The Slatest

A Trump Super PAC That Did Nothing but Post Memes Paid Its Director $42,000 for “Travel” Expenses

A man with silver hair dressed in a suit speaks at a lectern.
Laurance Gay in New York City in 2013. Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Table 4 Writers Foundation

On Monday, CNBC published a thorough investigation into the financial ties between ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a pro-Trump super PAC called Rebuilding America Now, which made a large payment to Manafort that’s being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office. One of the story’s key figures is political operative Laurance Gay, the super PAC’s director, who was brought into the Trump orbit by Manafort and Trump inaugural committee chairman Tom Barrack. Gay was also in charge of ticketing for the inaugural committee, which is reportedly being investigated by other federal authorities who are looking into potential embezzlement and bribery charges. In other words, Gay’s name may pop up a time or two again before the whole Trump era is over. (Gay’s attorney told CNBC that he did not engage in any activity that “violates any federal or state laws.”) For now, though, I’d like to highlight this remarkable factoid about Gay and Rebuilding America Now’s 2018 spending:

In June 2018, Rebuilding America Now’s travel expenses caught the attention of the FEC. In a letter to Rebuilding America Now’s treasurer, Ryan Call, the FEC asked him to explain the $42,286 the group had paid to Gay for “Travel” during the first three months of 2018. The FEC gave the group until Aug. 2, 2018, to reply, but so far it has not responded to the request.

That averages out to a cool $470 a day in travel expenses, which is a lot. But what makes it even more remarkable is that, according to both CNBC and a Bloomberg News report from December 2017, Rebuilding America Now has not done any actual on-the-ground advocacy work, like running ads or calling voters, since Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. CNBC’s report does note that the one activity the super PAC does still engage in is posting memes on social media:

Rebuilding America Now appeared to be operating as little more than a meme-posting operation on Facebook and Twitter, trying to engage Trump supporters with “Like if you agree!” style posts.

Facebook ad records show that in the spring and summer of 2018, Rebuilding America Now ran a series of ads on Facebook. They asked viewers to “Like” posts if, for instance, they “think Hillary [Clinton] should be behind bars,” and “think CNN sucks.”

One wonders how it’s possible to incur a “travel” expense at an organization whose only work product—postin’ the LOLZ—is something that could be done anywhere in the world using only a phone. Of course, one also wonders what Gay did to earn the $35,000 monthly salary—which was separate from his travel reimbursements—that the super PAC paid him through April 2018. In total, CNBC calculates, Rebuilding America Now paid Gay $924,164.03 in an 18-month period beginning in January 2017, after it had stopped doing substantive work. Gay didn’t comment on his compensation to CNBC, but he told Bloomberg in December 2017 that it was fair that he was still getting paid because he was “trying to figure out what we do next.”

What they did next was post more memes. They posted one just a few hours ago about how the Democratic 2020 field is a “clown show”! Far be it from me—a blogger—to criticize someone for wanting to be fairly compensated for posting memes, though. Laurance Gay probably needed to get paid back for all the traveling he did between his mom’s basement and the store where he buys his sweatpants! Share if you agree!