Consultants are increasingly launching their own PACs for campaign activity not allied with a specific candidate or party-backed cause. And in some cases, they’re facing the wrath of Internet trolls and cable news pundits for entering the 2016 fray.
GOP digital consultant Liz Mair formed Make America Awesome, an anti-Donald Trump Super PAC, late last year, and has solicited donations to do radio and digital spots. It’s put Mair into the firing line.
She sparred with conservative author Ann Coulter on MSNBC last month over her opposition to Trump, and routinely fires snark back at Trump supporters trolling her on Twitter. But money hasn’t followed her group’s visibility quite yet.
In a Jan. 26 filing with the FEC, the group reported $3,612 in IE spending. Feb. 3 it reported $5,532.80 and Feb. 6 it reported $2,443.75. The group started the year reporting it raised $1,775 in the last quarter of 2015. Hardly big numbers in a presidential cycle, which Mair readily admits.
“It's going to take some stepping up to stop Trump,” she tweeted after Trump won the New Hampshire primary Feb. 9. “I genuinely do believe that.”
So does Katie Packer Gage, deputy campaign manager on Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. The partners in two of the firms she’s affiliated with, Burning Glass Consulting and WWP Strategies, are involved with GOP presidential candidates other than Trump. She had remained on the sidelines of the White House race until inspiration and donor encouragement caused her to launch her anti-Trump effort, Our Principles PAC, in January.
Her Super PAC has been more successful than Mair’s when it comes to fundraising. In fact, between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary vote the group spent just shy of $375,000 on TV advertising, robocalls, and email blasts. The group released a TV ad and dropped direct mail in South Carolina over the weekend.
“I’m not necessarily in favor of the consultant class dredging up issues and trying to raise money on them, but this is a unique situation,” Gage told C&E.
Gage’s effort was cobbled together after Christmas 2015, when it became clear Trump wasn’t heading for a crash-and-burn defeat in Iowa.
“He’s somebody who I see as being extremely liberal on many issues that are important to Republican primary voters,” she said. “I interacted with him a little bit in 2012. I don’t think highly of him as an individual.”
Having dim views of candidates hasn’t typically been a reason for a consultant to cross the line from being a hired advisor to an active participant in the process. Gage shrugged off the suggestion she’ll become the model for other consultants to go to greater lengths to torpedo the candidacies of politicians they personally dislike. Trump’s run, she argued, is a unique phenomenon.
“He has the skill to capture the imagination of the media. He has a group of loyal followers and he’s just totally at odds with our party on every issue. That’s a perfect storm that’s not going to come around every cycle,” she said. “If we get into March 15 and we still have a divided race and he starts to win in the winner-takes-all states, that’s a problem.”
Gage said her effort is targeting people who have a history of voting in Republican primaries and are open to voting for Trump.
“Our plans are to go as long as we have donors willing to help spread the word and as long as Trump is still in the race,” she said. She declined to specify her group’s total budget but some industry estimates say it could run as high as $1 million.