Last year, the Republican National Convention began cutting checks to a former producer of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice who was accused of having, as one contestant put it, “all the dirt” on Donald Trump.
From August 2019 through May 2020, the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Convention made a dozen payments totaling more than $66,000 to Labella Worldwide, Inc. for “production consulting services.” The firm is run by Chuck Labella, a former NBC executive and the talent producer who worked on Donald Trump’s famous reality show.
Labella is not just a former Apprentice bigwig. According to actor Tom Arnold, who was a contestant on the show and has since become a vociferous Trump critic, Labella was in possession of Trump’s ostensibly salacious—and, in political and media circles, long-sought—behind-the-scenes Apprentice outtakes. "Chuck LaBella was there and knows all,” Arnold said.
Arnold’s accusations are often brushed aside by Trumpworld as conspiracy-mongering. But the charges he leveled were reportedly serious enough that Trump’s then personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, helped situate Labella with a close attorney, Keith Davidson, in late 2017. Davidson’s name became prominent for his representation of another Trump-adjacent personality: porn star Stormy Daniels, for whom he helped arrange hush money payments in order to maintain her silence about her alleged affair with Trump. Davidson did not return a request for comment.
The Republican convention committee’s disbursements to Labella’s firm appear to be the first payments ever made by a federal political committee to either Labella personally or his company. But a Republican National Committee spokesperson described his role for the convention as that of a standard event producer.
“Chuck LaBella is consulting on a variety of efforts for convention, including talent, production, stage design, and media consulting,” said RNC national press secretary Mandi Merritt. “It’s incredibly common for large scale events such as these to receive consulting from those with backgrounds in the entertainment industry and to suggest anything other than that is not only flat on wrong, but offensive and misleading.”
An RNC official stressed that it was common for political convention planners to contract with sources from the entertainment world, noting that the Democratic National Committee had “re-hired Ricky Kirschner (sic) as executive producer for its convention.”
Kirshner has produced every Democratic Party convention since 1992 in addition to Super Bowl halftime shows and the Tony Awards. An archived version of Labella’s website, which was replaced with a “coming soon” placeholder page in the past week, says that he is currently consulting for two network television shows: Fox’s The Masked Singer and ABC’s Holey Moley. The page also includes testimonials from celebs including Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, who hails Labella as “the real deal and an absolute professional,” and HBO talk show host Bill Maher, who says he considers him “a friend and ally in this town.”
A spokesperson for Labella did not respond to questions about his work for the convention, and whether it had anything to do with his past role with NBC.
California records say that Labella Worldwide, Inc was incorporated in 2017. His IMDB page lists him as a producer on The Apprentice through 2013. He also worked on the Miss Universe Pageant and was reportedly in Moscow with Trump for the 2013 event there. In March 2017, The Wrap reported that he amicably parted ways with NBC. It’s unclear what he did between then and his stint with Holey Moley in 2019.
With reporting by Lachlan Cartwright