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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

America First Policies/America First Action

Political leanings: Republican/ Pro-President Trump

2018 total spending: $36.4 million 

America First Policies is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit devoted to promoting the agenda of President Donald Trump. According to its website, the group’s main goals are rebuilding infrastructure, creating a strong workforce, reforming trade agreements, cutting taxes and updating regulations to support the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

America First Policies is allied with America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC that spent $36.4 million in the 2018 cycle.

Six of Trump’s former campaign aides created America First Policies in January 2017. The group’s founders include: Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager; David Bossie, Trump’s 2016 deputy campaign manager; Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s former chief of staff; Marty Obst, who managed Pence’s gubernatorial campaign in Indiana; and Katrina Pierson, a 2020 campaign adviser for Trump.

Rick Gates, Trump’s other deputy campaign manager in 2016, also helped create the nonprofit. However, Gates was forced to leave the group in March 2017 because of his ties to Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman and chief strategist. As we have previously reported, both Manafort and Gates were indicted on charges of money laundering and tax evasion related to their work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.

Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false statements to federal investigators. Manafort was sentenced to 47 months in prison after being found guilty in August 2018 on five tax fraud charges, one charge of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts and two counts of bank fraud. 

The America First Action super PAC affiliated with America First Policies is led by Linda McMahon, who previously served in Trump’s cabinet as administrator of the Small Business Administration, and Brian O. Walsh, who, prior to joining America First Action, served as the president of the conservative outside groups American Action Network and the Congressional Leadership Fund.

America First Action raised $29 million in the 2018 election cycle and spent $29.3 million on independent expenditures, which are disbursements on communications advocating for or against particular candidates. Most of that, about $28 million, was spent trying to get Republicans elected to Congress. The organization spent more than $3 million opposing Democrat Colin Allred, who beat Republican Pete Sessions in Texas’ 32nd Congressional District and more than $2.8 million opposing Democrat Joe Donnelly, who lost to Mike Braun in Indiana’s Senate race. The group also spent more than $289,000 in support of Arizona Republican Martha McSally, who lost her Senate race to Democrat Krysten Sinema. 

As of Aug. 31, America First Action super PAC has raised nearly $83 million for the 2020 cycle. It has spent more than $95 million in independent expenditures to defeat Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden. Its top donors include Timothy Mellon, chairman of transportation company Pan Am Systems, and Kelcy Warren, cofounder of Energy Transfer. Each gave $10 million.   

America First Policies has not publicly disclosed its donors to the Federal Election Commission because 501(c)(4) organizations are not required to do so.

Fact-checking America First Policies/America First Action:

Republican Group Selectively Edits Biden Tax Remark, Aug. 7

Misleading Ad Targets Biden on Fossil Fuels, Fracking, June 10