Buying of the President

Published — December 4, 2015 Updated — December 14, 2015 at 4:55 pm ET

Trump skewers new super PAC

Political committee promising donors ‘Dinner with Donald,’ campaign says no way


Dec. 7, 2015: This story has been updated to include a response from Michael Williams, Recover America PAC’s treasurer.

A new super PAC is offering one lucky winner a huge opportunity: the chance to dine with Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.

“The flight, food and stay are on us,” declares Recover America PAC on its website,, while simultaneously asking for a financial contribution.

Just one problem.

“We have no knowledge of this at all,” Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said. “We haven’t heard of it.”

The super PAC, which filed registration paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Nov. 30, has other problems, too.

For example, it can’t keep its own name straight.

In its organizational paperwork, the super PAC first refers to itself as “Rescue America PAC” before later calling itself “Recover America PAC.” On the super PACs website, its name morphs into “Go Donald Go PAC.”

A representative for the group, which lists a man named Michael Williams as its treasurer, could not be reached for comment: calls made to the super PAC went to a full voicemail box and emails went unreturned.

(Update, Dec. 7, 2015, 4:22 p.m.: Williams declined to comment about his super PAC when reached by email.)

The super PAC’s physical address is a rental mailbox in San Francisco.

Trump has previously denounced super PACs, amplifying his assertion that he is the one presidential candidate in a crowded field of Republican contenders who can’t be bought by big-dollar donors with political agendas to push.

Most other Republican candidates enjoy the support of super PACs or politically active nonprofit groups, which thanks in part to the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to advocate for and against political candidates.

About 85 percent of broadcast and national cable television ads about the 2016 Republican presidential primary have not been sponsored by candidates themselves, but instead, by super PACs and other non-candidate groups, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from ad tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG.

Following the Republican presidential debate in October on CNBC, Trump tweeted out a call to fellow presidential candidates to “immediately disavow” super PACs fundraising on their behalf.

Following the discovery that super PACs were using Trump’s name, the Trump campaign went a step further, sending cease-and-desist letter to numerous pro-Trump super PACs.

His campaign in October also told the FEC that eight super PACs trading on Trump’s name or campaign slogans “are not authorized” by Trump.

“While we certainly respect these committees’ First Amendment rights, given that we have over 75,000 donors, we must ensure our supporters are protected and there is no confusion about the unauthorized nature of such efforts (from which we have received no money, goods or services), especially when they use Mr. Trump’s name, slogan, or likeness in their name or solicitation materials,” the Trump campaign wrote.

Trump’s tack is similar to that of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, another super PAC critic who nevertheless has found himself battling with a super PAC that purports to support him.

Trump’s anti-super PAC pushback has worked in some cases.

After pro-Trump super PAC Make America Great Again formed in July, it immediately drew criticism for its close ties to Trump’s team. The group shut down in October, reportedly obliging to the wishes of Trump himself.

“Mr. Trump has said he doesn’t have a super PAC,” super PAC director Mike Ciletti told Politico. “So to honor his wishes, I’m shutting my organization down.”

Not only is Recover America PAC acting against Trump’s wishes and knowledge, but it may also be violating its own stated rules.

Chipping in dollars to the group can apparently increase your chances of winning the dine-with-Trump sweepstakes — contradicting rules laid out on the website.

This isn’t the first fundraising contest offering the chance to dine with The Donald.

In 2012, presidential candidate Mitt Romney enticed potential donors with a chance to stay at a Trump hotel, tour the Celebrity Apprentice boardroom and dine with Romney and Trump.

Trump was game for this dinner, although Romney ultimately wasn’t: the GOP presidential nominee stood Trump up at the last moment.

This story was co-published with the Daily Beast.

Read more in Money and Democracy

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