A company that President Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, says he owns has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the President’s flagship political action committee, which is barred from coordinating with the campaign.
Federal Election Commission records indicate that Red State Data and Digital has received $910,000 from America First Action, the super PAC formed in 2017 to support the Trump-Pence agenda and fellow Republican candidates.
After CNN initially published a story about Parscale’s wife, Candice, being an owner of Red State, her husband contacted CNN and acknowledged he owns the company even though she is listed on legal paperwork. “I am the owner of Red State,” Parscale told CNN.
Parscale said he hadn’t originally wanted to disclose his ownership publicly because there are no available records connecting him to the company.
Delaware incorporation documents name only Candice Parscale as a “member” of Red State Data and Digital. A “member” of an LLC is usually an owner. The company was founded on March 2, 2018, just days after it was announced that Brad Parscale would become Trump’s campaign manager. His name does not appear on the documents.
In a series of texts with CNN, after initial publication, Parscale said that “so, legally we both own it,” and “she is on the paperwork yes.” He also said that “she is my wife and I allow her to file and be on my companies because I trust her. It depends on how you look at it. But no. It is all my company.” Then later he said, “I own the company solely,” and that his wife “listed it incorrectly” on the incorporation document, speaking of her being named as a “member.” “She just checked the box of what she was. I’m the owner.”
He also tweeted around the same time, “I own all my companies. My wife is member on some of them to do filings and bookkeeping. This is a disgusting trick to make a very simple thing look nefarious. Her last name is Parscale, what would that hide?”
Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of federal candidates, but they are barred from coordinating spending decisions with those campaigns, among other limitations.
Brad Parscale and his wife both insist their arrangement is legitimate and that there is no coordination.
“This is a perfectly legal and appropriate arrangement, which is firewalled, with zero chance for coordination,” he said in a statement. “There could not possibly be coordination because the ads placed were for other candidates in the 2018 midterms. Everything is in FEC compliance.”
Still, experts in federal election law consulted by CNN said earlier that the appearance of a connection between the President’s main super PAC and a firm set up by his campaign manager’s spouse that handles political ads walks right up to the line.
“It calls into question the independence of the super PAC,” said Larry Noble, the former general counsel to the Federal Election Commission and a CNN contributor. “One would hope a watchdog agency would investigate allegations of coordination.”
Noble said the FEC has been “lax” about enforcing coordination rules. The FEC was further weakened by the resignation of one of its commissioners this week, reducing the number of sitting commissioners to three and thereby stripping it of its power to enforce campaign finance laws. Federal law requires four or more commissioners to approve new rules or take actions to punish those who violate election law.
Leading the campaign
Brad Parscale served as Trump’s digital media director during the 2016 campaign. After the election, in January 2017 he co-founded America First Policies, the sister nonprofit closely related to the America First Action super PAC. He also helped raise millions of dollars in support of Trump’s reelection bid.
In 2017, he founded Parscale Strategy LLC, a marketing company that did work for America First Action, as well as others including the Republican National Committee.
As Trump’s campaign manager, Parscale has come under scrutiny over the amount of money he’s made off his political companies. According to a source close to the company, Parscale was rattled by recent negative press, particularly criticism among his Republican peers over a $13,500 fee he was paid for a speech to the Republican Party of Seminole County, Florida.
Parscale has returned the money to the campaign, according to a source close to the company. In the wake of the criticism, he has begun downsizing, according to the source, who said he had let three employees go from Parscale Strategy in the past week. A Trump campaign spokesman declined to comment about whether Parscale had returned the money to the campaign.
Payments from the PAC
In 2018, America First paid Red State a total of $837,000, according to FEC records. That makes it the fifth bigg