The Washington Post - 24.10.2019

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FROM LEFT: President Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, has become a major player in Washington less than three years after coming to town. Katie Walsh, seen with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-
Miss.), center, and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) in 2016, is a former chief of staff for the RNC. Her husband, Mike Shields, helped rebuild the GOP’s data infrastructure after the 2012 election.

Trump and DeSantis camps, ac-
cording to people familiar with
the situation. Parscale declined
but recommended Shields’s firm,
which was then hired to place
millions in television and digital
ads, filings show.
After the election, Florida state
party officials contacted Walsh
for fundraising help, and she
recommended her husband’s
firm, which was hired for a short-
term contract in 2019, according
to people familiar with the ar-
rangement. Shields said his firm
made only $4,000.
Meanwhile, McDaniel and her
staff pushed for Convergence to
be hired to make television ads
for the Senate campaign of Cindy
Hyde-Smith in Mississippi, said
people involved in the discus-
sions. Campaign officials resist-
ed, and some close to her cam-
paign were concerned about such
a specific request by the national
party at a time when Hyde-Smith
was seeking Trump’s endorse-
ment and RNC support, accord-
ing to the people.
“I know this is politics, but
there is still right and wrong,”
said one Republican operative
involved in the Mississippi cam-
paign who spoke on the condi-
tion of anonymity.
Brad White, Hyde-Smith’s
chief of staff, said that he remem-
bered the RNC request but that
he never considered it a threat to
the campaign to withhold re-
“I think it was all about, ‘We
want to make sure you have good
commercials,’ ” White said.
After Hyde-Smith qualified for
the runoff, the RNC transferred
$1 million to the National Repub-
lican Senatorial Committee
(NRSC) — along with a specific
request that the money be used to
hire Convergence to make ads for
the race, said three people famil-
iar with the conversations.
The Senate committee ulti-
mately paid Convergence
$229,500 for that race, in addi-
tion to $1.2 million for other races
and consulting, according to pub-
lic records.
“Convergence was honored to
be a trusted vendor for the NRSC
on winning races in North Dako-
ta, Tennessee and Mississippi,”
said Shields, who said the firm
netted about $41,000 for its Mis-
sissippi work.
A spokesman for McDaniel
said there was no tie between the
RNC’s support for Hyde-Smith
and the hiring of Convergence,
adding that the special election
was a “must-win race” for the

Alice Crites contributed to this report.

with the deal.
Public records do not indicate
who controls St. James. Simms
said that because the RNC was
hiring him individually, he set up
the separate company “for legal
and compliance reasons.”
Walsh told The Post that she
had no role in the RNC’s hiring of
Simms or Parscale.
An RNC spokesman said Walsh
had “no oversight or involve-
ment” in the vendor selection
“Katie and her years of experi-
ence at the RNC are an invaluable
asset to our team,” McDaniel said
in a statement. “Like all our
consultants, she provides advice
and makes recommendations,
some of which we take and some
of which we don’t. Ultimately, my
chief of staff and I make all of the
RNC’s investment decisions.”
McDaniel also recommended
Walsh as a fundraiser for the
RNC’s 2020 convention, accord-
ing to people familiar with the
situation, including Louis DeJoy,
the host committee’s national fi-
nance chair. DeJoy said McDaniel
was among many who recom-
mended Walsh.
Walsh has been paid $180,
for the convention work so far
through Red Strategy Group,
which is not listed under her
name but shares her phone num-
ber, as the Center for Public
Integrity first reported.

‘There is still right and
Shields, meanwhile, has taken
on a broad range of clients at
Convergence Media, the consult-
ing firm he and Simms began in
early 2017. Since then, it has been
hired by two major fundraising
committees for House Republi-
cans and independent groups
such as With Honor Fund, a super
PAC backed by Amazon chief
executive Jeff Bezos, filings show.
(Bezos owns The Washington
Some campaigns and candi-
dates have said they felt pressure
to hire Convergence to get access
to Trump’s list of supporters,
which was being rented in late
2018 through Excelsior Strate-
gies, a company set up by a
Convergence executive, accord-
ing to records and people famil-
iar with the situation. Shields
said the project helped GOP cam-
paigns nationwide raise money
and generated little revenue.
Meanwhile, Parscale and Mc-
Daniel urged GOP campaigns to
hire Convergence, according to
four people familiar with the
Among the clients was the
campaign of Florida gubernatori-
al candidate Ron DeSantis, which
first contacted Parscale to see
whether he could help at a time of
deep tensions between the

“We hired talented, experi-
enced, loyal people who were
committed to our mission, paid
them a fair market rate, and the
end result is two successful or-
ganizations, a winning record in
the midterms — and this crappy
article,” he said in a statement to
The Post.

The senior adviser role
In 2017, the RNC elected a new
chairwoman, McDaniel, a former
chair of the Michigan GOP and a
niece of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-
Utah), whom Katie Walsh had
recommended for the job, said
people familiar with her role.
That summer, Walsh became a
senior adviser for the party,
where she is involved in many
major decisions, former officials
As she has served in that role,

there has been consternation in-
side the party about RNC con-
tracts that have gone to her allies,
said former party officials.
“With Brad and Katie and Brad
and Mike, they so often come as a
package,” said a Republican oper-
ative familiar with their work,
who, like others, spoke on the
condition of anonymity to avoid
Months after Walsh rejoined
the RNC as a consultant, the
party began paying Parscale’s
firm to place its ads on digital
platforms, according to filings
and those familiar with the ar-
In all, the national party has
paid Parscale Strategy $25 mil-
lion since 2017, filings show. The
vast majority of the money was
passed along to buy ads, said
Parscale, who said his firm kept a
fee of 1.5 percent of the ad pur-
Parscale’s firm helped the RNC
purchase digital ads at a reduced
cost, RNC spokesman Mike Reed
said. That arrangement ended in
August amid scrutiny about how
much money was flowing to the
firm owned by the president’s
campaign manager. All RNC digi-
tal buys are now made directly
through host sites to “ensure
complete transparency,” Reed
The RNC also hired Shields’s
business partner, Simms, to con-
sult on House races in 2018,
paying him through St. James
Strategies, said people familiar

representatives. He was a point of
contact for the RNC, where he
had come aboard as a consultant.
He was gatekeeper for one of the
Trump campaign’s most valuable
assets: its data on supporters and
donors. And he took a central role
in helping to set up two groups
that could accept checks of un-
limited size to support Trump’s
“I was serving as an unofficial
agent for the Trump family,”
Parscale said.
Shields and Walsh guided him
along the way.
When it came to setting up the
two pro-Trump groups, America
First Action and America First
Policies, the couple advised the
hiring of their close friend and
colleague Brian O. Walsh (no
relation to Katie Walsh) as presi-
dent, said people familiar with
the recommendation. Parscale

passed the suggestion on to the
groups’ board, the people said.
The new groups, under Brian
O. Walsh, then hired the firms of
the three operatives.
In 2017, America First Pol-
icies paid Katie Walsh’s firm Lay-
mont Group $225,000 for fund-
raising, tax records show.
Walsh said in a statement that
she worked with America First
Policies because she thought “it
was critically important” to help
“fight the liberal media’s effort to
derail the President’s agenda.”
America First also paid Con-
vergence Media $25,000, records
show, along with nearly $2 mil-
lion to run ads, for which the
company retained a percentage
as a fee. Shields said the work was
done by Rob Simms, his business
partner, noting that their firm
was one of nearly 20 vendors the
group hired in 2018.
Parscale Strategy received
nearly $3 million from the two
groups, records show.
Once he became Trump’s 2020
campaign manager, Parscale was
not allowed to coordinate with
the independent groups. But a
separate company he owns, Red
State Data and Digital, which is
legally firewalled off from the
campaign, has continued to do
work for the super PAC, accord-
ing to filings and a person famil-
iar with the arrangement.
Brian O. Walsh, who had previ-
ously run the Congressional
Leadership Fund, said the trio
helped make the organizations

Walsh, Shields and Parscale
said their actions have been guid-
ed by a desire to help the party
and Trump succeed.
“I believe I am at the RNC due
to my experience as a former RNC
chief of staff when we elected
President Trump and because of
the trust that the chairwoman
and Brad have in me,” Walsh said.
Shields noted that he has
worked in politics for 25 years in
a variety of roles and helped to
build the party’s current data
program. “Change agents always
face detractors,” he said.
Less than three years after
coming to town, Parscale is now a
major player in Washington. GOP
political committees have paid
his companies $34 million since
2017, campaign filings show. Of
that, Parscale said he has re-
tained about $400,000 in fees,
while the rest went to ad purchas-
es and expenses.
To longtime GOP leaders, the
trio’s reach is emblematic of the
party’s overreliance on an elite
consultant class.
“A select few people benefit
from the way the system is cur-
rently run, and the sad part is, it
is allowed to exist,” said Michael
Steele, a former chairman of the
Republican National Committee.
The RNC declined to respond.

A referral business
The trio’s working relationship
began in 2016. When Trump be-
came the GOP nominee, Walsh,
then the RNC’s 31-year-old chief
of staff, helped Parscale develop
the campaign’s general-election
strategy, regularly spending four
days a week at Trump Tower in
New York.
In the 2018 midterms, Parscale
also came to lean on Shields, who
helped rebuild the party’s data
infrastructure after Mitt Romney
lost the 2012 presidential elec-
tion, said people familiar with
their relationship.
Walsh and Shields met
through their work in Republican
politics. She was a longtime party
fundraiser who became the top
staff member to then-RNC Chair-
man Reince Priebus. Shields pre-
ceded her in the same job after
holding senior roles at the Na-
tional Republican Congressional
Committee. He also led the Con-
gressional Leadership Fund, a
group supporting the House GOP.
They became engaged on New
Year’s Eve 2016 at 10 Downing
Street in London, as a result of his
connections in England, where
he lived as a child. Their wedding
in Charleston, S.C., the next year
was attended by the party’s upper
echelon, including Parscale.
At the time, Parscale — a one-
time San Antonio Web marketer
and Washington neophyte — was
handling several roles as one of
the new president’s most trusted

day after day, saying really smart
things to me all the time, saying,
‘Hey, Brad, you may think about
this,’ and they end up being
right,” Parscale said in an inter-
view. “It has nothing to do with
money. It was trust.”
Since 2017, three businesses
controlled by Walsh and Shields
— including two companies
formed after Trump’s election —
have collected $12.6 million from
GOP political committees and
politically active groups, accord-
ing to campaign filings and tax
records. The payments include
expenses for overhead, staff and
ad purchases on behalf of candi-
Their businesses have been
paid by almost every major arm
of the GOP, including the Repub-
lican National Committee, the
2020 convention host commit-
tee, the official pro-Trump super
PAC, the party’s House and Sen-
ate committees, and the party’s
designated data broker, accord-
ing to campaign filings and GOP
operatives familiar with the pay-
Walsh alone draws a monthly
$25,000 consulting fee from the
RNC, where she is a top adviser
to Chairman Ronna McDaniel —
totaling $300,000 a year. She has
made $180,000 so far as a fund-
raiser for the 2020 Republican
convention committee, records
show. Since 2018, she has been
paid more than $211,000 from a
fundraising committee run by
House Minority Leader Kev-
in McCarthy (R-Calif.), for which
her husband also works as a
senior consultant, records show.
Walsh has thrived despite a
rocky relationship with Trump.
In early 2017, she abruptly re-
signed from her job as White
House deputy chief of staff. The
president has complained about
her as a “leaker” or as disloyal,
current and former administra-
tion officials said. In a meeting at
the White House residence in
August, Trump asked McDaniel
about the work that Walsh is
doing for the party, according to
people familiar with the episode.
The White House declined to
Still, Walsh has won backers
among members of Trump’s in-
ner circle, some of whom con-
tacted The Washington Post, un-
prompted, with statements
praising her and Shields.
“Katie was one of the unsung
heroes of the 2016 campaign and
has been a great partner in work-
ing toward the President’s reelec-
tion in 2020,” said Jared Kushner,
the president’s son-in-law and
senior White House adviser.
McCarthy called Shields “one
of the most talented political
minds I know.”


Some GOP strategists voice concern about overreliance on a few operatives


The Trump administration has
sought repeatedly to cut foreign
aid programs tasked with com-
bating corruption in Ukraine and
elsewhere overseas, White House
budget documents show, despite
recent claims from President
Trump and his administration
that they have been singularly
concerned with fighting corrup-
tion in Ukraine.
Those claims have come as the
president and his administration
sought to explain away a July
phone call between Trump and
Ukrainian President Volodymyr
Zelensky, during which Trump
pressured his counterpart to open
investigations into Joe Biden and
his son Hunter, and into a de-
bunked conspiracy theory involv-
ing a hacked Democratic National
Committee computer server.
“I don’t care about politics, but
I do care about corruption. And
this whole thing is about corrup-
tion,” Trump told reporters earlier
this month when discussing the
Ukraine issue. “This whole thing
— this whole thing is about cor-

The phone call is central to the
impeachment inquiry by House
Democrats. The Democrats have
accused Trump of holding back a
congressionally approved mili-
tary aid package for Ukraine until
Zelensky publicly committed to
launching investigations into the
Bidens. On Tuesday, the senior
U.S. diplomat in Ukraine — acting
ambassador William B. Taylor Jr.
— told lawmakers that Trump
made the release of military aid to
Ukraine contingent on public dec-
larations that it would investigate
the Bidens and the 2016 election.
Trump, acting White House
chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and
other administration officials
have insisted repeatedly that their
goal in delaying the military aid
package to Ukraine was to ensure
corruption was addressed in that
country — not to produce political
benefit to Trump.
“There were two reasons that
we held up the aid. We talked
about this at some length. The
first one was the rampant corrup-
tion in Ukraine,” Mulvaney said
on “Fox News Sunday.” “Corrup-

tion is a big deal; everyone knows
it,” he said. (The second reason
was to ensure that other nations
contributed to Ukraine’s defense,
Mulvaney said.)
The administration’s professed
interest in fighting corruption in
Ukraine has not been reflected in
its annual budget requests to Con-
For example, the administra-
tion sought to cut a program
called International Narcotics
Control and Law Enforcement.
Among the goals of the program,
as described in White House
budget documents, is “helping
U.S. partners address threats to
U.S. interests by building resil-
ience and promoting reform in
the justice and law enforcement
sectors through support to new
institutions and specialized offic-
es, such as Ukraine’s National An-
ti-Corruption Bureau and Special
Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Of-
The program directs specific
sums of money to individual
countries. In 2019, $30 million
was directed to Ukraine, after
Congress rejected an administra-

tion request to cut the sum to
$13 million. In its 2020 budget
request, released in March, the
administration again sought to
cut the program’s spending on
Ukraine to $13 million. Congress
seems likely to once again reject
the proposed cut, although law-
makers have yet to agree on any
spending bills for the 2020 budget
year that began Oct. 1.
In another example, the admin-
istration sought to streamline a
number of overseas democracy
assistance and foreign aid ac-
counts under one larger umbrella
called the Economic Support and
Development Fund. The White
House believed that consolida-
tion would cut those programs by
more than $2 billion. This fund,
too, is aimed at fighting corrup-
tion in countries around the
world, among other goals, accord-
ing to White House budget docu-
ments. Spending in Ukraine for
the accounts in question was
$250 million in 2018; the White
House has asked for $145 million
in 2020 under the new iteration of
the program.
Democrats have alleged the

White House’s recent comments
on combating corruption aren’t
consistent with the administra-
tion’s track record.
“Numbers don’t lie,” Senate Mi-
nority Leader Charles E. Schumer
(D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “It’s
even more clear now that Presi-
dent Trump is not the anti-cor-
ruption crusader he claims to be.
The House impeachment inquiry
must continue unimpeded so all
the facts can come out.”
The Trump White House has
routinely pursued deep cuts to
foreign aid in its budget propos-
als, only to be rebuffed by Con-
gress. The proposed cuts to anti-
corruption programs were a by-
product of the administration’s
larger goals of cutting the budgets
of the State Department and U.S.
Agency for International Devel-
opment and were not specifically
targeted, according to the White
House Office of Management and
“The president has consistent-
ly sought across-the-board cuts to
foreign aid, and has proposed
more cuts in his budgets than any
other president in history,” said

Rachel Semmel, spokeswoman
for the Office of Management and
Budget. “He has also strongly en-
couraged other countries to con-
tribute their own efforts and re-
sources to their defense and re-
form efforts.”
Nonetheless, the cuts to anti-
corruption aid stand in contrast
to recent claims from administra-
tion officials and the president
himself about being focused on
corruption in Ukraine, raising the
question of why the White House
has not sought a larger budgetary
commitment to addressing the
issue. Democrats have largely dis-
missed the White House’s insis-
tence that Trump was focused on
corruption, but White House offi-
cials continue to say it was a
primary reason the military aid
was held up.
“This is about corruption, and
this is not about politics,” Trump
said. “This is about corruption.
And if you look and you read our
Constitution and many other
things, we — I have an obligation
to look at corruption. I have an
actual obligation and a duty.”

White House sought to slash anti-corruption aid to Ukraine, other nations


“Who else do I trust more than myself? The two

people that I saw day after day, saying

really smart things to me all the time.”
Brad Parscale, President Trump’s 2020 campaign manager,
about Katie Walsh and Mike Shields
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