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A political organization run by David Bossie, President Trump's former deputy campaign manager, has raised millions of dollars by saying it's supporting Trump-aligned conservative candidates — but has spent only a tiny fraction of that money supporting candidates, Axios' Alayna Treene, Jonathan Swan and Harry Stevens report.
A senior Trump administration official told me: "The problem the president is going to have with this is 1) he does not like when people are perceived to be profiting off of him, and 2) these are not max out donors. This is money that many likely think is going towards the president's re-election effort when it is not. So effectively every dollar groups like Bossie's and similar groups raise is a dollar the campaign does not."
Why it matters: "There is a cottage industry of groups targeting vulnerable communities with self-serving borderline scams," CLC writes in its analysis. "What sets the Presidential Coalition apart is that it is explicitly — and successfully — capitalizing on Bossie's connection with the president of the United States."
Details: On its website, The Presidential Coalition says it has been "dedicated to identifying and supporting conservative candidates running for office at the state and local levels of government" since its founding in 2005.
But based on the 527 organization's IRS data, just $425,442 (or 3%) of the $15.4 million it spent during 2017 and 2018 went to direct political activity, which CLC defines as "direct donations to candidates or political committees, and a small number of state-level candidate ads."
At least $445,972 was spent on apparent book purchases. Copies of the Presidential Coalition's direct mailers — which Axios obtained and shared with CLC — show the organization offered people who donated above a certain amount (usually $45) a copy of one of Bossie's books, "Trump's Enemies."
The rest of the money appears to have been spent on more fundraising for the Presidential Coalition, largely via direct mail and telemarketing, expenses to support those activities (such as postage and donor list cultivation), payments to other groups run by Bossie, and administrative expenses.
Meanwhile, more than $650,000 of the Presidential Coalition’s 2017–2018 spending went to two affiliated organizations also run by Bossie, Citizens United and Citizens United Foundation — 1.5 times as much as the group spent on direct political activity.
The bottom line: There's a vast difference between what the Presidential Coalition is telling its donors and how it actually spends their money. And as the CLC writes, "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" — including Trump's campaign.
Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters at a rally, April 27. Photo: Darren Hauck/Getty Images
About two-thirds of the contributions made to the Presidential Coalition in 2017 and 2018 came from donors giving less than $200 in a single year. And of the donors identified in its tax forms, most said they were retired.
Yes, but: "Most organizations, left or right, in this space target an older demographic. Not to scam them, though that does exist, but because they're most likely to donate," Lukens told Axios.
Alayna reached out to more than a dozen of these donors, most of whom were retired. They all said they thought their money was going toward supporting the president.
Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He talk to reporters in the Oval Office, April 4. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
The Trump administration's long-running trade talks with China have hit a new obstacle. The president sent two tweets today that should rattle both stock markets and President Xi Jinping:
Behind the scenes: A source familiar with the situation told me that the Chinese had been backing off of agreements the U.S. negotiating team believed they had already made. Trump's view, the source said, is that he's negotiating from a position of clear economic strength, especially with the latest strong U.S. jobs numbers.
Between the lines: My colleague Bill Bishop, who edits the "Axios China" newsletter, emailed me his reading of the tea leaves:
China's response: A taunting agitprop tweet from the editor-in-chief of China's state-owned Global Times: "President Trump threatens China while he seemingly doesn't understand how tariffs work. Not sure whether US public doesn't understand either. China has long ago prepared for the worst. We won't buy this trick. Moreover, he didn't even scare North Korea."
Illustration: Rawf8/Getty Images
The Trump administration plans to target a new sector of the Iranian economy with significant new sanctions this week, two senior administration officials told me, speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to reveal the new sanctions. The officials would not say what sector the administration will target, but it won't be the energy sector.
Driving the news: The Wall Street Journal reported last week that new sanctions would target petrochemical sales. I'm told the administration will likely impose those sanctions soon, but the new sanctions planned for this week will target a different sector of the Iranian economy.
Why this matters: The Trump administration has been working to starve the Iranian regime of cash. But the administration is also trying to chill Iran's growth prospects by limiting the diversification of its economy, senior officials tell me.
Between the lines: Trump officials point to three possible outcomes of these efforts:
The big picture: As we recently detailed, Iran's economy has been in free-fall since Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed strict sanctions.
What's next? Both officials said the regime could respond in a way that is "highly unpredictable" — diplo-speak for violent.
Photo: Andy Clement/Getty Images
The House will vote on two major bills this week, per a senior Democratic aide:
The Senate will confirm the following Trump nominees, per a Republican leadership aide:
Trump's schedule, per a White House official:
Abandoned homes in Baltimore. Photo Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Today in strange bedfellows: The ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus share enthusiasm for the same bill — an infrastructure package with bipartisan and pan-ideological enthusiasm.
What's more, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is onboard.
Details: As we reported last year, the bill — called the Generating American Infrastructure and Income Now (GAIIN) Act — would require the Department of Agriculture to sell its distressed debt assets, estimated to be worth more than $50 billion.
In a Saturday phone interview, Wendell Stemley, the president of the National Association of Minority Contractors, told me he's backing the GAIIN Act. "Like everybody, we want to see a fully funded infrastructure bill," he said. "But one that accomplishes some of those objectives without raising the national debt and additional taxes has got to be something we get behind."