On Sept. 12, 2017, a political committee linked to a chain of Pizza Hut and Taco Bell franchises contributed a maximum $2,700 to the campaign of Omar Navarro, a California Republican making a long-shot bid against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).
According to filings from the Federal Election Commission, it is the only corporate PAC contribution that Navarro has received this cycle. What makes the donation odder though is that the QSR Leaders Political Action Committee isn’t based in the Los Angeles district where Navarro is running. It isn’t even based in California. Instead, the group is linked to fast-food franchises in Florida and Georgia, some 2,500 miles away.
Southeast QSR Holdings, the chain of fast-food franchises linked to the PAC, did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.
But there is a readily available explanation for why it would give to a candidate so far away and with such high odds stacked against him. Navarro has become a cause celebre for some of the biggest political names in the Trump orbit—a motley nexus of political celebrities, renowned conspiracy theorists, and anti-immigrant zealots. His backers include former presidential candidate Herman Cain, previous Trump adviser and friend Roger Stone, and former member of the Pussycat Dolls Kaya Jones. He has gotten exposure and support from InfoWars, for which he once reported. And most recently, he has fundraised with disgraced-turned-pardoned Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Why all these figures have flocked to Navarro is not entirely clear. A 28-year-old resident of Torrance, California, Navarro hasn’t held elected office before. But not for lack of trying. He ran against Waters in 2016, only to lose by more than 50 points—a blistering defeat that he spun into a positive, proclaiming that he had won “an outstanding 25%!” of the vote in a predominantly Democratic district.
What seems to be his biggest draw is that he is, simply, there… in L.A… running against Waters, the bete noire of the Trumpites, who has called repeatedly for the president’s impeachment and openly questioned his sanity.
“You’ve got the old, horrible, senile, entrenched, crazy lady, vs. a real American,” as InfoWar’s Alex Jones put it during an interview segment with Navarro in May. “Throw her ass out!”
Navarro presents himself as a Hispanic Donald Trump, from the dark suits and bold color ties he wears, to his projection as an outsider. Congress, as he tells it, is a “dysfunctional mess,” typified by the ultimate liberal insider that is Waters. He even has some Trumpian-like personal drama. Navarro is reportedly on probation for a criminal conviction stemming from his use of a tracking device on his wife’s car on Valentine’s Day. He said he had “no idea” such devices were illegal.
But in order to gain traction in an uphill race, a candidate can’t just run on Trump coattails; certainly not in Los Angeles. They need money. And Navarro has it. From January through September, he has raised $110,000 (Waters has raised $228,000 during the same period).
On Thursday night, he raised some more, holding a fundraiser at the Trump National Golf Course in Rancho Palos Verdes—his second event at the club, to which he’s paid $7,800, along with about $600 for a pair of stays at the Trump Hotel in Las Vegas. To headline Thursday’s event, the Navarro campaign brought together former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, alongside a reality television contestant and a fake millennial clean comic for an evening of jokes, political speeches and—as any good fundraising features—an interpretative play.
The night’s proceedings, with an entrance fee of $125 ($250 for access to a private party), began with a set from 56-year-old comedian Dan Nainan, who previously masqueraded as a 35-year-old millennial. After urging the sparse crowd to take their seats, Nainan began with a joke about a terrorist bombing in New York City last year.
“I live in New York City,” Nainan said as people still shuffled around and spoke in the crowd. “I live, folks, on the corner of 23rd street and 6th avenue. Does anyone know what happened there a year ago?”
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The crowd remained mostly silent except for one person who said Nainan owed him “$20 bucks for that thing.”
“No, there was a bomb in a dumpster on my corner,” Nainan said referring to the bombing which injured dozens of people. “There was a bomb in a dumpster on my corner. September 17, last year. Although, I heard a rumor it wasn’t a bomb, it was somebody trying to charge a Samsung Galaxy Note 7.”
There were groans.
The “world’s only half-Indian, half-Japanese comedian” went on for a few more minutes before leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Nearly an hour later, Arpaio, the night’s guest of honor, was introduced by Navarro himself.
“He’s pretty strong, he’s got some guts,” Arpaio said referring to Navarro. Arpaio went on to praise Trump before going on a rambling diatribe about standing for the National Anthem.
“When this football guy, the guy in San Francisco, Ka-nap-rick, whatever his name is,” Arpaio said drawing laughs from the crowd. “The minute he did that, unfortunately we have about 200 veterans in jail, all different kinds of crime, I treat them a little bit different. When he was kneeling that guy, our veterans who were in jail, for violating the laws, they still stood up for our national anthem.”
Arpaio went on to say that all the “ball players” who kneel during the anthem should be fired and that President Trump was right to say so. He then told the crowd that he framed President Trump’s pardon.
The event ended with a play in which a reenactor pretended to be Maxine Waters and others wearing signs reading “Antifa” “ISIS” and “CNN” pretended to beat up singer Joy Villa as she said “freedom of speech” repeatedly.
Navarro then reappeared and resurrected her from the dead subsequently pulling the hair off of the Waters impersonator.
Not to be outdone by the lavish production that took place, Nainan returned to the stage and tried selling his CDs and DVDs for a reduced combined price of $20, promising that if the audience purchased them he’ll contribute that money to Navarro’s campaign.
It is unclear how much Navarro raised for the event and he did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast by press time. It’s also unclear how many CDs Nainan sold since he too did not return request for comment.
—with additional reporting by Lachlan Markay.