Firm tied to top Trump campaign aide Brad Parscale has side deal with pro-Trump super PAC

Pro-Trump super PAC America First Action has paid the firm $909,871 since 2018.

August 30, 2019, 4:38 PM

A digital data firm connected to President Donald Trump’s campaign manager has received more than $900,000 in business from a pro-Trump super PAC, a low profile financial entanglement that could renew questions from critics about whether the senior advisor, Brad Parscale, found discreet ways to profit from his work for the president.

Parscale told ABC News that the contractor, called Red State Data and Digital, LLC, was not a secret and that the firm complied completely with election laws and was primarily working to support congressional candidates during the 2018 midterms.

“Complaints about Red State are simply another attempt to smear President Trump by attacking those who work for him,” Parscale said.

Just last week, the Trump campaign objected angrily to a tabloid news report indicating Parscale was using the spoils of his political work to purchase millions of dollars in real estate and luxury cars. The campaign said Parscale’s wealth began to accrue from work that predated the launch of Trump’s 2016 presidential bid.

“Brad makes no secret of his past business success,” campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told ABC News last week. “Since 2016 he has sold three start-up companies: Parscale Media, Giles-Parscale, and a medical device company. He sold all these to focus full time on the President’s re-election.”

Parscale has not previously discussed his interest in the firm Red State Data and Digital, LLC, which began doing website development and digital fundraising work for America First Action, Inc., in March 2018, just weeks after Parscale took the job of campaign manager for Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign.

Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale addresses the crowd before U.S. President Donald Trump rallies with supporters in Manchester, N.H., Aug. 15, 2019.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters, FILE

Since then, the pro-Trump super PAC has paid Red State $909,871, according to campaign finance records. Much of that money was spent in support of midterm congressional candidates ahead of the November 2018 elections, the records show.

A public indication of his connection to the firm surfaced on corporate documents in Delaware, which can only be accessed from a state registrar’s office in Dover. The records showed that Candice Parscale signed a form submitted to change the name of the company’s registered owner. The filing appeared on the state registry just two weeks ago, and does not say what specific position Candice Parscale holds in the company.

Brad Parscale confirmed the firm is an offshoot of Parscale Strategy LLC after ABC News contacted him. He said his wife has long served as a bookkeeper for his businesses.

"Red State is a valued vendor that provides us with digital consulting services at a competitive rate," America First Action spokesperson Kelly Sadler told ABC News. "America First strictly complies with FEC rules and regulations and any suggestion otherwise is patently false."

Red State was set up to be a “firewall company” -- a legal maneuver that allowed it to continue working for the America First super PAC during the mid-term elections, without risking a violation of election rules that prohibit any coordination between a campaign and a like-minded super PAC, Parscale said. Election law experts said that type of arrangement is not new.

“Firewalls are common within the political consulting and polling industries,” Jan Baran, a Republican election lawyer, told ABC News. “The firewalls are a compliance measure that prevents illegal coordination with campaigns and political parties.”

Campaigns are supposed to assiduously avoid coordinating their messages and spending with political action committees, a legal requirement put in place to prevent the committees from being used as shadow campaigns operating without strict donation limits. Parscale said he was conscious of those rules when he created Red State to take over work that Parscale Strategy had been doing for the pro-Trump super PAC.

“This is a perfectly legal and appropriate arrangement, which is firewalled, with zero chance for coordination,” he said. “There could not possibly be coordination because the ads placed were for other candidates in the 2018 midterms.”

Daniel Petalas, a former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission who is now in private practice, said the arrangement ultimately depends on how carefully Parscale and those working at America First Action observe the firewall. Parscale cannot talk with his counterparts at the super PAC about polling, or potent messages, or geographic targeting, he said, because doing so would cross that firewall.

“It strikes me that this is a highly risky strategy,” Petalas said.

ABC News reporter Meg Cunningham contributed to this report.

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