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Loser of GOP Primary Alleges Trump Endorsed Winner in Exchange for Campaign Cash

Republican Jeff Gunter says Trump endorsed his opponent, Sam Brown, after getting a “big check” from a PAC.

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a Turning Point PAC town hall at Dream City Church on June 6, 2024, in Phoenix, Arizona.

A former Trump administration official who lost a Nevada U.S. Senate primary election race to another candidate backed by the former president is alleging that Donald Trump only made that endorsement because of a campaign contribution from his opponent’s deep-pocketed supporters.

Businessman Sam Brown easily defeated his opponents in the primary, attaining 59.6 percent of the vote on Tuesday evening. Jeff Gunter, who was Trump’s ambassador to Iceland when he was president, only received 15.1 percent of the vote.

The contest wasn’t exactly a close one — save for a single outlier poll, it was Brown’s race to lose, as surveys indicated he was the frontrunner throughout the campaign.

Still, campaign officials working for Gunter, as well as Gunter himself, are alleging that Trump made a late endorsement for Brown merely because a political action committee, purportedly backed by Senate Republican leaders (whom Gunter has labeled “the swamp”) made a donation to Trump’s presidential campaign.

“Sam Brown has my Complete and Total Endorsement – HE WILL NEVER LET YOU DOWN!” Trump wrote on Truth Social earlier this week.

Gunter alleged shenanigans shortly after.

“Would you like the [sic] hear the inside baseball of what went down yesterday? The Snakes are within,” Gunter alleged on Monday morning.

The failed candidate claimed that Trump had agreed not to endorse either candidate in the primary race — that “MAGA warriors” had talked Trump out of endorsing Brown, he explained in a post on X. But Trump then received a “big check” from a political action committee (a “McConnell-aligned PAC,” according to Gunter) and changed his mind after receiving it.

“Sadly, the suspicions many of us have had about ‘endorsements’ are being confirmed,” Gunter concluded in the message to his supporters.

The New York Times reached out to a representative of Gunter’s campaign, who told the publication that proof of the scheme did indeed exist, and that they should “stay tuned” for it. So far, that evidence has not surfaced. A Trump spokesperson has vehemently denied Gunter’s allegations.

Although the conspiracy theory lacks evidence at this time, there are perhaps reasons to be suspicious, as Trump has engaged in alleged “pay-to-play” schemes in the past.

Notoriously, access to Trump was paid for by CEOs and lobbyists in the form of joining his golf clubs and resorts, allowing these individuals the opportunities to speak directly to him while he was president. While not technically illegal, these payments (and Trump’s acceptance of them) were highly unethical, reporting from Vox in 2017 pointed out, as some of the memberships ran in the six-figure range, which Trump received as a “personal profit rather than campaign support.”

By the fall of 2020, a New York Times analysis found that more than 200 companies, special interest groups, foreign governments, and others had spent millions of dollars at Trump’s properties. Those groups “reap[ed] benefits from the president and his administration” after doing so, The Hill, reporting on the analysis, noted.

More recently, a ProPublica report uncovered that nine potential witnesses across the numerous criminal cases against Trump received “significant financial benefits, including large raises from his campaign, severance packages, new jobs, and a grant of shares and cash from Trump’s media company.”

“These pay increases and other benefits often came at delicate moments in the legal proceedings against Trump,” that report stated.

While these actions by Trump and his backers in no way prove Gunter’s claims, they may cause some to wonder whether the Trump presidential campaign has a system in place where endorsements are being doled out in exchange for campaign contributions.

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