Outside groups supporting President Donald Trump’s re-election bid kicked off 2019 with a barrage of spending, an early opening salvo with the 2020 general election still nearly 21 months away.
Independent expenditures for multiple hybrid-PACs advocating for Trump’s candidacy totaled over $1.27 million since the start of this year. As outside spending for former President Barack Obama at this time in 2011 only totaled a few hundred thousand dollars, the ongoing push for Trump is an unprecedented blitz in outside spending for an incumbent president.
And the three outside spending groups dominating this effort are all linked to the same man.
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Dan Backer, principal attorney for the law firm political.law, signed off on spending for two of the groups which are clients of his firm: The Committee to Defend the President and the Great America PAC, according to FEC records.
The Great America PAC spent $821,280 since the start of this year, with the Committee to Defend the President spending $441,038.
“The Trump-hating left … has worked to defeat this president every day since he got elected,” Backer wrote in an email response to questions regarding the spending push in favor of Trump. “That’s why my clients have worked every day since then to re-elect him and advance his America First Agenda.”
Backer played a role in shaping contemporary campaign finance law. He represented the plaintiff in McCutcheon v. FEC, the Supreme Court case that ruled unconstitutional the limit on aggregate contributions an individual can make to a political party or a candidate’s campaign committee over two years.
Other groups supporting Trump have taken a different approach in reporting expenditures for ads. Groups like “America First Policies” consider their ads to date as “pro-Trump agenda” issue advocacy ads, which do not require disclosure. However Backer said his clients consider their ads as expressly advocating for a candidate and disclose their spending as such.
The three outside spending groups affiliated with Backer have pumped substantial sums of money into previous election cycles.
The Committee to Defend the President, which was previously named the Stop Hillary PAC, spent $16.2 million over the last three election cycles.
The Great America PAC respectively spent $35.6 million.
Some of its notable donors include GOP mega-donor Robert Mercer, former Marvel Entertainment CEO Isaac Perlmutter, and Robert McNair, the late owner of the Houston Texans.
America Fighting Back PAC, the newest of the three, spent $341,000 in the 2018 midterms.
Some of the activities bankrolled by these groups include voter contact online and by phone, gaining access to conservative donors lists, and television advertisements.
One of the ads purchased by Great America PAC features Ed Rollins, a former campaign manager for Ronald Reagan. The ad urges viewers to call Congress in support of Trump’s border wall before the Feb. 15 government shutdown deadline.
Another ad features Rollins saying: “The Left will pull out all stops to defeat President Trump in 2020” and asks for support of the president.
The Committee to Defend the President and Great America PAC are also actively purchasing ads on Facebook.
Recent ads asking users to rate Trump’s State of the Union address were overwhelmingly targeted at Florida, Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania — states essential to any Trump 2020 victory in the electoral college. These ads ask for the user’s email, which allows the group to build its contact list and identify potential donors.
“Every client has its own strategy and message,” Backer said, “and I’m fortunate to work with some very smart clients who (evidently) know how to win.”