Inside Trump's $100 million man's rapid rise to power

Brad Parscale has been tapped to run the president's 2020 reelection campaign.

ByABC News
March 5, 2018, 6:13 AM

— -- Newly minted Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale is already Donald Trump's $100 million man.

Back in early 2015, before Trump announced he was running for president, Parscale was tapped to set up the Trump’s campaign website in just two days. He had never worked in politics before, but Parscale would go on to be an architect of the Trump campaign’s digital strategy and a big player in Republican Internet operations.

Along the way, Parscale’s companies earned a windfall, billing the Trump campaign and the Republican Party more than $100 million to date. Although it is difficult to know how much of that money went to Parscale himself —- much of the money went to buy digital advertising -— he emerged as one of the most richly compensated veterans of the president’s campaign.

The 2016 Trump campaign took great pride in being a frugal operation.

PHOTO: Pictured (L-R) are Brad Parscale in Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 8, 2017 and President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., Sept. 7, 2017.
Pictured (L-R) are Brad Parscale in Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 8, 2017 and President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., Sept. 7, 2017.

One Trump campaign veteran told ABC News that amount of money took most senior Trump operatives by surprise, adding that the amount is “shocking.”

“Bringing in a technocratic data-social media specialist like Parscale signals relentless determination to build the most powerful campaign possible,” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told ABC News of the campaign’s early announcement of Parscale as campaign manager.

Parscale’s firm, Giles-Parscale, was paid $94 million by the campaign, RNC and Trump Make America Great Again -– a joint fundraising committee for Trump during the 2016 election cycle. According to FEC filings, the campaign shelled out the majority of the money –- nearly $88 million.

Parscale recently spoke about how his San Antonio-based firm was big enough to help boost the local economy.

“We spent nearly $100 million in the course of the campaign with our operation based in San Antonio,” Parscale told the Rivard Report, a regionally-based digital news outlet, “and a ton of that money was spent in San Antonio on campaign-related employment, thousands of hotel rooms, all kinds of economic activity.”

He added: “Many of the employees that worked on the campaign have spun off their own enterprises, using the campaign as a catalyst to better success.”

Following the campaign, the work continued.

Parscale has dramatically expanded his reach into Republican politics under this presidency, earning millions from a growing list of entities.

The Trump campaign, which has continued using Parscale’s firm since the 2016 election cycle, shelled out nearly $5.7 million last year, according to FEC filings.

The Republican National Committee has continued to use Parscale’s firm as well. In April 2017, the RNC began with smaller payments of $15,000 a month and then suddenly ramped up payments to more than $800,000 a month. For December 2017 and January of this year, the RNC has paid nearly $2 million to Parscale’s firm, according to FEC filings. The increase in payments correlated with advertising around President Trump’s State of the Union Address.

PHOTO: Brad Parscale, President-elect Donald Trump's campaign digital director, arrives at Trump Tower, Dec. 6, 2016 in New York City.
Brad Parscale, President-elect Donald Trump's campaign digital director, arrives at Trump Tower, Dec. 6, 2016 in New York City.

An RNC official familiar with the payments said the vast majority of money went to actual digital advertising purchases, with only a small fraction of the total costs going directly to the firm. However, it's not readily apparent from the FEC filings how much money is spent on ads or how much goes directly to the firms and their owners.

“Parscale Strategy understands how to cultivate and engage an audience and has a keen understanding of the president’s voice. Their proven online marketing strategies during the 2016 election will help the RNC be in the best position possible for 2018 and 2020,” RNC National Press Secretary Cassie Smedile told ABC News in a statement.

“Working with Parscale Strategy has allowed the RNC to break the mold for how to engage with prospective voters and we are doing it better than anyone else in the political game.”

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the payments.

As Parscale told CBS’ “60 Minutes,” the amount of money he started earning with the campaign and the amount he ended with are two polar extremes –- he built the campaign’s website for just $1,500 and, by the end of the 2016 race, his company was paid $94 million including the money spent on digital advertising.

His role as digital director during the campaign has also earned the attention of congressional investigators probing Russia meddling in the 2016 election.

Parscale, who has been interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee as part of their investigation, has said he was unaware of any Russian involvement in the digital operation during the campaign.

After the 2016 campaign ended, Parscale joined America First, the Super PAC that supports President Trump and works to support his agenda outside the White House, as a senior adviser.

So far this election cycle (2017-2018), American First Action has paid Parscale Strategy LLC more than $692,000.

Parscale has remained a key player in Trump’s inner circle since the election.

He’s been involved in meetings at the White House –- specifically a December meeting in the Oval Office with White House staff and outside advisers to discuss the 2018 midterm process, one of the many signs that Trump still sees him as among his most trusted confidants and politically savvy advisers.

As Gingirch put it: “Trump probably would not have won without him.”

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