• Politics

How Carly Fiorina’s Super PAC Mirrors Her Campaign

6 minute read

For two consultants working to help put Carly Fiorina in the White House, the legal firewall between campaign and super PAC must look more like a mirror. As one moves, so does the other; as one takes thousands of dollars in salaries and sets up a skeletal business entity to receive even more, the other does, too.

The two, Stephen DeMaura and Frank Sadler, are both Republican consultants Fiorina has tapped before. They’ve been in business together. But now, with DeMaura working for CARLY for America, the super PAC backing Fiorina, and Sadler managing her campaign, the two can’t legally coordinate operations.

That hasn’t stopped them from adopting strikingly similar, and quite successful, approaches to bringing in cash for themselves from Fiorina’s presidential aspirations. So far, DeMaura appears to have received almost $319,000 for his efforts, while Sadler has taken in just under $675,000. A polling operation they ran jointly brought in another $5,600.

On the super PAC side, the set-up looks like this: The group paid $273,337 to a firm called Tarbell Companies, Inc. between March and May 2015, Federal Election Commission records show. The entity is a Delaware corporation with bare-bones business filings and few other appearances in public records databases — but what records exist tie the company to DeMaura, a fact that has not been reported previously.

CARLY for America made all its payments to Tarbell during those weeks for a purpose described as “strategic consulting.” The disbursements made Tarbell Companies the largest contractor to Fiorina’s super PAC by a large margin.

Delaware law requires very little disclosure for entities incorporated in the state. But an annual tax return filed recently by a prominent politically active nonprofit, Americans for Job Security, establishes a connection between the group’s president — DeMaura, who also runs CARLY for America — and Tarbell.

DeMaura has been president of Americans for Job Security since 2008, and the last two annual tax returns filed by the group have listed small reimbursements made by AJS to Tarbell Companies. The payments, $25,000 and $500, are much smaller than the sizable paychecks DeMaura himself has received from AJS in recent years. With an annual salary that hovers between $130,000 and $160,000 a year, he also took home an additional $382,574 bonus in 2013, the same year the group’s revenues fell from a $51 million to $817,975. DeMaura’s total compensation that year made up nearly 19 percent of AJS’ total expenditures.

Meanwhile, CARLY for America also paid DeMaura a $3,692 biweekly salary — equivalent to nearly $100,000 on an annualized basis — for his services as the super PAC’s director. Currently available FEC and IRS data don’t show any other clients paying Tarbell for its services. The only links to the company are organizations tied to either DeMaura or to Carly Fiorina.

Read More: Trump Didn’t Like Fiorina ‘Interrupting Everybody’

Then, on the campaign side…

A longtime political consultant who is Fiorina’s campaign manager, Sadler — who was treasurer of Fiorina’s 2010 Senate campaign — is paid more than $4,000 every two weeks by Carly for President, the candidate’s official campaign committee. The campaign has also made at least one payment of $5,724 to a firm called MLJ Consulting operated out of a P.O. Box in Alexandria. The company was incorporated in August 2014 with Sadler listed as the only initial director of the corporation; his home address is given as the corporation’s principal office.

Like DeMaura and Tarbell, Sadler and MLJ have no clients that aren’t tied to Carly Fiorina, according to available data. In fact, records show that Tarbell Companies and MLJ Consulting had only one other client before their current Fiorina gigs: Unlocking Potential PAC, a super PAC started by Fiorina herself in 2014 in order to develop messaging targeted at “independent female voters.” At the time, her two consultants, Sadler and DeMaura, were in business together, having formed Vox Populi Polling that year.

Nearly half of the money Unlocking Potential spent on ads, $251,795, was paid to Sadler’s MLJ Consulting. On top of that, between September and December 2014, Unlocking Potential paid MLJ Consulting an additional $271,152 for services described in FEC reports as “Political Strategy Consulting/Staff Management” or “Political Strategy Consulting/Travel.”

In all, about 31 percent of Unlocking Potential’s overall spending went to MLJ Consulting, and the firm had no other clients in 2014, according to FEC data. Another firm that employed Sadler, Clove Strategies, was paid an additional $21,136 in October 2014, for “Political Strategy Consulting.”

Tarbell was also paid $26,864 by Unlocking Potential between August and October of 2014, mostly for a purpose described as “Research Consulting/Political Strategy Consulting.” Like MLJ, Tarbell had no other clients in 2014.

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Sadler did not respond to requests for comment made through the Fiorina campaign Monday. OpenSecrets Blog reached DeMaura, but he did not answer questions about Tarbell sent by email.

The payments to MLJ from Unlocking Potential have continued into the current campaign cycle. Nearly half of the $210,656 the super PAC has spent has been paid to MLJ Consulting, mostly for “Political Strategy Consulting/Staff Management.” The payments came in the first three months of this year and stopped once Fiorina announced her candidacy in early May, at which point payments to MLJ and Sadler himself begin to come from the Carly for President campaign.

It’s likely that DeMaura, Sadler or both have been paid more in recent weeks. Currently available candidate campaign reports cover expenditures only through Sept. 30, and the super PAC reports don’t go past June 30. New filings will come at the end of January 2016.

The records show that one individual has been paid directly by all three entities — the campaign and both super PACs, Unlocking Potential and CARLY for America. Sarah Isgur Flores received a one-time payroll check of $3,582 from Unlocking Potential, which she joined in February 2015 after leaving the Republican National Committee. Two months later, she was paid $48,375 by CARLY for America, the super PAC. And one week after that, Flores received an in-kind payment of $2,700 from the Fiorina campaign and then began receiving biweekly payroll checkss of $4,052 as the deputy director of Fiorina’s campaign, Sadler’s number two.

In February, the Campaign Legal Center, an elections watchdog group, noted activity by Unlocking Potential in a report about potential illegal coordination by several candidates with super PACs.

If Fiorina used funds raised by the super PAC to pay for so-called “testing the waters” activity while she mulled over a possible presidential bid, CLC Deputy Executive Director Paul S. Ryan wrote, “she is violating federal campaign finance law.”

Political Nonprofits Researcher Anna Massoglia contributed to this report.

Read Next: Carly Fiorina’s Anecdotal Campaign

See Carly Fiorina's Career in Photographs

Carly Fiorina during a news conference on Dec. 31, 1999 at HP headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.AP
Carly Fiorina rang a bell to virtually open the New York Stock Exchange from HP's headquarters on May 6, 2002 in Palo Alto, Calif.Chris Preovolos—AP
Carly Fiorina, as an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, works inside the "Straight Talk Express" on April 24, 2008 in New Orleans.Mary Altaffer—AP
Carly Fiorina, listens as Sen. John McCain speaks during a town hall-style meeting on May 20, 2008 in Miami.Lynne Sladky—AP
Carly Fiorina holds a roundtable discussions with reporters in on Nov. 18, 2009 in Washington.Gerald Herbert—AP
Carly Fiorina and her husband Frank take a tour with Earthfriendly Products vice president, Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, right, on Nov. 4, 2009, in Garden Grove, Calif.Damian Dovarganes—AP
Carly Fiorina talks to a potential voter during her visit to a phone bank during her Senate campaign on June 5, 2010 in Gold River, Calif.Rich Pedroncelli—AP
Meg Whitman, left center, winner of the Republican nomination for governor of California, and Carly Fiorina, the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate from California, are joined by Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, left, and California state senator Tony Strickland as they celebrate at a post-primary election celebration on June 9, 2010 in Anaheim, Calif.Reed Saxon—AP
Carly Fiorina listens to a group of small business owners during a press conference on June 24, 2010 in San Francisco.Eric Risberg—AP
Barbara Boxer speaks as Republican challenger Carly Fiorina looks on during a debate on the campus of Saint Mary's College on Sept. 1, 2010 in Moraga, Calif.Justin Sullivan—AP
Gabriel Lerner, center, asks Carly Fiorina, left, a question during the debate with Barbara Boxer who is in Washington, on Sept. 29, 2010 in Pasadena.Anne Cusack—AP
Carly Fiorina leaves with her husband, Frank, after she campaigned on Oct. 29, 2010 in Menlo Park, Calif.Paul Sakuma—AP
Carly Fiorina speaks to senior citizens at Leisure World on Oct. 30, 2010 in Seal Beach, Calif.Christine Cotter—AP
Carly Fiorina at CPAC on Feb. 26, 2015 in National Harbor, Md.Bill Clark—AP
Carly Fiorina leaves Clear Creek Amana High School after speaking on April 24, 2015 in Tiffin, Iowa.Scott Olson—Getty Images
Carly Fiorina on June 6, 2015 in Boone, Iowa.Charlie Neibergall—AP
Carly Fiorina, shakes hands with employees during a tour of Cirtronics on June 10, 2015, in Milford, N.H.Jim Cole—AP
Carly Fiorina greets fairgoers during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, on Aug. 17, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa.Charlie Neibergall—AP
Carly Fiorina marches with her family in the Labor Day parade on Sept. 7, 2015 in Milford, N.H. Kayana Szymczak—Getty Images
Carly Fiorina mingles amid the crowd following the Presidential debate on Sept. 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, Calif. Frederic J. Brown—AFP/Getty Images
Carly Fiorina speaks to the media after a national security forum on Sept. 22, 2015 in Charleston, S.C.Sean Rayford—Getty Images
Carly Fiorina speaks on Sept. 18, 2015 in Greenville, S.C.Sean Rayford—Getty Images

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