Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump's campaign manager, owns a small Washington polling firm that has gained $1.9 million and counting in fees from federally registered political campaign committees, according to a Politico analysis of Federal Election Commission filings.
Republicans suggest that her working for Trump's campaign and her firm working for super PACs that support him undermines his messaging that his campaign is against big-money megadonors.
Election rules prohibit coordination between PACs and campaigns. Conway said she and her firm "have a firewall" between the two accounts. "I have never been inside the PAC firewall and have done no work for this PAC," she said.
Conway's firm, The Polling Company, worked for a super PAC that supported Dr. Ben Carson's campaign, then began working for three PACs that supported Ted Cruz, one of which was funded by anti-establishment right financier Bob Mercer.
In June 2016, the super PAC turned its support to Trump, changing its name to Make America Number One, and installed veteran GOP operative David Bossie to run it. The Trump campaign hired Conway as an adviser a few days later, Politico said. After that, Bossie hired Conway's firm for survey research.
The PAC paid $952,000 total to Conway's firm, and two other pro-Cruz PACs paid it $198,000 and $41,000 from a PAC affiliated with Citizens United, a group that Bossie runs with support from the Mercer family.
In late August, the election commission filings revealed that Trump's campaign made its first payment to Conway's firm, for $128,500.
In September, Trump's campaign hired Bossie as a deputy campaign manager to work under Conway, while Mercer's daughter Rebekah Mercer took over the Make America Number One PAC. The daughter runs the family's political operations and "leans heavily on Kellyanne Conway," a GOP strategist told Politico.
Make America Number One spokeswoman Hogan Gidley, in a statement, said no wrongdoing had been committed. "All laws have been followed in operating Make America Number One PAC. Furthermore, the PAC didn't have any dealings with Miss Conway."
Republicans have questioned whether Conway's firm is separate from the Trump campaign. One of her lieutenants at the firm is frequently seen at the Trump campaign headquarters, according to a Trump operative.
The relationship is bad for Trump's campaign, even if it follows the rules, according to a GOP strategist. "The optics on that are terrible, when Trump says he hates super PACs and his campaign manager's firm is getting paid by one."
Conway's client list has included Republican Reps. Steve King (Iowa) former Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Newt Gingrich's 2012 presidential campaign, and corporate accounts including American Express, Lifetime Television, Major League Baseball, and Martha Stewart.
A GOP strategist told Politico that Conway is more aligned with the Mercers than she is with Trump. The strategist said their involvement is "a strategic game for the Mercers to elevate their status after the election to make a bid for some sort of GOP supremacy."
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