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Posts Tagged ‘Ted Cruz’

Trump’s Top Strategist Defects and Has This To Say

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016


An Open Letter to Trump Voters from His Top Strategist-Turned-Defector

By Stephanie Cegielski

This is a fascinating letter from Stephanie Cegielski, who is cited here as being Trump’s first Commincation’s Director in the campaign.  cegielski says that Trump’s original goal was to come in second. That it started as a “Protest Campaign.” True? When the Trump International Hotel in D. C. at the old gorgeous Post Office will open in September? Is Trump just a guy who ultimately loves the idea of having to double or triple  his security for the rest of his life…while not actually having to be President? 


Even Trump’s most trusted advisors didn’t expect him to fare this well.

Almost a year ago, recruited for my public relations and public policy expertise, I sat in Trump Tower being told that the goal was to get The Donald to poll in double digits and come in second in delegate count. That was it.

The Trump camp would have been satisfied to see him polling at 12% and taking second place to a candidate who might hold 50%. His candidacy was a protest candidacy.

It pains me to say, but he is the presidential equivalent of Sanjaya on American Idol. President Trump would be President Sanjaya in terms of legitimacy and authority.

And I am now taking full responsibility for helping create this monster — and reaching out directly to those voters who, like me, wanted Trump to be the real deal.

My support for Trump began probably like yours did. Similar to so many other Americans, I was tired of the rhetoric in Washington. Negativity and stubbornness were at an all-time high, and the presidential prospects didn’t look promising.

In 2015, I fell in love with the idea of the protest candidate who was not bought by corporations. A man who sat in a Manhattan high-rise he had built, making waves as a straight talker with a business background, full of successes and failures, who wanted America to return to greatness.

I was sold.

Last summer, I signed on as the Communications Director of the Make America Great Again Super PAC.

It was still early in the Trump campaign, and we hit the ground running. His biggest competitor had more than $100 million in a Super PAC. The Jeb Bush deep pockets looked to be the biggest obstacle we faced. We seemed to be up against a steep challenge, especially since a big part of the appeal of a Trump candidacy was not being influenced by PAC money.

After the first debate, I was more anxious than ever to support Trump. The exchange with Megyn Kelly was like manna from heaven for a communications director. She appeared like yet another reporter trying to kick out the guest who wasn’t invited to the party. At the time, I felt excited for the change to the debate he could bring. I began realizing the man really resonates with the masses and would bring people to the process who had never participated before.

That was inspiring to me.

It wasn’t long before every day I awoke to a buzzing phone and a shaking head because Trump had said something politically incorrect the night before. I have been around politics long enough to know that the other side will pounce on any and every opportunity to smear a candidate.

But something surprising and absolutely unexpected happened. Every other candidate misestimated the anger and outrage of the “silent majority” of Americans who are not a part of the liberal elite. So with each statement came a jump in the polls. Just when I thought we were finished, The Donald gained more popularity.

I don’t think even Trump thought he would get this far. And I don’t even know that he wanted to, which is perhaps the scariest prospect of all.

He certainly was never prepared or equipped to go all the way to the White House, but his ego has now taken over the driver’s seat, and nothing else matters. The Donald does not fail. The Donald does not have any weakness. The Donald is his own biggest enemy.

A devastating terrorist attack in Pakistan targeting Christians occurred on Easter Sunday, and Trump’s response was to tweet, “Another radical Islamic attack, this time in Pakistan, targeting Christian women & children. At least 67 dead, 400 injured. I alone can solve.”
Ignoring the fact that at the time Trump tweeted this (time-stamped 4:37 p.m.) the latest news reports had already placed the number differently at 70 dead, 300 injured, take a moment to appreciate the ridiculous, cartoonish, almost childish arrogance of saying that he alone can solve. Does Trump think that he is making a cameo on Wrestlemania (yes, one of his actual credits)?

This is not how foreign policy works. For anyone. Ever.

Superhero powers where “I alone can solve” problems are not real. They do not exist for Batman, for Superman, for Wrestlemania and definitely not for Donald Trump.

What was once Trump’s desire to rank second place to send a message to America and to increase his power as a businessman has nightmarishly morphed into a charade that is poised to do irreparable damage to this country if we do not stop this campaign in its tracks.

I’ll say it again: Trump never intended to be the candidate. But his pride is too out of control to stop him now.

You can give Trump the biggest gift possible if you are a Trump supporter: stop supporting him.

He doesn’t want the White House. He just wants to be able to say that he could have run the White House. He’s achieved that already and then some. If there is any question, take it from someone who was recruited to help the candidate succeed, and initially very much wanted him to do so.

The hard truth is: Trump only cares about Trump.

And if you are one of the disaffected voters — one of the silent majority like me — who wanted a candidate who could be your voice, I want to speak directly to you as one of his biggest advocates and supporters.

He is not that voice. He is not your voice. He is only Trump’s voice.

Trump is about Trump. Not one of his many wives. Not one of his many “pieces of ass.” He is, at heart, a self-preservationist.

In fact, many people are not aware of the Trump campaign’s internal slogan, but I will tell you. It is stolen from a make-believe television presidency on The West Wing where Martin Sheen portrayed President Bartlet. The slogan on the show amongst the idealistic group of Bartlet’s staff was “Let Bartlet Be Bartlet.”

Inside the Trump camp, the slogan became “Let Trump Be Trump.”

It is a repurposed slogan that seemed spot-on for the candidate. He is an intelligent, charismatic man who is involved in every aspect of his organization and would rather speak from the cuff than read briefing notes and recite them. I, in fact, admire Trump for this. But saying this qualifies him to be president is like saying that Seth Rogan is suited to be president. Another extraordinary improvisor, not an extraordinary presidential candidate.

Trump has undoubtedly lived up to the slogan, right down to his main public-relations liaison. Rather than go for a focus-group Washington insider, his communications person had previously taken press calls for the Trump Organization and directed them to the appropriate Trump child. She joked that before joining the campaign she thought “Common Core” was a class at Equinox.

The primary problem with this? What I’ve seen the longer I’ve helped prop him up along with the millions who are helping Trump is that we got the slogan wrong. A more accurate internal slogan would read, “Let Trump Help Trump.”

I don’t dismiss any single Trump constituent, which is why I believe it’s important to let you know that the candidate does.

I, too, think our country has gone off track in its values. I, too, think that we need a dramatic change of course. But I am, in my heart, a policy wonk and a believer in coming to the table with necessary knowledge for leading the free world.

The man does not know policy, nor does he have the humility to admit what he does not know — the most frightening position of all.

I remember watching the second Trump debate and thinking, After this, he is going to have to start hammering it home on policy; the country needs substance to make an informed decision.

I wished for it six months ago and am still waiting for it today. He had an opportunity after the terror attacks in Belgium and instead he used the opportunity to talk about closing the borders and what a mess that country had become. I was appalled that he offered no condolences or words of support; he merely gave his “build a wall” stump speech and talked about his greatness.

I felt sad for him at that moment.

And now, with the latest horrifying terror attack in Pakistan, my sadness has turned into anger.

I consider myself a part of the silent majority that led to Trump’s rise, which is why I want you to know that I am with you — I wanted Trump to be real, too.

He is not.

He even says so himself. His misogyny? That’s the character.

His presidential candidacy? That’s a character, too.

The problem with characters is they are the stuff of soap operas and sitcoms and reality competitions — not political legacies.

Trump made me believe. Until I woke up.

Former Trump Strategist Stephanie Cegielski
And he has no problem abusing your support the same way he cheated hard-working men and women out of millions of dollars, for which he is now being sued.

I came into this eager to support a savvy businessman who received little outside funding. I loved Trump’s outsider status. But a year has now passed since I was first approached to become part of Team Trump.

While the pundits pontificated about what type of PR stunt Trump had up his billion-dollar sleeves, I met with people who convinced me he was serious about changing the political conversation. I wanted to raise millions for him. I wanted to contribute to millions of votes.

[READ: Don’t Be So Sure That Donald Trump Can’t Win the Republican Nomination — Or the Presidency]

And as part of that support, in October, I supported the internal decision to close the Super PAC in order to position him as the quintessential non-politician. I still supported him with great passion after that. The decision to close the Super PAC was part of that devotion to his message of outsider change.

But something was shifting.

Without intending to do so, I began to hear and evaluate him more critically and skeptically as a member of the voting public rather than a communications person charged with protecting his positions.

I no longer felt that he was the leader the country was looking for, and I found myself longing — aching, really — for policy substance that went beyond building a wall and making Mexico pay for it. What were once bold — although controversial — statements now seemed to be attempts to please the crowds, not direction to lead this country to a better place. I began to realize his arrogance and isolation had taken over and were now controlling his message.

And here’s what he tapped into: the unprecedented, unbelievable anger.

Because we are all angry — and we all have a right to be. But Trump is not our champion. He would stab any one of his supporters in the back if it earned him a cent more in his pocket.

Unfortunately, the more vitriolic Trump has become, the more the people responded to him. That drove him to push the boundaries further and further.

I also started seeing a trend of incompetence and deniability.

When there was a tweet that contained an error, he would blame it on an intern; when there was a photo containing a World War II Nazi Germany background, he would blame it on an intern; when he answered questions in an overtly controversial fashion, he would claim that he did not properly hear the question. He refused to take responsibility for his actions while frequently demanding apologies from others.

Imagine Trump wronged you, even in the smallest possible way. He would go to the grave denying he had ever done anything wrong to you — ever.

Trump acts as if he’s a fictional character. But like Hercules, Donald Trump is a work of fiction.

No matter how many times he repeats it, Trump would not be the “best” at being a president, being in shape, fighting terrorism, selling steaks, and whatever other “best” claim he has made in the last 15 minutes.

He would be the best at something, though. He is the best at looking out for Donald Trump — at all costs.

Don’t let our country pay that price.


What happened to the $6Million Trump Raised For Veterans

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Foundation road thumbnail

This is an investigative piece from The Washington Past that ran yesterday, March 3 2016. We’re interested in it partially because it discusses transparency in foundations and NGOS, and in particular, a major political candidate’s handling of donated funds, always a huge issue,  and we hope that journalists get to the bottom of this story reasonably quickly, before the Trump University case gets settled 6 years from now,  but we’re also interested because it discusses the landscape of Veteran NGOS, which we think is very important to understand and simplify and be a part of. It’s known to not be the sanest and easiest landscape, and it does not have to be that way. Looking into that landscape to us is really very essential.

Trump Chack

At a town hall in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr., present a big $100,000 check to Partners for Patriots, an organization dedicated to providing service dogs to disabled veterans. (Reuters)

In recent days, after the campaign initially did not provide details of where the money had gone, The Post had undertaken its own accounting. After contacting each of the 24 charities that Trump had previously listed as his beneficiaries, The Post had accounted for less than half of the $6 million.

Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign, said Trump still intended to give the rest of the money away to veterans groups. She also criticized the news media for repeated inquiries into what became of the funds.

“If the media spent half as much time highlighting the work of these groups and how our veterans have been so mistreated, rather than trying to disparage Mr. Trump’s generosity for a totally unsolicited gesture for which he had no obligation, we would all be better for it,” Hicks wrote in an email.

Trump’s fundraiser highlighted the billionaire presidential candidate’s remarkable ability to draw people, attention and money to any cause he chooses. Trump enticed enormous gifts from wealthy friends, including Stewart Rahr, a colorful New York philanthropist who calls himself “Stewie Rah Rah, the Number One King of All Fun.” Their money became life-altering gifts for some small charities, which received $50,000 or $100,000 each.

But the aftermath of that event showed another side of Trump’s campaign: its tendency to focus on front-end spectacle over back-end details. The rollout of contributions has raised questions about how long Trump would keep donated funds within the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a personal charity whose gifts can boost his political brand.

“Where’s the rest of the money going?” said Keith David at the Task Force Dagger Foundation, which offers support to Special Operations personnel and their families.

David’s group typifies the confusion over Trump’s money. It was listed by Trump as a group that would benefit from his fundraising. And soon after the Iowa fundraising event, the group got a check for $50,000. It came from Rahr’s foundation, with a note that mentioned Trump.

But was that it? The group’s board — noting the huge amount of money that Trump raised and the lesser amount of money Trump seemed to have given out — decided it could not be.

“There’s a large chunk missing. I’m just kind of curious as to where that money went,” David said. “I’d like to see some of it come to us, because we are on the list.”
The list, as given out by Trump’s campaign Thursday, does not show any more donations going for David’s group.

Trump’s veterans fundraiser was, if nothing else, a smart bit of political theater.

It allowed Trump, who was feuding with Fox News Channel at the time, to boycott a GOP debate that Fox was hosting — and, at the same time, claim both the moral high ground and a prime-time TV spotlight for himself that competed directly with the debate he was skipping.

“We set up the website. I called some friends. And the sign was just given: We just cracked $6 million,” Trump said, savoring the moment at the end. He announced that the money would be divided among more than 20 veterans’ groups: “They’re going to get a lot of money. Everybody is going to get a lot of money,” he said.

Some of that money was raised from small donors online, at the website donaldtrumpforvets.
com. That site now says it has raised $1.67 million.

But the bulk of the $6 milllion was raised from a small group of Trump’s very wealthy friends.

Not all of them gave in the same way.

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn gave $500,000 and sent it directly to two groups: a charity to help Army Green Berets and another for Navy SEALs. Another $1 million came from Rahr.

Trump offered Rahr a menu of veterans’ charities, Rahr associate Steve Burns said in an email. Rahr chose 11, based on a review of “missions and financials. We felt they were the best ones in helping the vets,” Burns said.

The $1.5 million in donations from Icahn and Rahr, which bypassed the Trump Foundation, are easy to track. Associates of the two men said they have given the money directly to the charities, and multiple charities said they had received it.

But other benefactors gave their money to the Trump Foundation, so Trump could divvy it up himself. One was Phil Ruffin, a Las Vegas casino mogul, who gave $1 million. “He trusts Mr. Trump to make that decision,” a spokeswoman said.

In all, Trump’s campaign said the Trump Foundation had given out about $1.1 million so far. Hicks, Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, did not immediately respond to a question about how much of the money raised for veterans remains in the accounts of the Trump Foundation.

In the days that followed the Iowa fundraiser, the donations — ostensibly, apolitical gifts to needy veterans — became a centerpiece of Trump’s campaign rallies. He would frequently call the leaders of local charities up onstage and hand them a huge check in front of the cameras and the crowds.

“I thought I was going to faint, because we had no idea — until that check came up on the stage — we had no idea what we were getting,” said Cindy Brodie of Partners for Patriots, which trains service dogs to help veterans with disabilities.

At the time of Trump’s fundraiser, Brodie and her husband had been struggling to keep themselves and the charity afloat. But then a veteran whom they had helped met Trump at a campaign event elsewhere in Iowa.

And then Brodie was being called up onstage by the billionaire and handed an oversized $100,000 check.

But — after the campaign moved on from Iowa — Trump’s donations seemed to lag behind his promises. In early February, the Wall Street Journal reported that many groups began to get their checks only after the Journal asked the Trump campaign why they had not.

Trump’s figures show the biggest beneficiary was the Navy SEAL Foundation, a Virginia-based group that helps Navy Special Operations forces and their families. It received $450,000, according to Trump’s campaign. The Green Beret Foundation, which helps Army Special Forces soldiers and their families, got $350,000. Two other groups got $200,000. Fourteen charities got $100,000 each. Six got $50,000 each, and two others got less.

“Our budget is, like, $40,000 a year,” said Sarah Petersen, the founder of Support Siouxland Soldiers, which provides emergency relief to homeless or near-homeless veterans in Iowa. Trump gave the group $100,000. “Our largest donation was $10,000. So this is a pretty big deal for us.”

Hicks, the spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign, declined to give details about how the rest of the money would be handed out.

“We will continue to allocate contributions to groups that have been announced,” Hicks said, “as well as additional groups that are being considered.”

What additional groups?

Hicks could only name one: a Queens-based nonprofit called Veterans-in-Command, which provides housing, food and job counseling to veterans. In that case, the Trump Foundation dipped into its veterans funds to present a donation.

Which happened to solve a political headache for Trump himself.

At the time of the donation, the New York media was mocking Trump for mishandling a past request the group had made for a donation. Instead of money, the Trump campaign had sent them Trump bumper stickers.

“He called us, and he apologized, and he did the right thing by us,” said Larry Robertson, the Queens group’s president. Trump paid off some old debts and paid for one year’s rent on a new office, a total gift worth about $26,200.

That was 0.4 percent of the money Trump said he’d raised for veterans. The Queens group is hoping it is the beginning, not the end, of a relationship.

“We’re going to have a grand opening. Hopefully he’s going to be here,” Robertson said in a telephone interview. “It’s going to be about another week. He’ll be here.”


The Miami Billionaire Behind Rubio, and his Braman Art Foundation

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

Senator Marco Rubio seems and feels young to be running for president, especially since another, more senior member of his party hailing from Florida politics, former governor Jeb Bush, appears all destined to make a run himself. But Rubio is off to the races, regardless of the likely presence of another Floridian.

Like many politicians of both parties, Rubio’s enthusiastic supporters include some with philanthropic ties. One of his most enthusiastic and moneyed backers is billionaire car dealer Norman Braman. Sports fans know Braman as a former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL, with fan memories including his “I own you” statement to holdout player Keith Jackson, his contention that he didn’t make any money off the Eagles when statistics showed it to be the NFL’s most profitable franchise, and as a Floridian taxpayer his opposition to public subsidies for the Miami Dolphins stadium—and yes, fans, he was the Eagles owner when the team parted with Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White.

Forbes ranks the octogenarian Braman as the 351st-wealthiest person in the U.S., with a net worth of some $1.89 billion and fame for owning the largest private collection of Alexander Calder artworks apparently anywhere. With that kind of money in his coffers, Braman is also a philanthropist. The striking thing about his family foundation—the Braman Family 2011 Charitable Foundation—is that on the Foundation Directory’s profile of the foundation, the listed contact person is Jeanette Rubio, with an email address of “jdrubioconsulting.” The Washington Post reports that not only is Braman a financial backer of Senator Rubio’s presidential aspirations, but the Braman foundation has hired Rubio’s wife as a part-time employee to “help…the family determine how to donate millions of dollars to nonprofits and charities.” Rubio’s Senate financial disclosure statements identify him as the president of Rubio Consulting and the principal in Marco Rubio, P.A., where one of his clients was Braman Management.

If the Braman family is distributing many millions, it isn’t necessarily through the family foundation (or through the Irma and Norman Braman Art Foundation, which appears to be an operating foundation). The grants payouts of the foundation, according to the Form 990PFs, look as follows:

Calendar Year

Family Foundation End of Year Assets (book value)

Family Foundation Grants Payout

Largest Grant Recipients Listed on 990s

Additional Noteworthy Grants




Breast Cancer Research Foundation ($250)




American Friends of Jordan River Village ($180,000); MDC Foundation ($105,000); Jewish Community Services of South Florida ($50,000); Camillus House ($50,000)

The Jordan River Village is one of a network of free sleep-away camps for seriously ill children, founded a quarter-century ago by actor Paul Newman.




Greater Miami Jewish Federation ($550,000); Temple Beth Shalom in Miami Beach ($250,000); the Cleveland Orchestra ($100,000); University of Miami ($67,857); American Friends of Israel Museum ($50,000)

Small grants for organizations serving persons with disabilities (American Friends of Beit Issie Shapiro, Best Buddies) and for troubled youth or youth with health needs (City Year, Kristi House, etc.).

Reports had Braman likely to commit as much as $10 million to pro-Rubio PACs in the event of the senator’s official candidacy.

The importance of Braman should not be underestimated. In the likelihood of several Republican gladiators for the presidential nomination, including Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, and others, Braman’s dollars could keep an otherwise outpolled Rubio in the race, much like Sheldon Adelson did for Newt Gingrich and Foster Friess did for Rick Santorum last time around. Like Adelson and Friess, Braman plays two positions—campaign financier and philanthropic donor. He won’t be the only one in the 2016 presidential primary scrum.—Rick Cohen