Trump Campaign Continued Steering Donor Money to Firm Involved in Jan 6. Rally

Former President Donald Trump’s political operation continued to pay individuals and firms involved in organizing the rally that preceded the deadly Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, steering them more than $15.4 million since the start of the 2016 election cycle. The political operation paid more than $1.4 million to a single firm in May of this year alone, OpenSecrets’ new analysis of campaign finance filings found.

The Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capital’s hearings continue to reveal findings of the committee’s months-long investigation probing Trump’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack and attempts to overturn 2020 election results.

While the Trump political operations’ spending and fundraising practices have come under increased scrutiny by the committee, the hearings have given the former president fodder to fundraise. His political operation continued to route payments from donors to Jan. 6 organizers through at least May as the committee’s investigation heated up, an OpenSecrets analysis of campaign finance filings found.

Campaign finance filings released June 20 show the operation paid more than $1.4 million in May alone to Event Strategies Inc., a firm named in the permit for the Jan. 6 rally that also employed two individuals involved in the demonstration. The bulk of those payments came from Trump’s Save America leadership PAC.

The pro-Trump Make America Great Again, Again! Inc. super PAC and the National Republican Congressional Committee also reported continued payments to Event Strategies Inc. through May.

Groups aligned with Trump have paid about $5.4 million to Event Strategies Inc. this year and more than $13.1 million total since the 2016 election cycle, OpenSecrets found.

Event Strategies Inc. was helmed by Tim Unes and Justin Caporale, Trump campaign aides listed on permit records as the Jan. 6 rally’s stage and production managers. Unes was reportedly brought to Trump’s campaign by Paul Manafort, who served as the campaign chair after his prior work with Event Strategies Inc. for pro-Russia Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych.

Trump’s leadership PAC also appears to be racking up debt with Event Strategies Inc.

The leadership PAC first included the firm in its list of “debts and obligations” in campaign finance filings covering the previous month, divulging about $308,000 owed to Event Strategies Inc. as of the end of April. By the end of May, that amount swelled to nearly $627,000, campaign finance records filed June 20 show.

Overall, individuals and firms involved in organizing the Jan. 6 rally have received more than $15.4 million in payments from Trump’s political operation since the start of the 2016 cycle – including in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6, 2021.

While Event Strategies Inc. has drawn the largest and most recent payments from Trump’s political operation, the operation has also paid other individuals involved in organizing the Jan. 6 rally.

Caroline Wren was a top fundraiser for Trump’s 2020 campaign who became a key figure in the Jan. 6 rally. Wren was listed as a “VIP Advisor” on the permit granted by the National Park Service and reportedly boasted of raising $3 million for the rally before the Capitol riot, “parking” funds with two “dark money” groups that helped organize the protest and a closely-tied super PAC.

An email from former Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson to Wren was displayed during the seventh public hearing of the House select committee Tuesday, indicating that she was aware Trump would “call on everyone to march to the capitol” prior to the day of the rally.

Trump’s political operation paid Wren at least $170,000 during the 2020 election cycle for her work as the campaign’s national finance consultant with the joint fundraising committee.

Details of Trump campaign payments were hidden from the public

The full extent of the Trump campaign political operation’s payments to rally organizers during the 2020 election and in the leadup to the rally remains a mystery since the campaign’s top vendor was American Made Media Consultants LLC, a firm created by Trump campaign aides to act as a clearinghouse for its spending.

Trump’s campaign and joint fundraising committee routed more than $771 million through the firm, hiding details of those payments – including information about the identities of sub-vendors and how much money changed hands.

The opacity of the Trump political operation’s spending was broached during the second Jan. 6 committee hearing.

“Every American is entitled and encouraged to participate in our electoral process. Political fundraising is part of that. Small dollar donors use scarce disposable income to support candidates and causes of their choosing to make their voices heard. And those donors deserve the truth about what those funds will be used for,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.). Lofgren went on, “Throughout the committee’s investigation, we found evidence that the Trump campaign and its surrogates misled donors as to where their funds would go and what they would be used for.”

In May, the Federal Election Commission deadlocked on whether to even investigate allegations that Trump’s campaign routed funds through the LLC and a closely-tied corporate entity to conceal details of the 2020 presidential campaign’s spending.

While payments to American Made Media Consultants LLC stopped around the time Trump’s campaign was converted to a PAC, Trump is reportedly flirting with the idea of an unusually early announcement of his 2024 presidential election bid as a way to try to blunt possible repercussions from the Jan. 6 committee findings.

“Federal campaign finance law protects every voter’s right to know how political campaign money is spent,” said Megan McAllen, the Campaign Legal Center’s director for campaign finance litigation in an interview with OpenSecrets, echoing sentiments voiced by Longren in the Jan. 6 hearing.

“The Trump campaign tried to sidestep these transparency requirements by routing hundreds of millions of dollars in 2020 campaign spending to undisclosed payees through two firms with ties to high-ranking campaign officials—thereby unlawfully concealing from voters the true recipients, amounts and purposes of well over half of the campaign’s total spending,” she said. “To reduce political corruption and ensure an informed electorate, we need real transparency about where political campaign dollars are going.”

Trump political operation uses donor funds to boost allies who helped challenge 2020 election results

Trump allies who helped challenge the 2020 election results and spread the so-called “Big Lie” — the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump — have also benefited from his political operation’s largesse.

The political operation has continued to report payments to Christina Bobb, an anchor for right-wing media network One America News Network (OAN), which has given air to election conspiracy theories.

Bobb also ran Voices and Votes, a 501(c)(4) that provided at least $605,000 to help fund Arizona’s unprecedented review of millions of ballots after the 2020 election, according to a release from the Arizona Senate review team.

The OAN frequently plugged the group’s efforts as well as the Arizona ballot review during OAN shows and on social media. Bobb told Buzzfeed that OAN was not “in any way” affiliated with her fundraising despite the dark money group being run by multiple OAN employees and being promoted on the network.

Trump aides told the Washington Post that Trump spoke “occasionally” to Bobb around the time of the Arizona probe. Bobb volunteered to assist the Trump campaign’s legal team on post-election legal challenges and reportedly worked with Trump’s longtime lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. She even sent emails on behalf of Guiliani in 2020, according to records obtained by watchdog group American Oversight.

Voices and Votes wasn’t the only dark money group helping bankroll the Arizona review that is closely allied with Trump.

Defending the Republic, a nonprofit that reportedly provided $550,000 for the Arizona probe and spread disproven “election fraud” claims, is run by former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell.

The select committee’s hearings revealed new details about a December 2020 meeting at the White House where Trump allegedly promised the job of special counsel to Powell, signaling that he wanted to grant Powell a security clearance.

In the seventh hearing on Tuesday, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) exhibited a draft executive order that would have appointed Powell to the position of special counsel, giving her the power to seize voting machines and bring criminal charges.

“[H]e had asked me to be special counsel to address the election issues and to collect evidence. And he was extremely frustrated with the lack of, I would call it law enforcement, by any of the government agencies that are supposed to act to protect the rule of law in our republic,” Powell testified in a recorded interview aired during the fifth hearing.

According to Powell’s recorded deposition, Trump asked then-White House Counsel Pat Cipollone about the authority to appoint Powell. But Cipollone told the Jan. 6 committee in recorded closed-door testimony played during the seventh public hearing that he was “vehemently opposed.”

In 2021, Powell was sanctioned in federal court and sued for defamation for statements related to Trump’s attempt to overturn his 2020 election defeat. The defamation suit is ongoing, and Powell is also embroiled in a disciplinary case risking disbarment by Texas’ state bar association, which filed a lawsuit against Powell in March for filing allegedly frivolous lawsuits as she challenged results of the 2020 election.

On June 22 of this year, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to probe possible financial relationships between Defending the Republic and members of the Oath Keepers, who are accused of trying to prevent President Joe Biden from becoming president.

U.S. prosecutors asked the judge to launch an ethics inquiry into whether defense lawyers are improperly allowing the group to help pay legal fees for members of the Oath Keepers who are due to go to trial in September over charges of seditious conspiracy for their alleged roles in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Defending the Republic has since received a grand jury subpoena seeking financial records as part of an investigation by the Justice Department, the Washington Post reported, and Trump associates’ ties to the Oath Keepers and other “extremist groups” were further probed during the Jan 6. select committee’s seventh public hearing.

In 2021, Defending the Republic published every Arizona lawmakers’ contact info on their website and promoted disproven “election fraud claims about voting machine software switching votes from Trump to Biden.

Powell’s group also hired Wake Technology Services, Inc. – a subcontractor in the Arizona probe — to audit election equipment in Fulton County, Pa., at the request of state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R), according to records obtained by the Guardian. Mastriano is now the Republican Party nominee for Pennsylvania governor in the 2022 election.

Midterms loom as Trump political operation boosts Jan. 6 select committee vice chair’s challenger

The political operation has also steered money to further Trump’s agenda in 2022 midterm elections, boosting his allies and undermining his perceived enemies.

Notably, Save America steered $500,000 to Wyoming Values, a super PAC that has spent $594,626 boosting Harriet Hageman, the primary challenger to Rep. Liz Cheney (R–Wyo.) in Wyoming’s contentious House race.

Cheney serves as vice chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and has emerged as a key figure in the committee’s public hearings.

“Donald Trump cannot escape responsibility by being willfully blind, nor can any argument of any kind excuse President Trump’s behavior during the violent attack on January 6th,” Cheney said in opening comments to the committee’s seventh public hearing on July 12.

While Save America makes up the bulk of Wyoming Values’ funding to date, the super PAC also received a boost from an unknown source $50,000 from a mysterious limited-liability company described as Snow Goose LLC. The contribution spurred a complaint from the Campaign Legal Center, alleging that a donor used the LLC as a shell company to contribute money without disclosing their identity.