Michael Avenatti, the firebrand attorney who has risen to fame representing adult film star Stormy Daniels, is taking steps to prepare for a possible 2020 presidential run.
A new filing with the Federal Election Commission shows that Avenatti’s political action committee, “Fight PAC,” made a series of expenditures toward the end of September, to set up a more robust fundraising and social media push in the months ahead.
Fight PAC paid $4,500 to Break Something, a Washington, D.C.-based firm for Facebook advertising. It also paid $1,000 to NGP VAN, Inc, a voter database used by the Democratic Party that, according to a source, Avenatti plans to use as a database for PAC fundraising and contacts. Additionally, the group made payments to Adam Parkhomenko, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton, for a food and transportation reimbursement worth $1,491.37, and a reimbursement payment of $342.52 to the TRR Group LLC.
TRR Group is a firm run by both Parkhomenko and Virginia-based political strategist Ben Tribbett. In an email to The Daily Beast, Tribbett noted that the money it received was for a FedEx reimbursement. But, he added, TRR Group had also “built out his website for the PAC,” for which it would be paid in the next filing.
Tribbett said that the group did not have an “ongoing contract” with Fight PAC. But in a brief phone interview with The Daily Beast, Avenatti stressed that his expenditures and exploratory travel would only ramp up in the weeks and months ahead, with stops planned for Texas, California, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, along with longer-term plans to visit Iowa, Ohio, and Nevada.
“This idea that this is a superficial thing is ludicrous,” Avenatti said. “It is so ridiculous. I don’t need to engage in a superficial exploration of a potential run. Why would I need to do that? I don’t need any more notoriety. Why would I be wanting to take my time and energy traveling the country to raise money for Democrats if this was superficial?”
Though Fight PAC had raised a relatively small $11,907.98 so far, Avenatti said that fundraising was “coming along pretty well.” He had not hired anyone permanently for his committee. But, he added, “I’m consulting with a number of people.”
According to a Democrat directly familiar with the PAC’s work, Avenatti has begun “solidifying consultants” in advance of a possible run. That includes Tracy Austin, a fundraising consultant in Los Angeles, and Stephen Solomon of Break Something to run a digital program.
Parkhomenko himself has recently been accompanying Avenatti on the road at times, as the Los Angeles-based lawyer (and cable news fixture) has gone around boosting Democrats throughout the country and raising his own political profile.
“I think the bubble that is the Acela corridor is quick to attack and dismiss Michael because he has a different approach that is very effective,” Parkhomenko told The Daily Beast. “At the same time, all those individuals do, primarily not on the record, is lower expectations, which Michael surpasses each and every single day on the ground in the states where any of this actually matters.”
Earlier this summer, Bloomberg News reported that Avenatti had been introduced to Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire by Clinton’s former Iowa state director Matt Paul and New Hampshire Democratic party chairman Ray Buckley, respectively. Additionally, the outlet reported that Parkhomenko, the former co-founder of Ready for Hillary, helped connect Avenatti with reporters at a Chicago meeting of the Democratic National Committee.
In his relatively brief time on the national scene, Avenatti has become a divisive figure among Democrats, with some in the party appreciating his bombastic nature but others expressing reservations that his meddling in high-profile political battles has hurt more than helped. Namely, Senate Democrats expressed concern about the way in which Avenatti aired allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh during the confirmation fight. Senate Republicans invoked Avenatti’s name as they alleged a collaborative Democratic scheme to smear the since confirmed justice.
Even his PAC, in its early stages, has been the subject of some backlash as Avenatti recently tweeted a fundraising appeal for Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s (D-TX) Senate campaign that, in fact, directed half the contributed money to Fight PAC.