AP NEWS

America First Action super PAC waiting for right time to battle against 2020 Democratic field

May 10, 2019

America First Action is embracing its role as President Trump’s chief wingman, saying it plans to boost his policies such as a rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement while keeping its powder dry on attacks against the 2020 Democratic field.

The independent political action committee, or super PAC, says it’s content to let the 20-plus Democrats duke it out, while it focuses on doing major groundwork in the “Big Six” states where it says the last election was decided: Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, each won by Mr. Trump.

“If he wins all six of those states, he wins the White House,” said Brian Walsh, president of America First Action.

The PAC hopes to spend up to $300 million in those states alone, if it reaches its fundraising goals.

The PAC says Mr. Trump is on the right track with his jobs and trade message, which helped convert Rust Belt states that hadn’t voted GOP in nearly 30 years and which the president continues to hone.

To that end, America First Action will sponsor rallies in support of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, the NAFTA replacement that is awaiting congressional approval.

“Trade is a proxy for fairness. People believe that we got ripped off, the president has said, ‘Enough business as usual, I’m going to stand up to this, I’m going to fight for American workers,’” said senior adviser Sean Spicer, who served as Mr. Trump’s first press secretary. “I think that’s what matters that he is seen as a champion and a fighter for people who feel like they’ve gotten screwed.”

America First Action super PAC operates out of a nondescript office in suburban Virginia.

It’s not a household name, but it received a major shoutout this week when the Trump campaign released a statement saying it was the only “approved outside non-campaign group” backing the president’s reelection.

The statement was meant to steer supporters away from donating to “dishonest” groups using the president’s name in their own fundraising. The statement didn’t name names but appeared to be aimed at former deputy campaign manager David Bossie, whose Presidential Coalition is raising money purportedly to back Mr. Trump.

“We encourage the appropriate authorities to investigate all alleged scam groups for potential illegal activities,” the Trump campaign said.

The Campaign Legal Center and End Citizens United said that statement went over the line. They filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday, saying that by claiming America First Action as an authorized committee, the campaign appeared to be steering contributions to it, skirting a ban on campaigns soliciting money for super PACs.

“If candidates are not punished for working hand-in-hand with super PACs, campaigns will stretch the legal boundaries until there is no way to prevent the corruption of candidates beholden to big money,” said Adav Noti, senior director and chief of staff at the Campaign Legal Center.

A Trump campaign official pushed back, saying: “It was a simple statement of fact and did not solicit funds. Our statement was reviewed by counsel prior to its issuance.”

America First Action is a prime landing zone for ex-administration officials.

Besides Mr. Spicer, Linda McMahon said she left a job she loved as administrator of the Small Business Administration to help the super PAC tap into vital fundraising streams.

“This is such an incredibly important race,” Ms. McMahon said.

Kelly Sadler, a former Trump White House communications official, is the super PAC’s chief spokeswoman.

The group is in no rush to single out Democrats who might challenge Mr. Trump in 2020.

For one thing, it doesn’t want to get ahead of the president, who managed to cleverly define and destroy his GOP rivals in 2016 before shocking the world with his upset victory against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

“Our point of view [is] being this cavalry, this secondary entity that’s trying to make their lives easier, allow them to do the things they want to do,” Mr. Walsh said.