CLEVELAND — Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence have indicated that they are open to appearing at events for a super PAC seeking to raise at least $100 million, a reversal of Trump's staunch opposition to big-money groups throughout the GOP primaries.
Trump and his running mate have both expressed willingness to headline fundraisers for Rebuilding America Now, according to Ken McKay, the group's chief strategist. Such appearances are permitted by the Federal Election Commission, as long as the candidates do not solicit more than $5,000.
The commitment by the Republican ticket comes amid a flurry of signals to supporters that the campaign has blessed the super PAC, one of a half-dozen entities that have been jockeying to be recognized as the main pro-Trump vehicle. That dynamic has confused donors, who have held back from writing large checks because they were uncertain which group could be trusted — and whether Trump even wanted them to support such organizations.
But this week, it became clear that Rebuilding America Now, which was founded by Trump friend Tom Barrack, is the vehicle of choice in the view of the Trump campaign. Pence offered an explicit statement of support for the group that was shared during a presentation to several dozen donors at the Ritz-Carlton Wednesday. "Supporting Rebuilding America Now is one of the best ways to stop Hillary Clinton and help elect Donald Trump our next president," read a statement from the Indiana governor that was displayed during a PowerPoint presentation, according to McKay. In addition, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort — a close friend of Barrack — called into the event to register his endorsement of the group's efforts.
"We've made great progress," McKay said in an interview Thursday. "I do think we have a nod from the campaign, to the extent that is legally permissible."
Such a nod amounts to a dramatic change in position for Trump, who made disdain of big-money politics a central part of his pitch during the primary contest, railing against super PACs that can accept unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations. He called them horrible and corrupting.
"I have disavowed all Super PACs, requested the return of all donations made to said PACs, and I am calling on all presidential candidates to do the same," Trump said in a statement in October, distancing himself from a super PAC that had connections to his campaign. "The character of our country is only as strong as our leaders."
Trump campaign officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
A person familiar with Pence's plans said that the Indiana governor does not have any set plans to do specific events for the super PAC, but has committed to consider invitations from the group.
Rebuilding America Now is launching a $3 million ad buy in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida next week, part of what McKay said he hopes will be a sustained effort to counter Hillary Clinton and her allies on the air in swing states.
"Democrats have spent tens of millions attacking our nominee, and it's not being answered," McKay said. "I think it’s a mistake."
This post has been updated.