UPDATE: On Tuesday afternoon, Donald Trump declared “I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet” when it comes to endorsing Speaker Paul Ryan, who endorsed Trump at the RNC. Trump also praised Ryan’s challenger, Nehlen, for “running a very good campaign.”
Just two weeks after House Speaker Paul Ryan presided over the Republican National Convention as the meeting’s chairman, Donald J. Trump has taken to Twitter to give a shout-out to the pro-union, pro-Democrat, anti-free trade “Republican” who moved to Wisconsin recently to challenge Ryan in the August 9th primary.
“Thanks @pnehlen for your kind words, very much appreciated,” The Donald tweeted on Monday. Paul Nehlen is Ryan’s opponent and his notoriety as a long-shot congressional candidate is due in large part to the backing of a numerous pro-Trump talking heads and operatives.
Ann Coulter, who has been a Trump apologist since the beginning of Trump’s campaign (her new book, after all, worships Trump with the title “In Trump We Trust”), is headed to Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District this weekend to sign books and rally voters to support Nehlen.
Coulter’s backing of Nehlen isn’t new. In May she urged her Twitter followers to donate to Nehlen’s campaign.
Intriguingly, Nehlen’s campaign treasurer is Dan Backer, a pro-Trump DC-area political operative who has perfected the art of raising money for various political action committees and issue advocacy groups and then using that money to pay himself and his companies tens of thousands of dollars in “management” and “consulting” fees.
In addition to being Nehlen’s campaign treasurer, Backer is also the treasurer of Tea Party Forward, an independent expenditure group that spends money supporting various candidates, including Nehlen. According to Federal Election Commission filings, Tea Party Forward has raised nearly $150,000 this year, but has spent only $27,475 supporting candidates.
Another Backer creation is Great America PAC, a pro-Trump super PAC that has spent $3.4 million supporting Trump’s campaign.
The latest Nehlen campaign finance report lists a $2,000 payment to Backer’s DB Capitol Strategies.
Another pro-Trump tentacle tied to the Nehlen campaign is Chuck Muth, a Nevada talker and blogger, who has given Nehlen platform time on his website and who announced on Twitter that he’s in Wisconsin with “a bunch of GREAT Trump folks from all over country helping Paul Nehlen to unseat Paul Ryan.” Muth also runs a sleazy consulting company where he calls himself the “Campaign Doctor.” The company proudly proclaims it exists to help candidates, “Regardless of your philosophical beliefs or partisan registration.”
So much for being conservative.
One of Nehlen’s day-to-day campaign aides worked for the Trump campaign in Florida before moving to Wisconsin to help Nehlen.
How Trump plans on convincing the GOP that he will unite the party when he praises Speaker Ryan’s primary opponent (who recently appealed to Democrats for support), and has so many of his own ardent supporters aiding Ryan’s opponent, is unclear. The incident is a reminder to Republican leaders that even if you accept Trump – willingly or unwillingly – there is no guarantee he will have your back. Trump has consistently placed himself first, and the sooner conservatives and the Republican Party learn that, the better off they will be.