Necessary Roughness

A Roy Moore Super PAC Financed by a Mysterious Donor Is Fundraising Off Trump’s NFL Smackdown

Robert San Luis is a little-known trailer-park developer with ties to the Mercer family. He’s also financing a formidable super PAC for the likely primary winner.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

A super PAC working to unseat Alabama’s Republican senator is using the recent controversy over the NFL’s national anthem protests to gin up support for former state supreme court judge Roy Moore. And it’s relying on a little-known donor with ties to President Donald Trump’s billionaire backers to finance an ad campaign on the issue.

The Solution Fund PAC began blasted out emails over the weekend highlighting President Donald Trump’s attacks on NFL players who have kneeled during the singing of the anthem in protest of police treatment of black Americans. The emails go on to promote Moore’s campaign by encouraging voters to do to Strange what Trump has done to the protesting players.

“Trump: ‘Tell that son of a bitch he’s fired,’” read the subject line of a Sunday fundraising email from the Solution Fund. “That’s what Trump said NFL team owners should tell every NFL player who refuses to stand for the national anthem. That’s also what we conservatives should tell every squishy senator—first Arlen Specter, then John McCain, now Luther Strange—endorsed by Mitch McConnell in a GOP primary.”

The group’s use of the controversy appears to be the first time it has surfaced in a campaign-fundraising ask. And it highlights the perceived potency of the issue among Trump’s voting base, whom Moore has tried to court.

The Solution Fund has been a quiet player in the Alabama race, but its expenditures rival those of more established pro-Moore groups. And for that, the group has but one person to thank.

Virtually all of the Solution Fund’s expenditures have been routed through a mysterious California digital vendor tied to the group’s chief financier—a Filipino-American businessman named Robert San Luis, whose involvement in insurgent conservative campaigns, alongside major pro-Trump donor Robert Mercer, has been both substantial and largely unnoticed.

The Solution Fund is a project of Louisiana Republican operative John Mathis, who in August loaned the group $50,000. But the bulk of its money has come from San Luis, the group’s treasurer, who donated $100,000 the same month.

Those funds have financed a series of television, radio, and digital expenditures supporting Moore and attacking Strange. Virtually all of them have been paid to a California company listed on Federal Election Commission filings as Digital Victory. That may be a misstatement, however. San Luis owns a company called Digital Triumph, which lists the same address in incorporation records—a UPS Store mailbox in Newport Beach, California—to which the Solutions Fund sent its payments for independent expenditures.

Those independent expenditures have totaled more than $120,000 since last month, FEC records show. And all but roughly $12,000 of that total has gone to San Luis’s company.

San Luis, who did not respond to a request for comment, is a conspicuous funder of such efforts given his relatively low political profile. The Filipino-American businessman runs the Excalibur Fund, a California-based company headquartered at the same address as Digital Triumph. The fund invests in mobile-home real-estate developments and markets its services as alternative retirement-fund investments.

San Luis has made few other political contributions. FEC records show donations to just one other group: Warrior PAC, a Mathis-run super PAC backing the failed 2016 Louisiana Senate candidacy of Republican Rob Maness, a retired Air Force colonel. San Luis was also that group’s treasurer, according to FEC disclosures, and news reports identified him as the group’s director. Its listed address was the same UPS Store mailbox identified with the Solution Fund and Digital Triumph.

San Luis personally contributed $70,000 to Warrior PAC, making him the second largest donor behind Robert Mercer, the billionaire hedge-fund manager who has financed the campaigns of Trump and some of his actual or potential congressional allies.

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Like the Solutions Fund, Warrior PAC sent many of its independent expenditures to San Luis’s company, which it accurately itemized as Digital Triumph. All but three of the group’s reported independent expenditures were routed through San Luis’s company, which resulted in payments to the firm of more than $260,000. Warrior PAC steered an additional $480,000 to Cambridge Analytica, the political data firm run by the Mercer family, which backed Maness in his unsuccessful primary bid.

In communications about the Maness race, San Luis, who also served as a spokesperson for the group, played up his ties to the president. Maness “is the only true constitutional conservative in the race and he is the only candidate who never backed off his support of Donald Trump,” he said days before the 2016 election.

This time around, he and Mathis are doing the same for Moore, despite Trump’s endorsement Strange.

“You know, Alabama loves you, Donald Trump,” Mathis said in a video posted to the Solution Fund’s website last week. “And team Donald Trump Alabama is always gonna do what’s right for you.”