The Original Donald Trump Super PAC Just Announced a Curious Reimbursement
The Make America Great Again PAC recently announced that it had refunded a years-old donation from a Florida real-estate developer.
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About two weeks after super PAC Make America Great Again was formed in June 2015, it got its biggest cash infusion of the cycle: a cool million from Vegas casino magnate Phil Ruffin. But by October, scrutiny of the PAC proved too much to bear. Trump was running on a platform that explicitly eschewed big-money backers, and the campaign was having trouble explaining its many links to the super PAC’s donors (including Jared Kushner’s mother) and executives (the group was run by a Trump campaign vendor).
Finding itself under a microscope and publicly shunned by the Trump campaign, Make America Great Again ceased operations less than six months later, with more than $157,000 still in the bank, according to Federal Election Commission filings. But when the group filed its first FEC report of 2016, it reported a negative cash balance of about $3,500. The FEC has tried ever since to get the group to say what it did with the $160,000 difference.
In mid-2016, Make America Great Again tried to terminate its registration with the FEC. But the commission wouldn’t let it fold until it revealed what happened to all that cash. The PAC then amended its termination report to say that, actually, its cash on hand was about $154,000. Then it stopped filing FEC reports. The committee went dark until January 2017, when it filed pre- and post-general election reports disclosing a cash balance of less than $50,000. The reports said it had disbursed about $110,000 between March and October of 2016, but contained none of the required details on how that money was spent.
The FEC, and the public, had no idea where the cash went until Wednesday, when Make America Great Again quietly amended a 2016 quarterly FEC filing to note a very conspicuous transaction. The PAC now says that it refunded $50,000 to one of its donors, Florida real-estate developer Michael Dezertzov (who also goes by Michael Dezer). Dezertzov has partnered with Trump on a number of high-profile real-estate projects, and made bank selling Trump condos to, among others, wealthy Russian buyers.
The refund of Dezertzov’s contribution came on Aug. 18, 2016, according to Make America Great Again’s amended FEC filing. The next day, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort resigned under scrutiny of his own business dealings with wealthy Russian businessmen.
We still don’t know what Make America Great Again did with the remaining $60,000 that disappeared from its balance sheets.