Political leanings: Pro-President Trump
2018 total spending: $9 million
The Committee to Defend the President was founded as the Stop Hillary PAC in May 2013. The group’s name and mission changed after Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. It officially changed its name in late January 2017, after Trump took office as president.
“President Donald Trump has a mandate from the American people to defeat the liberal agenda and Keep America Great, but the radical progressive Democrats are opposed to President Trump’s America first agenda,” the committee states as its mission.
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.
Guy Short, a political consultant who supported Sen. Ted Cruz for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, was listed as the PAC’s founder in paperwork filed with the Federal Communications Commission in early 2017. In emails to FactCheck.org, the Committee to Defend the President’s public relations representative told us that Short was not a founder of the group, but does consulting work for the PAC.
“I am a political and fundraising consultant for Campaign Solutions, a principal vendor to the PAC, and have overseen their service to the PAC for most of its time with the firm,” Short said in a statement provided to FactCheck.org.
Currently, Ted Harvey, a former Republican state senator from Colorado, serves as the group’s chairman, and Dan Backer, a campaign finance lawyer, is its treasurer.
The Committee to Defend the President spent nearly $9 million during the 2018 election cycle. The majority of its spending, about $5.7 million, was devoted to independent expenditures, which the Federal Election Commission defines as spending on advertising that expressly advocates for the election or defeat of a federal candidate. The group spent $4.5 million on ads in support of Trump.
The committee also spent heavily in the 2018 race for an open Senate seat in Tennessee, where Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn defeated Democrat Phil Bredesen, a former Tennessee governor, to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker. The PAC spent nearly $1 million to help Blackburn in that race. It was also involved in Senate races in Wisconsin, Virginia, Massachusetts and Indiana.
So far in the 2020 election cycle, the PAC has spent more than $8.5 million. Nearly all of it has gone to support Trump. The committee also has spent just over $250,000 to support Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a New Jersey Democrat who changed parties in December and pledged his “undying support” for Trump. It also has spent about $200,000 to support freshman Republican Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina, who is running for reelection in a race that the Cook Political Report says is likely to remain Republican.
The PAC’s top donor in 2018 was Edward J. Minskoff, founder of Edward J. Minskoff Equities, Inc., an urban real estate company. Minskoff gave $11,500 to the committee in the 2018 cycle.
For the 2020 election cycle, the largest donor has been Maritha Blalock, a Texas rancher who has contributed $20,000 to the PAC in 2019 and 2020. Another top donor, Claire Reiss of La Jolla, California, who has been described by the San Diego Reader as a biotech heiress and socialite who supports conservative causes, donated $15,600 to the committee through Oct. 11, 2019, according to opensecrets.org.
FactCheck.org Undergraduate Fellow Mitchell Aronoff contributed to this article.
Updated, Feb. 24: This article has been updated to include a statement from the PAC’s public relations firm on the current status of Guy Short, a political consultant.
Fact-checking Committee to Defend the President:
False Ad About Biden’s VP Pick, Aug. 5
Anti-Biden Ad Misleads on Race Claims, July 23
A Misleading Anti-Biden Ad from Trump Backers, Feb. 27
Family Separation Spin in Nevada, Feb. 21