A super PAC backing Donald Trump solicited a Trump business acquaintance for a political contribution using contact information obtained from a top aide to the real estate tycoon, according to an e-mail obtained by The Washington Post.
The donor outreach was among several new details that emerged this week linking Trump to Make America Great Again, a super PAC backing his presidential bid.
Trump has made his independence from wealthy donors a hallmark of his campaign and has said he does not know anything about the super PACs claiming to back him. Such groups can accept unlimited donations from individuals and corporations but are not allowed to coordinate directly with campaigns.
In a Sept. 1 e-mail, Mike Ciletti, a Colorado GOP operative working for the Make America Great Again PAC, suggested to a Trump acquaintance and longtime GOP donor that he was using contact information he obtained from Trump’s longtime assistant and gatekeeper, Rhona Graff.
“I apologize for reaching you at this email address, it is the one that Rhona had on file,” Ciletti wrote to a GOP donor, who requested anonymity to avoid angering Trump.
Ciletti warned that the super PAC aligned with former Florida governor Jeb Bush was expected to target Trump with negative ads.
“Without the help of Make America Great Again, Mr. Trump will be left alone to fend off Jeb and the other candidates,” he wrote. “While I don’t doubt Mr. Trump’s ability to fight back, I don’t believe he should have to stand alone. If all the other candidates get to count on their friends to help out, why can’t Mr. Trump?”
Neither Ciletti nor Graff responded to requests for comment. Michael Cohen, executive vice president and special counsel at the Trump Organization, said he could not immediately comment.
Trump continued to insist this week that he has not sought the help of a big-money super PAC.
“I don’t want anybody’s money,” he told supporters again Monday night at a rally in South Carolina. “They’ve formed all these PACs. People pour money into the PACs. I don’t want ’em, don’t support ’em.”
But there were mounting examples this week of ties between the Make America Great Again PAC and Trump’s political operation.
The Post identified a second firm connected to Ciletti that has been paid by Trump’s presidential campaign at the same time the consultant has been working for the super PAC.
According to Federal Election Commission filings, the campaign directed $33,000 to a firm called DC Connect for telemarketing in May, June and July. Ciletti incorporated the Aurora, Co.-based company in April, state corporate filings show.
The Post previously reported that the campaign paid $56,000 to WizBang Solutions, a Commerce City, Co.-based printing company where Ciletti serves as a director.
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said in an interview Tuesday that he was not familiar with DC Connect or the payments to the firm.
And he maintained that Trump has not sanctioned Make America Great Again.
“There are no super PACs authorized by the campaign in any shape, way or form,” he said.
A New York-based Republican political consultant who was approached for a job with the Trump campaign told The Post that Lewandowski openly discussed the role a super PAC would play to support Trump’s candidacy in two meetings in the spring.
“The super PAC definitely came up in these conversations,” said Cheri Jacobus, who said she met with Lewandowski in mid-May and early June at the Trump Tower in Manhattan to discuss a possible job as a communications director.
“He mentioned it as part of, ‘This is what’s going on, this is when he plans to announce, the super PAC is in play,’ ” said Jacobus, who has managed several congressional races and previously worked for the Republican National Committee.
Lewandowski noted that his meetings with Jacobus occurred before Trump officially declared his candidacy. Trump’s political team eventually decided to pursue a traditional campaign and not to bless a super PAC, he said.
“We looked at all the options before us and decided not to have a super PAC,” he said.
This summer, Trump appeared at at least two events for the Make America Great Again PAC, which took his campaign slogan as its name and received financing from his daughter’s mother-in-law.
Ciletti began working with Trump’s team in the run-up to his June 16 announcement and visited the Trump Tower offices multiple times, according to two people who saw him there. By July, he was fielding pitches from vendors who wished to do work for the PAC, according to a consultant who did a presentation for Ciletti.
After initially telling The Post last week that he did not know Ciletti, Lewandowski acknowledged Tuesday that he was familiar with the Colorado consultant. But he said he did not ask him to start the super PAC.
“I had nothing to do with it,” he said.
Since 2012, Ciletti’s WizBang Solutions has done extensive work as a mail vendor for Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group where Lewandowski worked as a regional director and national director of voter registration.
AFP paid WizBang Solutions more than $2 million to print mailers and door hangers in the 2014 cycle and continues to work with the company, said AFP spokesman Levi Russell. He noted that the Colorado firm went through a lengthy internal vetting process and was approved as a preferred vendor.
“WizBang is on that preferred list, and they continue to do great work,” Russell said.
In an April 2013 e-mail to an AFP official that was obtained by The Post, Ciletti wrote that WizBang produced 1.8 million pieces of mail for AFP in the 2012 cycle, primarily in Ohio and New Hampshire. At the time, Lewandowski was the group’s New Hampshire state director and helped oversee its work in Ohio.
Ciletti wrote in the e-mail that “Corey can attest” to his firm’s ability to turn around orders within 24 hours.
Jenna Johnson in Anderson, S.C., contributed to this report.