Donald Trump’s Super Secret Policy Ghostwriter
Last fall Donald Trump decided he needed to get serious about vets and taxes, so he hired a well-known, well-hidden policy expert to craft his proposals.
In the fall of 2015, Donald Trump had an early attempt at reinvention, releasing a series of tax and veterans administration proposals with the intention of adding some policy substance to the businessman’s rhetoric.
It was one Trump’s first attempts to transition from entertainer to candidate—a common narrative that has failed to last more than a day or two. In fact, there have been so many reinventions—on so many topics—that it’s hard to know what version of Trump we’re on.
But he has established a pattern: as much as he derides the Washington establishment, if he sees that a reinvention is needed, he’ll find an insider to help him do it. This was the case with the recent hires of longtime D.C. lobbyist Paul Manafort and former Republican National Committee political director Rick Wiley.
The veterans and tax plan were no different.
Initially, it was a mystery who wrote the plans that Trump had put out—the only hint was a $82,000 charge for in policy consulting work listed in Trump’s campaign filings with the Federal Election Commission under the name ‘JBC Research, LLC,’—payments which started in the fall and ended in December 2015.
The author, it turns out, is one of the best-known policy and opposition researchers in D.C.
The company has not been associated with any other federal campaigns, and there is nothing specific about it online. The only indication of who JBC Research might be affiliated with was the address listed on the Trump campaign’s filing: the eighth floor of a building just south of Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C.
If you go to the front desk and asks for JBC Research, you’ll be directed to the offices for Delve, a recently-formed opposition research firm founded by GOP operative Jeff Berkowitz, a veteran of the Republican National Committee, the State Department and the George W. Bush White House—not exactly the first person you’d expect to be involved in the Trump campaign.
Berkowitz, according to his LinkedIn page, specializes in “competitive intelligence and opposition research for companies, campaigns and causes.” He worked on a presidential campaign for Rudy Giuliani, who is supporting Trump. He is a longtime activist for conservative and Republican causes stretching back to the 1990s.
But nowhere online or in his LinkedIn page is ‘JBC Research’ listed.
JBC Research is an entity separate from Delve that focuses only on policy work, Berkowitz told The Daily Beast, and JBC Research did not do any opposition research for the Trump campaign.
“Last summer, a mutual associate familiar with our policy analysis capabilities asked us to assist in developing policy papers connecting the campaign’s vision with tried and true conservative policy proposals on tax reform, economic growth, and support for our veterans,” Berkowitz said. “We’re happy to have assisted in developing these specific proposals, as we have done for any number of center-right campaigns and clients.”
Their work for the Trump campaign finished in October, with payments through December 2015—and no further work was done or requested, Berkowitz said.
This week Trump is trying yet another reinvention, with a series of speeches intended to demonstrate his intellectual fitness for office, starting with a foreign policy talk Wednesday. That’s an attempt to reboot after he announced a roster of foreign policy advisers in March who were mostly unknown in national security circles—including one who listed the questionable credential of participating in a model United National conference on his LinkedIn page.
Odds are that he’ll have paid for, and will do his best Wednesday to sound like, the Beltway experts he so often likes to bash—at least when he’s not paying to tap their ideas.
—Brandy Zadrozny contributed reporting to this article.