A group of veteran Republican party leaders and wealthy allies of Donald Trump are launching a new super PAC to bolster his efforts to win the White House, aiming to raise $20 million before the national convention in July.
The new group, called the Committee for American Sovereignty, was started by a group of Trump supporters in California, including former state senator Tony Strickland, who will serve as the super PAC's chairman. GOP strategist Doug Watts, who most recently worked for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson's presidential bid, has signed on to be the national executive director.
Already, the organization has attracted a list of major donors and party fundraisers, including venture capitalist Ken Abramowitz, investor Nick Loeb and California businessman Tim Yale. Other supporters include former California GOP chairman Shawn Steel, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly and retired Navy admiral James A. Lyons Jr.
Perhaps most significant is the participation of Nicholas Ribis Sr., the former chairman of Trump Hotel, Casino and Resorts, which will likely be read as a sign that Trump's circle has blessed the undertaking.
The roll-out of the group shows that Trump's new rhetoric about super PACs has been interpreted as a change in his posture toward such entities. Throughout the primaries, he bashed his rivals for relying on super PACs for support.
"There have been a lot of funders and supporters who have been wringing their hands and wanting to help in a super PAC fashion, and didn’t feel they could because of Mr. Trump’s comments about self-funding and rejection generally of super PACs," Watts said in an interview. "That opened up this last week."
Trump's allies were also spurred by a massive TV ad campaign that Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supporting Democratic contender Hillary Clinton, is set to launch in the coming weeks.
"The alarm bells certainly rang loudly when Priorities USA announced they were spending $90 million in just seven states," Watts said.
The Committee for American Sovereignty is the second significant attempt to roll out a pro-Trump super PAC. Another group, Great America PAC, recently signed on veteran GOP strategist Ed Rollins as a top adviser.
Watts said he sees his group's work as complementary to other endeavors.
"I’m glad they’re in it," he said. "I hope others get in, because I think Mr. Trump is going to need a lot of independent expenditure committee support for the campaign."
He said his group is going to be focused on raising substantial sums from major donors, with a pledge to spend 85 percent to 90 percent of donations on voter contact and outreach. One of the super PAC's major goals will be registering new voters and turning them out to the polls in November.
"If I learned nothing else in the Carson campaign, it's that there was a tremendous pool of people who have given up voting or not registered because they never thought it mattered," he said.
The Committee for American Sovereignty will also do television ads, Watts said, but in a targeted fashion. "We won't be part of the tonnage brigade," he said.