Make America Great Again. It’s Donald Trump’s campaign slogan. It’s on the caps his campaign sells to admirers, and it’s also the name of an ostensibly independent superPAC.
Or it was until this week, when the superPAC said it was going out of business. It ran aground on stories in the Washington Post, revealing connections linking the superPAC with Trump’s campaign and his office.
The Post reported that Colorado political consultant Mike Ciletti has business ties to Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and also runs the superPAC. The paper also reported that Ciletta seemed to be soliciting superPAC contributions from Trump business contacts. Federal law bars candidates and their campaigns from soliciting big, unregulated contributions for superPACs.
Ciletti is also a principal in a company called Wizbang Solutions. The Trump campaign paid Wizbang $41,300 in the third quarter for printing, design and direct mail. Ciletti didn’t respond to NPR’s request for comment.
Trump’s campaign finance lawyer, former Federal Election Commission chairman Donald McGahn, wrote to MAGA and eight other pro-Trump superPACs on Wednesday, telling them to stop using Trump’s name and image. McGahn said Trump appreciates small, unsolicited contributions, but didn’t want donors misled into “supporting an unauthorized effort, one which is subject to no oversight.”
MAGA got a $100,000 contribution this summer from the mother-in-law of Trump’s daughter Ivanka.
Another link between Trump and MAGA is its very name. Donald Trump filed in 2012 to trademark the phrase Make America Great Again for use with a political action committee. He first used it this past May – an essential step in the application process – and the Patent and Trademark Office registered it in July.
McGahn and the campaign didn’t respond to questions about the name and usage rights.