A pro-Donald Trump super PAC called “Rebuilding America Now” has positioned itself as an attack dog, unafraid to take shots at Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
One of its hard-hitting ads spliced together clips of Clinton denying ever sending classified information via her private email with clips of Bill Clinton denying having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky while president. Another ad intimated that Hillary Clinton doesn’t think women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct should be believed.
This week, Rebuilding America Now continued its tough anti-Clinton tack in multiple new ads, while also launching its first positive, pro-Trump spot.
One new attack ad features Clinton defending the outsourcing of jobs while in India as a U.S. senator in 2005. Another criticizes her for Libya turning into a “breeding ground” for terrorists.
Meanwhile, the positive ad uses excerpts of the June 28 speech Trump gave in Pennsylvania focused on jobs to argue that Trump will turn the U.S. economy around for American workers.
Officials with Rebuilding America Now told CNN on Monday that the new ads were part of a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign now underway. Some of this new ad buy will be focused on the presidential battleground states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to the Washington Post. Others will air on national cable — the distribution method of choice for the super PAC so far.
Rebuilding America Now’s new ads come at a time when Trump and his allies have been massively outgunned on the television airwaves.
Clinton’s campaign and Priorities USA Action — her well-funded super PAC supporter — have aired more than 60,000 ads since June 8, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of data provided by ad tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG.
Pro-Trump groups, meanwhile, have aired fewer than 3,000 ads during the same period — with Rebuilding America Now accounting for fewer than 200 of them.
Trump’s own campaign has not aired a single TV ad since early May, when he won the Indiana primary and all-but-clinched the GOP presidential nomination.
The ad’s sponsor
Rebuilding America Now was officially registered with the Federal Election Commission last month.
As a super PAC, it can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations or labor unions — so long as it doesn’t coordinate its spending with Trump.
Who’s behind it?
Wealthy real estate investor Tom Barrack, a longtime friend of Trump’s, helped launch Rebuilding America Now, although he is now reportedly backing away from as active of a role as he once envisioned.
In May, he hosted Trump at his home in California for a fundraising event at which guests paid $25,000 or more to attend. He has also personally donated $415,000 to Trump’s joint fundraising committee — money that benefits Trump’s campaign as well as the Republican National Committee and GOP parties in several states.
Also behind Rebuilding America Now? Veteran GOP political operative Ken McKay, who previously served as the campaign manager of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s failed presidential bid. In April, McKay was hired to advise Trump’s presidential campaign, a role he has since left.
Meanwhile, Laurance “Laurie” Gay, a close associate of Trump campaign advisor Paul Manafort, serves as the super PAC’s managing director.
Rebuilding America Now has also hired GOP strategist Alex Castellanos, who has long advised GOP presidential campaigns about advertising, including during Romney’s 2008 bid and George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004.
The super PAC’s treasurer is Ryan Call, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Colorado.
Rebuilding America Now is not yet the giant it dreams of being.
It collected about $2.16 million during its first few weeks of existence, according to a recently filed campaign finance report.
The bulk of that money — $2 million — came from California real estate developer Geoffrey Palmer. Another real estate developer, Rick Carlton of Tennessee, ponied up $10,000 to the super PAC.
Among the other notable donors to Rebuilding America Now: Ohio-based coal mining company Murray Energy Corp., which gave $100,000 on June 29, and Southeast QSR LLC, which gave $50,000 on June 28. That company is owned by businessman Nicholas Peters and operates dozens of Taco Bell franchises in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and South Carolina.
In its first weeks of existence, Rebuilding America Now also raised $450 from an unknown number of small-dollar donors who each gave $200 or less and, therefore, did not need to be itemized in the group’s campaign finance filing.
Rebuilding America Now has so far spent more than $1.6 million on anti-Clinton ads, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
As of June 30, the super PAC had about $570,000 in the bank — although a deep-pocketed donor could always improve the financial health of the group with a single check at any time.
Why it matters
Unlike Clinton’s supporters, wealthy Trump fans haven’t, to date, coalesced around a single super PAC. (Trump spurned super PACs during the GOP primary.) Rebuilding America Now hopes that will change.
When Rebuilding America Now launched, officials told CNN they had secured $32 million in commitments. Most of that money has yet to appear.
Nevertheless, the group raised the stakes on Monday, suggesting that its receipts could rise to more than $60 million — including one so-far-unnamed donor who has pledged $20 million.
If such significant funding does materialize, Rebuilding America Now would have a formidable war chest to help Team Trump combat Team Clinton on the airwaves.
That is certainly Rebuilding America Now’s goal.
“With your help, we will continue to make these hard-hitting ads and show people the truth about Hillary,” the group states on its website. “We will run a national campaign just like Priorities USA, but we will do it better.”
This story is from the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative media organization in Washington, D.C. Read more of its investigations on the influence of money in politics or follow it on Twitter.
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