One of the biggest super PACs that backed Donald Trump's election is refashioning itself to serve as his main outside ally, planning to put pressure on Democrats and Republicans alike who try to stymie the new president's agenda.
Great America PAC spent roughly $30 million on TV and radio ads, phone calls, mailers, and a ground organization to support Trump since it formed in February, amassing a list of 250,000 donors. The group is now aiming to tap those contributors — which includes both billionaires and small-dollar givers — to finance a permanent effort to support Trump's legislative plans, officials told The Washington Post.
Ed Rollins, the group's senior strategist, said he learned from his work in the Reagan White House the value of an outside operation that keeps supporters engaged.
“The margins are such that, from time to time, you will have to put some pressure on members,” he said, adding that Great America can serve as “a tool that can go out and build support in the midterms and for his reelection.”
“It's something the president-elect doesn't know he needs, but he does need it,” Rollins added.
The super PAC's new role resembles that of Organizing for Action, the nonprofit advocacy group that grew out of President Obama's reelection campaign. But unlike OFA, Great America intends to target the new president's opponents in both parties — potentially fueling tensions within the GOP, which was deeply split over Trump's candidacy.
“Suppose there's a battle between him and [Speaker Paul] Ryan or someone else,” Rollins said. “We can go out there and do what’s in the best interest of Trump.”
Great America was one of the first super PACs created to back the real estate developer, who at the time was still denouncing his opponents for relying on outside groups. Undeterred, Great America sought to build a grass-roots presence to augment Trump's lean campaign operation.
“We were a real campaign,” said Eric Beach, the super PAC's co-chairman, noting that Great America had field offices in 10 states and financed a bus tour featuring surrogates such as actor Jon Voight and former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
In addition, Great America invested heavily in contacting voters via phone and direct mail, as well as radio ads, building a data file of close to 30 million voters. “We are going to be able to utilize that to help other candidates,” Beach said.
Unlike most super PACs, the group courted small donors, bringing in at least $7.8 million in contributions of $200 or less through Oct. 19, according to federal campaign finance filings. But it also received an infusion of cash from wealthy Trump supporters who gave seven-figure sums. Great America raised $9 million in the final weeks of the campaign from just three donors, Beach said: Laurie J. Perlmutter, wife of Marvel Entertainment chief executive Isaac Perlmutter ($5 million), Dallas banker Andy Beal ($2 million) and Houston Texans owner Robert C. McNair ($2 million).
The super PAC's donors are eager to see its work go on, Beach said. “They have already committed to us that they want to continue the mission,” he said.
Rollins and Beach said they have not been in contact with Trump or his advisers about their plans. But Rollins said he saw the real estate mogul at the Al Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York in late October, when the then-candidate complimented the group's work.
“He loved my ads — he said he thought they were the best ads out there,” Rollins said. Trump also sent messages expressing his gratitude during the campaign, Rollins added, saying he was eager to meet when it was over.