Three polling firms were hired by a dark money group that has close ties to President Donald Trump and were previously used to produce polls and analysis related to the administration, which has sparked questions as to whether there is a possible coordination between the group and the White House.
CNBC reports that America First Policies, a nonprofit organization classified as a “social welfare organization” by the IRS, has hired three top Trump-connected polling firms to produce polls, policy reports and analysis, all while hiring former members of the Trump campaign, including former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and spokeswoman Katrina Pierson.
This kind of groups are allowed to maintain their donors secret as long as the majority of the group projects are not related to politics and the group is not coordinating with candidates.
However, Lewandowski, who is the senior adviser to the group had a meeting with President Trump at the White House before the president gave his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week.
“Our primary purpose has to be issue related, but that doesn’t mean we can’t throw in questions that are news related or political [in our polling],” Erin Montgomery, the group’s communications director, told CNBC. “We share our polling with lots of outside groups and elected officials, and we put all of them up online. I don’t know if this information is ever shared with the White House. Anyone can see it,” Montgomery added.
Meanwhile, Trump declared earlier this week that Brad Parscale who is a founding member of the group is going to lead his 2020 reelection campaign. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Parscale was head of Trump’s digital operation.
The group’s executive director Brian Walsh told CNBC that the group operates with “high walls and clear lines between itself and the White House and Republican National Committee (RNC),” adding that “in the old world [of political polling], things were kept secret. In the new world, you make everything public.”
The Hill reports that according to critics the group is performing work typically done by national political parties or campaigns, and is not operating with clear enough distinction from those organizations while enjoying the benefits of a secretive donor list.
“AFP is doing the type of polling that would typically be done by a presidential campaign or a major party committee like the RNC or the DNC,” said Brendan Fischer of the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center. “So even though they claim to be committed to a set of issues, the available evidence here indicates that they’re operating as a polling shop for the president.”