his campaign slogan as its name and received financing from his daughter’s mother-in-law.
That mother-in-law's name is Seryl Kushner, and one of those two events was at her house! Maybe she forgot to tell him who was throwing the party?

In fact, her contribution to the PAC was $100,000. After a number of embarrassing news stories last year, Trump asked the PAC to close itself down, and totally coincidentally, it did! -- with much of the money having been sent back to donors by the end of the year, including $1-million from Las Vegas investor Phillip Ruffin. Still, the forms the PAC filed with the Federal Election Commission at that time don't show whether she ever got her 100-k back.

Mind you, up to the time candidate Trump somehow persuaded this PAC he didn't know about to shut itself down, he had been bragging that he was the only candidate without such a PAC, and according to the Post article, so had his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who's memory was dodgy about knowing anyone over there:
Mike Ciletti, a Colorado-based operative who told Politico in August that he is a consultant for the super PAC, was at the Trump campaign offices repeatedly in May and June, according to two people familiar with the visits. ... 
In one of several interviews with The Post, Lewandowski first denied knowing Ciletti or anyone connected to the super PAC. “I don’t know him,” Lewandowski said. 
Two days later, when confronted with the campaign’s payments to Ciletti’s firm, Lewandowski acknowledged he was familiar with Ciletti. 
“I know a lot of people,” he said. “I know of Mike Ciletti.” 
After being pressed for more details, he hung up.
The Post article mentions that, before he announced his candidacy, Trump was deeply involved in setting up the PAC, and according to NPR:
Donald Trump filed in 2012 to trademark the phrase Make America Great Again for use with a political action committee. He first used it this past May – an essential step in the application process – and the Patent and Trademark Office registered it in July.
So Donald Trump holds the trademark for the name under which the PAC operates? It's amazing that the PAC has been able to use that name without coordinating with the guy that owns the trademark.

(By the way, the PAC may have stopped operating -- although Ballotpedia.com has been reporting that "no official termination reports have been filed with the FEC", and its website is still up at https://www.makeamericagreatagainpac.com/, with a phone number (908-583-4379) and email address (info@makeamericagreatagainpac.com) and a street address (208 E 51st Street, Suite 157 New York, NY 10022) -- which, I think, is probably a private mailbox in a UPS store, located just off 3rd Avenue in Manhattan.)

Yes, I know, this is no big scandal. I wouldn't be surprised if someone found suspicious coordination between other presidential campaigns and "their" PACS (except, I think, Bernie's, since I don't think he has one).

But nor is there much consequence for breaking this law, even if a whistleblower were able to make the case, since the FEC -- which the American Constitution Society has called "An Agency Flawed by Design", has pretty much been non-functional lately. In short, the FEC is deadlocked with 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans, and in these partisan times, that pretty much says it all.

Still, while Donald Trump keeps wondering out loud -- as he is wont to do over lots of things -- about whether Hillary will get indicted for probably imaginary email shenanigans, it might not take too much work to dig up some actual campaign violations against him.

And when that day comes, of course, his favorable poll numbers will undoubtedly hit the roof.

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