A super PAC supporting President Trump spent tens of thousands of dollars on events at the Trump International Hotel in Washington and for consulting work by a handful of former Trump campaign aides, according to a new federal filing.
The super PAC, America First Action, raised roughly $4 million and spent about half of it during the second half of 2017, according to the group's latest report to the Federal Election Commission.
An affiliated advocacy group, America First Policies, raised $26 million and spent about $14 million — leaving the two groups about $14 million in cash on hand, officials said.
Together, the groups pulled in a total of $30 million in their first year, surpassing the $26.3 million raised in its first year by Organizing for Action, a nonprofit group founded in 2013 that backed then-President Barack Obama.
Trump's luxury hotel in downtown Washington has become a hub for political activity and celebrations for the president's allies. The Washington Post reported last month that America First Action held three events at the Trump International Hotel at the end of 2017.
The group spent about $30,000 on facility rental and catering for events it hosted at the hotel in 2017, the report shows. Group officials spent nearly $900 on meetings at the Benjamin Bar and Lounge and BLT Prime steakhouse, both of which are in the hotel.
"The fact is the Trump International Hotel in D.C. is a hot venue," Brian O. Walsh, president of America First Action, told The Post last month, adding that his group paid the president's company fair market value for its events.
The facility rental and catering prices that the group reported paying are similar to the amounts paid by other political groups for events at the Trump hotel, located on Pennsylvania Avenue just blocks from the White House.
Key Trump loyalists earned tens of thousands of dollars through their firms for providing communications and fundraising consulting and other services to America First Action last year, the group reported. The organization paid $55,000 to former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski's consulting business, $40,000 to former campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson's firm, $31,719 to former Milwaukee County sheriff David Clarke's firm, and $137,257 to former campaign digital media director Brad Parscale's business.
Lewandowski, Parscale and Clarke handle communications and strategizing for America First Action. The super PAC also paid $60,000 for fundraising consulting services from a firm founded by Marty Obst, a current adviser to Vice President Pence and a former Pence campaign manager.
As a super PAC, America First Action is required to disclose its donors, but its affiliated nonprofit does not and is required only to report political expenditures to the FEC.
Erin Montgomery, a spokeswoman for both groups, said that the majority of the roughly $14 million that the nonprofit spent in 2017 went toward advertisements supporting Trump's agenda. The nonprofit ran issue-advocacy ads supporting the tax legislation in Congress and repealing the Affordable Care Act, as well as television and online ads in support of Trump, Montgomery said. The nonprofit's spending and fundraising totals for its first year were first reported by Axios.
The super PAC raised almost all of its $4 million in contributions during the second half of 2017. Montgomery said the group's fundraising pace picked up as it gained more name recognition, attributing the group's success to Trump's presidency. More than 5,000 donors contributed to the super PAC in 2017, most of them small-dollar donors, Montgomery said.
Murray Energy, an Ohio-based coal company that contributed $1 million to the super PAC, is a major opponent of Obama's climate change policies and has pressed the Trump administration to repeal Obama's regulations on the coal industry, the New York Times reported.
The biggest individual donor to the super PAC was Geoffrey Palmer, a Los Angeles-based developer who gave $2 million to the group in November 2017. Palmer is a major Trump donor who consistently contributed to Trump's and other Republicans' campaigns during the 2016 cycle, including $3 million to the pro-Trump group Rebuilding America Now, FEC filings show.
Together, the America First groups aim to raise $100 million for 2018, Montgomery said.
"Our supporters believe in our mission, and we're just getting started," Montgomery said. "We will be working hard in 2018 to ensure that those candidates who embrace President Trump's agenda have the outside support they need as we work to grow our majorities in the House and Senate."