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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Committee to Defend the President

Political leanings: Pro-President Trump

Spending target: Unknown

The Committee to Defend the President was founded as the Stop Hillary PAC in May 2013. The group’s mission changed after the 2016 election, and then it officially changed its name in late January 2017, after Donald Trump took office as president.

The pro-Trump group is what’s known as a hybrid PAC or “Carey committee.” That means it “has the ability to operate both as a traditional PAC, contributing funds to a candidate’s committee, and as a super PAC, which makes independent expenditures,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Carey committees must have separate bank accounts for those purposes.

The committee can collect unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, and labor unions for its independent expenditures, but those funds may not be used for contributions made by its traditional PAC. All receipts and disbursements for both accounts must be reported to the Federal Election Commission.

Guy Short, a political consultant, is the hybrid PAC’s founder, and Dan Backer, a campaign finance lawyer, is its treasurer, according to paperwork filed with the Federal Communications Commission last year. The group’s chairman is Ted Harvey, a former Republican state senator from Colorado.

Short actually campaigned for Sen. Ted Cruz to be the GOP presidential nominee. He told Reuters in April 2016 that he “spent thousands of dollars of my own money campaigning to become a delegate because it’s that important to make sure Donald Trump is NOT our nominee.”

The Stop Hillary PAC spent almost $6.1 million of the $6.9 million it raised during the 2016 cycle. The majority of its spending, about $3.4 million, was devoted to independent expenditures targeting Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.

The PAC’s top donors in 2016 were Tatnall Hillman, who gave multiple donations totaling over $60,000; George Etheridge, who gave $25,000; and Robert Allison, who contributed $20,000. Hillman is the son of the late John Hartwell Hillman Jr., who made billions in the steel and energy industry. Etheridge and his wife own orthopedic supplies company Precision Orthopedics, and Allison is the former president and CEO of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.

As of April 19, the Committee to Defend the President has spent more than $3.5 million on independent expenditures in the 2018 campaign cycle, mostly in support of Trump’s agenda, according to the Center for Responsive Politics and based on the group’s FEC reports. One of its earliest TV ads went viral. The 30-second spot urged viewers to call a toll free number and “pledge your support to defend Donald Trump” from attacks by “liberals in the Democratic party and the crooked media.”