Earlier this month in “GOP Leaders, Tech Execs Plot Against Trump At Secret NeoCon Island Meeting,” we discussed the American Enterprise Institute’s annual World Forum, an event held on Sea Island, Georgia.
It’s a notoriously secretive affair and is off limits to the press. “We can’t even get a snow update,” Bloomberg joked last year.
At this year’s gathering the main topic, according to Huff Post, was “how to stop Donald Trump.” Attendees included Tim Cook, Larry Page, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and even Karl Rove himself who reportedly gave a presentation outlining what he says are Trump's weaknesses.
The AEI confab amounts to more evidence that establishment conservatives are getting very, very worried about what they see as an existential threat to the Republican party. As we and others have written, a Trump nomination would be devastating for the GOP. That’s why the party is hard at work behind the scenes crafting a plan to effectively steal the nomination from Trump at the convention in July (see here, here, and here for more).
Thanks to FEC filings out Sunday we discover still more evidence that conspiracies to “stop Trump” are proliferating.
“A trio of conservative groups not affiliated with any candidate has spent about $28 million against [Trump], mostly on negative ads that aired in the past few weeks,” Bloomberg writes, adding that “so far, the effort has failed to dent his popularity.”
Among those who have contributed: Warren Stephens and his brother, Jackson "Steve" Stephens Jr., Paul Singer, and the Ricketts family. Here’s more:
Warren Stephens and his brother, Jackson "Steve" Stephens Jr., gave a total of $3.5 million last month to two of these groups, according to filings Sunday with the Federal Elections Commission, on top of $500,000 last year.
The filings show only one other family, the Ricketts clan of Omaha, Nebraska, that's a bigger funder of the stop-Trump campaign, having given $5 million since January. Other backers of the effort revealed in the filings were Paul Singer, the New York hedge-fund manager, who gave $1 million; and William Oberndorf, a San Francisco investor, who gave $500,000.
During the current race, Stephens has handed out total of $300,000 to super-PACs supporting Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Chris Christie, all of whom have since dropped out.
Most of the Stephens' giving in recent years has been to a super-PAC run by Club for Growth, a powerful conservative group that pushes for limited government and lower taxes, and which has been one of the biggest spenders against Trump.
None of this is lost on Trump.
I hear the Rickets family, who own the Chicago Cubs, are secretly spending $'s against me. They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2016
"Sometimes I just can't comment other than, I have an active family who cares deeply about our country," Pete Ricketts said in February. "My family is very politically active on both sides of the aisle and so we have folks that get involved in different things. I'm not involved with what everyone's doing."
"Our Principles PAC, a group set up to highlight Mr. Trump’s past liberal positions, took in $4.8 million last month, with a roster of donors that shows it has significantly expanded beyond the Ricketts family, which provided the group’s early funding," The New York Times wrote late Sunday night in a piece that carries the snarky title "Donald Trump Is Finally Uniting Top Republican Donors." Here's a bit more color from The Times:
Mr. Stephens and his brother also gave $2.5 million last month to a super PAC connected to the Club for Growth, a free-market activist group that was one of the first outside organizations to take on Mr. Trump. All told, the group, whose members met last week to discuss how to escalate their efforts against Mr. Trump, raised $4 million in February, three times as much as it had raised any other month this election cycle.
Richard Uihlein, an Illinois shipping-supplies manufacturer and conservative activist, who backed Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign last year, gave the Club for Growth $500,000. Several other donors with ties to Republican also-rans gave large contributions as well, including Richard Gaby, who gave $50,000 to a super PAC backing former Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and Robert Arnott, a California-based investor who has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into groups backing Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
In January, the group also raised $100,000 checks from other prominent donors allied with Mr. Trump’s rivals, among them Robert Mercer, a longtime Club for Growth donor who is backing Mr. Cruz.
Some of the new money is coming from donors to the political network led by Charles G. and David H. Koch. Their network, the biggest and deepest-pocketed independent political force in the conservative world, has for months weighed intervening in the Republican primary against Mr. Trump.
And here's the February breakdown for Our Principles (you can find the latest monthly Club For Growth filing here):
Make no mistake, this is money wasted. Plain and simple. As we've said repeatedly, you can't beat Trump with negative ads. He's a walking negative ad - for himself. We're talking about a candidate who, when asked about John McCain, said the following: "I like people who weren't captured." You couldn't dream up something more negative if you tried.
And that's the whole point. Trump is gaffe proof. It doesn't matter what you say about him. There's nothing a bunch of stuffy establishment conservatives can say about Trump that has any chance of reflecting more poorly on his character than do the things that come out of his own mouth each and every time he takes the stage!
That's the genius of Trump - and don't think he doesn't realize it.
Why there doesn't seem to be a single political commentator or strategist anywhere in America who gets that is beyond us.
To beat Trump, you need to figure out how to tap into the same anger and yes, in some cases the same perceived narrow-mindedness, of his support base and you need to give them an alternative that addresses their concerns without resorting to the same type of bombastic rhetoric that so alarms the frontrunner's detractors.
Like it or not, Trump's support base are voters. They're also Americans. It's more important to understand what they want and why than it is to disparage the man they think should lead the country. Until someone in the GOP figures that out, the party won't stand a chance of stopping Trump.