November 27, 2021

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Trump’s political operation paid more than $4.3 million to Jan. 6 organizers but questions remain about the full extent of its involvement

5 min read
(Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump’s political operation reported paying more than $4.3 million to people and firms that organized the Jan. 6 rally since the start of the 2020 election. However, questions remain about the full extent of the Trump campaign’s involvement in the “Save America” rally on the day of the Capitol attack as a House select committee’s sweeping requests attempt to shine some light on that day’s events.

On Friday, the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol sent letters requesting information from 15 social media companies. On Aug. 25, the select committee sent requests to federal agencies for records related to the riot. 

The letters ask agencies from the National Archives and Records Administration to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice to expedite the gathering of the records, asking for information within two-weeks

The House subpoena names Caroline Wren, a veteran GOP fundraiser who received at least $170,000 from the Trump political operation as the campaign’s national finance consultant with the joint fundraising committee. Wren was listed as a “VIP Advisor” on the permit granted by the National Park Service for the Jan. 6 rally. 

Megan Powers, one of two operations managers listed on the rally permit, is not listed in the House request but was paid around $300,000 as the Trump campaign’s director of operations. And Make America Great Again PAC paid around $20,000 more to Powers for “recount administrative consulting” in 2021.

None of the other former Trump campaign officials listed on the permit for the rally on Jan. 6 are listed in the initial requests. 

The House select committee did request records related to Women for Trump initiative co-chair  Gina Loudon, who spoke at the rally. The committee also requested records related to Amy Kremer, who notably co-founded Women for America First, the 501(c)(4) nonprofit “dark money” group that submitted the rally’s permit records to the National Park Service.

The select committee also requested letters related to Dustin Stockton, a co-organizer of the rally. Stockton was also a spokesperson for WeBuildtheWall when former White House strategist Steve Bannon and three others affiliated with the dark money group were charged with fraud related to the online fundraising effort. Stockton was not charged and records related to Bannon were requested by the House select committee.

Stockton and Kremer told ProPublica that they felt they needed to “urgently warn the White House of the possible danger” posed by the rally. They initially took their concerns to Katrina Pierson, a former Trump campaign spokesperson who reportedly served as a liaison between the White House and rally organizers, but after “feeling that they weren’t gaining enough traction” Stockton claims she and Kremer agreed to call White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. However, Kremer denies that she spoke with Meadows or any other White House official about Jan. 6 concerns.

Records requested by the House select committee could shine light on claims about those encounters as well as other outstanding questions about the extent of the Trump campaign’s involvement. 

But since Trump’s campaign and joint fundraising committee funneled millions of dollars through layers of opaque firms and shell companies where the ultimate payee is hidden, the public may never know the full extent of the Trump campaign’s payments to organizers involved in the protests. 

Trump’s 2020 campaign and joint fundraising committee, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, spent more than $771 million through American Made Media Consultants LLC during the 2020 election cycle. OpenSecrets data shows Trump’s joint fundraising committee routed another $685,000 through the secretive limited-liability company in 2021 with around $222,000 of that going to text messaging on Jan. 6. 

The Federal Election Commission generally does not require campaigns to detail payments vendors make to subcontractors as long as the subcontractor does not work under the direction or control of the campaign and the campaign does not have undue influence over the vendor.

But the role campaign aides and members of Trump’s inner circle played in creating the limited-liability company as a “clearinghouse” to pay vendors, concealing details of millions of dollars in the campaign’s transactions, raises the question of whether it was truly separate from the campaign. 

The full roster of people working for Trump’s campaign remains hidden from the public and details of those payments, such as the nature of services provided and the amount of money changing hands, are shrouded in mystery.

The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center filed an FEC complaint alleging that Trump’s 2020 political operation may have violated federal election law by concealing details of the campaign’s financial dealings. 

Recent campaign finance records reviewed by OpenSecrets show Trump’s political operation continued to pay Event Strategies Inc., a firm named in a permit for the rally where two of the rally organizers worked. The firm received payments from Trump aligned super PAC Make America Great Again Action as recently as Aug. 13, FEC records filed Aug. 26 show.  

Trump’s political operation paid Event Strategies more than $2.5 million since the start of the 2020 election with around $800,000 of that coming from Trump’s Save America leadership PAC and Make America Great Again Action super PAC in 2021. 

Event Strategies is not the only vendor with Trump ties the Make America Great Again Action super PAC reported paying in its new FEC disclosure filed Aug. 26.

On July 15, the Make America Great Again Action super PAC paid $128,125 to Forward Strategies, a firm run by professional fundraiser Meredith O’Rourke, who was reportedly subpoenaed in federal prosecutors’ probe of longtime Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. The super PAC also paid Red Elephant Strategy, a consulting firm run by Brian Walsh. He was president of America First Policies, the dark money arm of America First Action, Trump’s one-time super PAC of choice and a roughly $1.8 million donor to Make America Great Again Action.

Red Eagle Media Group, a firm that funneled money from Trump’s campaign to shell companies tied to ad buyers at the center of an alleged illegal coordination scheme with the National Rifle Association and America First Action during the 2020 election cycle, received payments from the super PAC as well.  

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Anna Massoglia

Anna is OpenSecrets’ investigative researcher. She researches foreign influence as part of the Foreign Lobby Watch Project, tracks political ad data, and investigates “dark money.” She holds degrees in political science and psychology from North Carolina State University and a J.D. from the University of the District of Columbia School of Law.

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