Donald Trump has asked the nine super PACs that appear to support his presidential campaign to stop raising money using his name, likeness and slogans and to return any donations they have already received. Trump then challenged his Republican and Democratic opponents to do the same and reject "dark money."
The existence of these super PACs — with names like Make America Great Again and the Art of the Deal — did not match Trump's campaign promise to self-finance his campaign and only accept small donations that are limited by federal law. The Washington Post reported earlier this week that Trump's campaign has multiple connections to the Make America Great Again PAC, run by Colorado-based operative Mike Ciletti. That PAC announced Thursday night it is shutting down.
Trump's campaign counsel sent letters to nine super PACs on Wednesday that disavowed their work and asked them to return any donations already received.
"We are providing this written notice that your organization is not authorized to use Mr. Trump's name and likeness in connection with its fundraising activities, and we are formally disavowing such activities," the letters said, according to a statement from the campaign. "Thus, given the invocation of Donald J. Trump in connection with your activities, we ask that you refund all funds received by you in connection with any fundraising undertaken to specifically support and/or done in the name of Donald J. Trump...The campaign has never received money from your PAC, nor does the campaign want any money, services or goods from your committee."
For months, Trump has criticized his Republican and Democratic rivals for having aligned super PACs that can raise unlimited amounts of money but cannot coordinate with the campaigns. But until this week, Trump has said he understood the passion driving the super PACs supporting his own run for president and would not ask them to cease fundraising.
"I understand they have five or six super PACs that want Trump in, and I understand that because our country is going to hell," Trump told reporters during a bipartisan political convention in New Hampshire last week. "But I know nothing about them, because I have nothing to do with them."
The Post reported this week that Trump's campaign has paid two firms connected to Ciletti, a longtime associate of Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Ciletti also solicited a major GOP donor using contact information he suggested came from Trump's personal assistant, The Post reported. Ciletti said Thursday that he did not receive the donor contact information "from anyone employed by the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign," but refused to say how he obtained it.
"It's an issue that I have relationships with Mr. Trump's staff," Ciletti said in a phone interview on Thursday. "I will eliminate the questions and shut down the super PAC."
Trump has received nearly $4 million in traditional campaign donations. His campaign has received donations from more than 75,000 people with an average amount of about $50. In a statement, the campaign said this has allowed Trump "to campaign with integrity, wholly independent of the dark money, donor class perpetuating a broken Washington, D.C."
"I am self-funding my campaign and therefore I will not be controlled by the donors, special interests and lobbyists who have corrupted our politics and politicians for far too long," Trump said in a statement on Friday. "I have disavowed all Super PAC's, requested the return of all donations made to said PAC's, and I am calling on all presidential candidates to do the same. The character of our country is only as strong as our leaders."
Matea Gold contributed to this report.