Just a few days after Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, a group of former campaign aides and confidants of President Trump and Vice President Pence started a new secret money group called America First Policies.
The group, organized as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, which means it will not be required to disclose its donors, is legally supposed to be a separate entity and not directly coordinating with the Trump administration. But it appears that this is one more rule the Trump White House is ignoring.
BuzzFeed News recently reported that Steve Bannon, a taxpayer-funded White House senior advisor to Trump, was secretly meeting with big donors and urging them to donate to America First Policies. Unlike donating directly to Trump’s campaign or to a Super PAC, these donations would be secret. Although, similar to a Super PAC, America First Policies’ donors can give any amount they want.
Despite its name, America First Policies could open an avenue for foreign citizens and governments to influence the Trump administration without the public knowing. Unlike federal political action committees, groups organized as a 501(c)(4) under the IRS, as America First Policies is, can secretly accept money from foreign citizens. This loophole has always been a problem given the increase use of 501(c)(4) nonprofits for political purposes since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. With this White House and the Trump campaign already under investigation for its ties to Russia and Trump’s massive undisclosed foreign business conflicts, a loophole this big that allows foreign money in U.S. politics is a grave concern not only for our democracy, but for our national security.
Despite the concern around President Trump’s relationship with the outside nonprofit, Trump himself retweeted America First Policies this morning, further signaling a close connection between the White House and the secret money outside groups. President Trump ought to really put “America first” and stop any coordination, involvement, or partnering with outside secret money political groups that were created to exclusively support him and his agenda.
Office: Common Cause National