White House

Why did a Democratic group pay Sean Spicer $250?

White House press secretary Sean Spicer gestures while speaking to the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, March 24, 2017.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer gestures while speaking to the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, March 24, 2017. AP

More than a year after he left the White House, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer continues to profit from his time there — even earning a paycheck from a Democratic group.

American Bridge 21st Century, one of the largest Democratic super political action committees, reported paying $250 to Spicer for “research,” according to records filed with Federal Elections Commission.

It turns out the payment to Rigwil LLC — an entity created by Spicer — allowed an American Bridge representative to attend a party promoting Spicer’s book “The Briefing: Politics, the Press, and the President” in Washington in September.

Harrell Kirstein, a spokesman for the group, said American Bridge tried to question Spicer about Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh and Trump immigration and health care policies but he refused.

“We’d like a refund,” he said.

Spicer is one of the former Trump White House and campaign staffers who are cashing in on the 2018 midterms as Republican candidates pay them to headline fundraising events, appear at campaign rallies and record robocalls.

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Spicer’s Rigwil LLC has been paid $37,500 for communications consulting by America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC since July 2018, according to federal records. He has headlined events from California to New York, though many do not appear to be paid events, according to federal records. Spicer declined to comment.

Sebastian Gorka, an outspoken former deputy assistant to the president, has been paid more than $17,000 for campaign appearances on behalf of two Republican candidates for U.S. Senate who lost in the primary: Kelli Ward, a hard-right candidate in Arizona who was a sharp critic of ailing Sen. John McCain , and E.W. Jackson, a minister and lawyer in Virginia; and a House candidate, Danny Tarkanian, who is on the ballot Tuesday in Nevada. Gorka also was paid more than $60,000 in 2017 through a company called Threat Knowledge Group, LLC by Maga Coalition, a pro-Trump super PAC.

Marc Lotter, a former top aide to Vice President Mike Pence who remains close to the administration, has been paid $60,000 by the Republican National Committee for management consulting since leaving the White House last year.

America First also has paid more than $105,000 to two companies connected to former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, a frequent surrogate for the Trump campaign, and paid $60,000 to Katrina Pierson, a former spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, through her consulting company.

The former aides — even those who were fired or only served a few days — bring with them their connections and a bit of celebrity.. And in an administration that has experienced record turnover, there’s no shortage of former Trump aides to call.

Trump and the Republicans are bracing for losses in a year that the president’s party traditionally loses ground. Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats in the House and two in the Senate to gain control of the chambers.

“The revolving door for current and former Trump associates spins fast as they cash in on their connections to the president, which leads many Americans to lose confidence that government serves the people,” said Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs of the government watchdog group Common Cause. It’s typical of many presidential administrations for former staffers to get cable news analyst jobs, or write books or make public appearances after they leave public service.

Sometimes, the former aides accept payment from campaigns or political groups. Sometimes, they are reimbursed for expenses. Other times, they volunteer their time.

America First reimbursed Don Trump Jr., who has headlined more than 60 campaign events this year, in September for nearly $7,500 in travel expenses.

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Trump lawyer and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was also reimbursed nearly $2,000 in June for travel on behalf of Josh Guillory, a candidate for the House from Louisiana.

Trump campaigned on “draining the swamp” or ridding the government of Washington insiders, big money and lobbying.

“What’s disheartening is this is the definition of the way Washington works and exactly what candidate Trump and his inner circle campaigned against,” said Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, which works to reduce the role of money in politics. “This is a story as old as politics: a little bit of political clout goes a long way to turning self-proclaimed outsiders into insiders.”

Others may be volunteering their time. Former communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who worked a mere 10 days in the White House, former chief of staff Reince Priebus, who was fired on the tarmac next to Air Force One, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in connection with the Russia investigation, all have appeared with candidates but records do not appear to show they were paid.

Ben Wieder: 202-383-6125, @benbwieder
Anita Kumar: 202-383-6017, @anitakumar01