The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump campaign rebukes ‘dishonest fundraising groups,’ in veiled swipe at former top aide David Bossie

David N. Bossie in his office in Washington on Friday, March 20, 2009. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Trump’s campaign has issued a stinging rebuke of a group run by a former top campaign aide that has been accused of misleading donors about how it is using their money.

The statement by Trump’s campaign Tuesday makes no mention of the president’s former deputy campaign manager, David N. Bossie. But people close to Trump told The Washington Post that it is specifically aimed at Bossie and the organization he founded in 2005, Presidential Coalition.

“President Trump’s campaign condemns any organization that deceptively uses the President’s name, likeness, trademarks, or branding and confuses voters,” Trump’s campaign said in the message, which was titled “Trump Campaign Statement on Dishonest Fundraising Groups.”

The statement includes an appeal to the “appropriate authorities” to “investigate all alleged scam groups for potential illegal activities.”

“There is no excuse for any group, including ones run by people who claim to be part of our ‘coalition,’ to suggest they directly support President Trump’s re-election or any other candidates, when in fact their actions show they are interested in filling their own pockets with money from innocent Americans’ paychecks, and sadly, retirements,” the Trump campaign said.

Bossie did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment.

A joint report published by the Campaign Legal Center and Axios on Sunday detailed the alleged discrepancy between what Bossie’s group tells its mostly small-dollar, elderly donors and how it actually spends their money.

Despite its stated goal of supporting conservative candidates who back Trump, just 3 percent of the $15.4 million that Presidential Coalition spent in 2017 and 2018 went toward direct political activity, according to the report.

The bulk of Presidential Coalition’s spending went toward fundraising, administrative costs — including Bossie’s salary — and the apparent purchase of books written by Bossie that the organization offered to donors, the CLC said.

“Not only do these dubious practices mislead and potentially even prey upon vulnerable populations, but they also drain resources away from more effective political groups,” the CLC said in its analysis. It added that Presidential Coalition’s activities “fall into a legal grey area.”

Trump was given the report by a White House aide on Monday and was livid after reading it, according to a person close to the president.

In a previous statement to Axios, Bossie called the report “fake news brought to you by a collaboration of the biased liberal media and unabashed left-wing activists.”

Bossie, who works out of a third-floor office in a building near the Capitol, has regularly told people that he is out to help Trump. At the same time, he has clashed with campaign and White House officials, accusing others close to the president of having ill intentions and joking that he is a “survivor” of the president’s campaign.

According to current and former advisers, Trump has told aides in the past that he hopes they go out and make money after working for him — but resents people making money off him if he is not benefiting.

A person close to Trump’s campaign said the president is also displeased with a conservative super PAC, the Keeping America Great PAC, headed by Corey A. Stewart.

The Republican firebrand, who fell short in his bid to unseat Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) last year, was Virginia co-chairman of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign until he was fired after participating in a protest in front of the Republican National Committee.

Stewart told The Washington Post on Tuesday that no one from the White House or the Trump campaign had voiced dissatisfaction to him since he took the reins of the super PAC in March.

“We’re very clear that we’re a pro-Trump super PAC,” he said. “We’re going to be supporting the president and his allies in the upcoming 2020 elections. And we are separate from the president and his campaign.”

In its statement Tuesday, the Trump campaign said four fundraising groups are authorized by the president or the RNC: Donald J. Trump for President, the RNC, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee and Trump Victory. The latter two are joint efforts between Trump’s campaign and the RNC.

Trump’s campaign also took the unusual step of noting that there is “one approved outside non-campaign group, America First Action, which is run by allies of the President and is a trusted supporter of President Trump’s policies and agendas.”

Candidate committees have traditionally sought to avoid taking actions that could be construed as promoting super PACs, independent groups that are allowed to raise unlimited funds but are prohibited from coordinating directly with campaigns.

Trump has repeatedly promised to “drain the swamp” and had previously denounced the chase for high-dollar backers, although he has since come to embrace the big-money world.