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God told attendees of a political fundraising event at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last month that the president is, indeed, draining the swamp.
The message was enthusiastically passed on by an evangelical pastor attending the lavish late November gathering for the American Pro-Israel PAC, a new pro-Trump political group courting donors with an assist from the president himself.
“The first thing He had me say is ‘Moses is dead,’” Pastor Curt Landry recalled telling attendees in a YouTube video posted last week. “What that means to us is that the swamp is dead. The way of doing things in the old way, in the swamp, the swamp is dead.”
But if the swamp was dead, those at the event, who paid as much as $100,000 to attend, seemed to be pouring a new one. The group they were there to support is a project of a Texas minister who claims—dubiously—to be an official White House surrogate, and is advised by a political operative and one-time Roger Stone associate who was subpoenaed by special counsel Robert Mueller this year.
For their five- and six-figure contributions, attendees of the Mar-a-Lago event not only mingled with marginally prominent figures in Trumpworld—including Pastor Paula White and MyPillow founder Michael Lindell—they got a visit from the president himself. Landry recounted the event to his congregation in Oklahoma a few days later, saying that Trump stopped by to thank attendees for supporting the group.
“After we finished, we were blessed to have President Donald Trump come in and give a greeting to the PAC, to thank everyone that was there, to bless them, and to thank them for the PAC,” Landry recalled. “He was very happy to have everyone there.”
The American Pro-Israel PAC hasn’t done much in the way of actual politicking. It was formed in September to back candidates who support Israel, and remained dormant until its fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago. The group has reported paying the president’s West Palm Beach club nearly $40,000, about half of all of its reported expenditures so far.
The PAC’s chairman is Ramiro Peña, a pastor from Waco, Texas, who is claimed on the group’s website to be “an official surrogate of the White House” and “one of President Trump’s personal prayer leaders in the Oval Office.”
Peña was one of 16 faith leaders to attend a September 2017 event at the White House honoring victims of Hurricane Harvey. But his claims to be an “official” White House surrogate appear suspect. An actual surrogate who speaks regularly with the president and a former senior White House official both told PAY DIRT that they’ve never heard of Peña.
The American Pro-Israel PAC’s lead strategist is a consultant named Jason Sullivan, who describes himself as “an outcomes-driven political strategist who focuses on getting results and moving the needle for his clients.” He doesn’t appear to have achieved such a positive outcome for his newest client. The American Pro-Israel PAC sent its first tweet on Oct. 12; less than two months later, its Twitter account was suspended.
Sullivan was recruited by former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone to work with a pro-Trump political group, the Committee to Restore America’s Greatness, in 2016. In May of this year, Sullivan was subpoenaed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team as part of its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Sullivan is now marketing social-media fundraising and marketing products through the company Cyphoon, which charges between $500 and $2,500 per month for its services.
On his website, he proudly boasts that he was “hired as Chief Social Media Strategist to Roger J. Stone Jr.” Asked about Sullivan’s new super PAC, Stone told PAY DIRT, “if Jason Sullivan is involved, it’s probably a scam.”
Neither Peña nor Sullivan responded to requests for comment on their new PAC and their past associations with the White House and the pro-Trump political apparatus.
The event underscored the degree to which Trump-owned properties remain prime destinations for political groups supportive of the president, who can still profit from his private businesses. But it also underscores a shift in the nature of events at those properties, from more standard charities—many of which have withdrawn their patronage since Trump took office—to organizations explicitly supportive of the president and his agenda.
For Landry, who recalled in the same YouTube clip seeing Ivanka and Barron Trump at the resort, surrounded by security, the setting also underscored the president’s sacrifices in ascending to the most powerful political post in the world.
“I thank the Lord that they’re answering the call,” he said of the Trump family. “So please keep them in your prayers because this is not an easy life for them.”
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