Call It the $160-Million Club
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Call It the $160-Million Club

A gallery of givers. Top (l-r): Ricketts, Mercer, Singer, DeVos. Bottom: Hicks, Saunders, Griffin, Uihlein.

While You Were Watching Comey, Trump Quietly Welcomed Some Billionaire Donors to the White House

Talk about money pouring into the White House.

It costs just $200,00 to join Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, but a lot more to wrangle a spot at Mar-a-Potomac.

Earlier this month, Trump snuck eight of the wealthiest and largest donors to the Republican base into the White House. It was June 8, the day the press, most of official Washington and millions of Americans were watching former FBI director James Comey publicly testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

It’s unclear why this consortium of dark money and Super-PAC purveyors—who shelled out roughly $160 million collectively for the 2016 election—paid a visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The Trump White House does not share its visitor logs and did not announce this meeting. This information was gleaned from Politico’s Unauthorized White House Visitor Logs.

Maybe they were there to fête themselves for putting one of their own in the White House. Maybe they were there to strategize how to push the conservative agenda. Or a more corporatist agenda. Or further muddy the waters of the Russian investigation with more dirty ads, like the one Great America Alliance recently put out smearing Comey.

Whatever the reason, the fact that these individuals—a different, yet very powerful gang of eight—visited on the same day is important because of their political sway and the staggering amount of money they spent to place Trump and top Republicans in power. The White House did not respond to an inquiry by press time.

It’s worth noting that many of these donors initially opposed Trump during the election. Those that did mollified him with big donations to his inauguration. And many were rewarded with posts in his regime.

Action Box / What You Can Do About It

Contact the White House and demand transparency, such as the reinstatement of public visitor logs. Call 202-456-1111.

Contact your representatives and senators and ask them to support campaign finance reform laws, such as Fair Elections Now Act and Government by the People.

Here’s a breakdown of who visited on June 8 and how much they spent on the 2016 election, based on data from the FEC and Center for Responsive Politics in May. The amounts are estimates.


Todd Ricketts

Total: $47.6 million

The son of TDAmeritrade founder Joe Ricketts, whose family owns 95 percent of the Chicago Cubs, was a busy man last year. Todd Ricketts ran two dark money organizations and a super PAC to help Trump and other Republicans get elected. Dark money group 45Committee spent more than $21 million on ads supporting Trump and Ending Spending spent $2.6 million. Super PAC Future 45 spent $24 million on ads opposing Secretary Hillary Clinton. Ricketts took over these three organizations from his father, their founder. The Ricketts were originally part of the Never Trump movement. The payoff for changing camps? Trump named Ricketts to be Deputy Commerce Secretary in December, though he backed out in April.


Rebekah Mercer

Total: $33.2 million

New York hedge fund heiress was called the most powerful woman in GOP politics in September 2016 by Politico. She ran the $19.7 million super PAC backing Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) presidential bid before he dropped out of the race. She then supported Trump. She was involved with another super PAC by the same name which functioned as an outside spending group, Make America Number 1, which spent $13.5 million on media buys, strategies, and other expenses to elect Republicans. Her prize? Trump named her to his 16-member executive transition team shortly after the election.


Paul E. Singer

Total: $26 million

Singer’s hedge fund firm, Elliott Management, spent roughly $26 million boosting Republicans in the 2016 election, though he had been a fierce Trump critic up until December of last year. Aiming to mend fences with The Donald, he reportedly spent $1 million on his inauguration.


Richard “Dick” Ellis Uihlein

Total: $23.6 million

The far-right CEO of Uline Inc., a Wisconsin-based company that sells shipping and packing materials to North American companies, is a big player in politics. He spent most of the money funding outside spending groups in the election. He was also a staunch Trump opponent, backing failing bids first for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and then Sen. Ted Cruz. The billionaire, who lives in Lake Forest, Ill., also spent $500,000 on Trump’s inauguration.


Kenneth C. Griffin

Total: $13.6 million

Griffin, another hedge fund operator, runs the super PAC Citadel LLC, which primarily gave to conservative outside spending groups, in addition to a wide swath of both Republican and Democratic candidates.


Douglas L. DeVos

Total: $10 million

The president of Amway contributed $1.1 million to Republican candidates in the election. He was also co-chair of the now-defunct Gospel Communications International, which showered money on evangelical ministries until it closed in 2008. The DeVos dynasty of West Michigan contributed around $10 million total to Trump. The takeaway: Betsy DeVos, Douglas’s sister-in-law, was named Trump’s Education Secretary.

Thomas A. Saunders, III

Total: $140,371

Saunders is president and CEO of New York private equity firm Ivor & Co. He may not have donated a lot of money, but as chairman of the highly influential Heritage Foundation since 2005, he wields considerable power. His cousin Katharine Cornell Gorka was tapped for Trump’s Homeland Security landing team. Her husband, Sebastian Gorka, serves as deputy assistant to the president.


Tommy Hicks, Jr.

Total: $13,500

His donations may not match others on this list, but the partner and managing director at Dallas firm Hicks Equity Partners was a key fundraiser for Trump in Dallas and just happens to be friends with the President’s two older sons. Trump rewarded him with the chance to serve as finance vice chair for his inaugural committee.

June 29, 2017