Blue chip clients cut ties last month with the lobbying firm run by Trump confidant Matt Schlapp over his caustic comments about Black Lives Matter protests. But Schlapp’s firm also began drawing consulting in June fees from a notable client: the president of the United States.
Trump’s reelection campaign paid Cove Strategies, the lobbying and public affairs shop run by Schlapp and his wife, senior campaign comms aide Mercedes Schlapp, $43,567 for communications consulting in June, according to a Federal Election Commission filing on Monday. It was the first time the Trump campaign had paid Cove Strategies, and the first payment the firm has received from any federal political committee since 2012, when it got less than $300 from the political arm of the American Conservative Union, the nonprofit that Schlapp chairs.
The payment to Cove last month appeared to replace regular monthly consulting payments directly to Mercedes Schlapp. But the change was nonetheless notable: She had previously been compensated individually, and the sum paid to Cove in June was nearly three times her regular monthly compensation since she joined the campaign last year.
Matt Schalpp recently appeared on one of the in-house quasi-news shows produced by the Trump campaign itself. He co-hosted the program, titled “Faith in America,” with his wife.
"It should come as no surprise that Mercedes Schlapp is a strategic communications advisor for the President's reelection as she appears in media frequently," Schlapp said in a statement to The Daily Beast. "The FEC filings reflect her work in helping to manage these services for the campaign."
Schlapp added he "remains a resolute volunteer and advocate for the President's reelection."
"Cove Strategies continues to provide a variety of services to a wide variety of clients," he said. "We are gratified for all the kind comments of support we have received during a time in American politics when personal twitter accounts are used in an attempt to destroy those who have a contrary point of view."
The Trump campaign payment to Cove came about a week before Schlapp’s lobbying clients began dropping his firm over comments about nationwide protests against racism and police violence. “All lives matter including the dozen or so killed due to fanning these flames for political ‘gain,’” he said in one tweet. The BLM movement, he said in another, “is hostile to families, capitalism, cops, unborn life and gender.”
The comments sparked an exodus of business, with big-name clients Verizon, Comcast, and Abbott Laboratories all publicly saying they would cut ties with Cove Strategies as a result. Schlapp characterized their decisions to drop his firm as acquiescence to left-wing cancel culture.
“Why does the American left demand that all opposing views be silenced?” he tweeted last month, shortly before the publication of a story on Verizon’s decision to part with his firm. “Why do people think they can control what a Trump supporter does or says? The silent Trump support will be off the charts in November.”
Lobbying disclosure filings on Monday revealed that a fourth client also terminated its relationship with the firm prior to Schlapp’s BLM comments. On April 1, the Seasonal Employment Alliance, a trade group representing businesses that employ temporary immigrant workers, terminated its lobbying agreement with Cove. The Trump administration recently suspended the issuance of visas to such workers.
Together, those four clients provided more than a third of Cove Strategies’ lobbying revenue during the first half of 2020.
Another Cove client, satellite communications company Ligado Networks, kept its arrangement with the firm. But for the first time since Cove signed Ligado in 2018, it reported performing no work on the company’s behalf, and bringing in no revenue from the account, in the second quarter of the year.
Schlapp did manage to sign one new lobbying client in the second quarter: the Triple Five Group, a multinational real estate developer whose assets include the Mall of America in Minnesota and the American Dream complex outside New Jersey’s Metlife Stadium. That company paid Cove Strategies $80,000 for its services in the second quarter of 2020.
Between Triple Five and the Trump campaign, Schlapp’s firm has made up much of its lost revenue from clients that fled last month. It also retained some big-name clients such as Samsung Electronics, Walmart, and Oracle.
Additional reporting by Jackie Kucinich
Correction: This story has been updated to correct who received the Trump campaign payments. The payments were not for services provided by Matt Schlapp, but were to compensate his wife, Mercedes Schalpp, a senior communications aide to the campaign. An earlier version stated Cove Strategies lost one third of their business. The firm lost one third of their reported lobbying revenue.