A new super PAC was quietly registered with the Federal Election Commission late last month with the nondescript name of “Taking America Back Fund.” While the front page of the site makes it appear that this new committee is part of Donald Trump’s effort to “Make America Great Again,” a closer examination reveals that the people behind the PAC may be seeking to raise money both to defend and oppose the administration.
The Taking America Back Fund was registered on July 27 by a West Hollywood, California, property manager (and former beauty product salesperson) named Julia Gran. Its takingamericabackfund.com website domain was purchased on the same day, using a proxy service. Gran’s name is the only officer listed on the super PAC’s initial filing and on an amendment it filed on Friday and the address listed is her own.
Visitors to the website are asked to donate $5 or more to “Help Stop the Fake Russia WITCH HUNT” against Donald Trump. Claiming that “loser Democrats” and “establishment Republicans” have it out for Trump and are trying to stop his agenda, the website asks for donations to somehow put a stop to “the Russia witch hunt.”
A ThinkProgress review of the site on Monday, however revealed that this fealty to Trump’s agenda was not consistently felt by the super PAC’s creators. A separate page on the site, not linked from the homepage, asked visitors to donate to the same super PAC to help stop the Trump administration from eliminating net neutrality. “Your donation will fund the fight to save Net Neutrality and stop Trump and [FCC Chairman Ajit] Pai from destroying the open internet,” it claims, warning that “Trump and his FCC chairman are coming at us with all they’ve got, but we’re never gonna give up on Net Neutrality.” Again, no explanation is provided as to how the funds would stop the FCC or who “we” includes.
Campaign finance expert Paul S. Ryan of Common Cause frequently warns that, with the lack of rules governing these committees, when donating to PACs and super PACs, it is really “donor beware.” Before rushing to give money to the “Taking America Back Fund,” Trump critics and fans alike might want to ask some tough questions about where their funds would really go.
The website provides little information about the super PAC’s true aims. An FAQ section promises that all donations will be used “to fund various political causes, including outreach to elected representatives, advertising campaigns, mailings and more to promote the causes that are important to us,” though it does not identify what those causes are or who is included in the “us.” It also notes (correctly) that donations to the super PAC are not tax-deductible, because “we use this money to lobby for or against laws and policies.” The super PAC has not registered to lobby on any federal issues. An address provided on the website goes to a rented mailbox in West Palm Beach, Florida. Multiple calls to a toll-free number provided on the site went to a voicemail box.
One additional page on the site—also unlinked—suggests that the site may have been built by Mauro Sicard, a Mexican vlogger and web entrepreneur. Sicard did not immediately respond to an inquiry about his involvement in the super PAC, but it is worth noting that it is illegal for foreign nationals to donate funds or services to U.S. political candidates or committees.
After ThinkProgress repeatedly attempted to contact the super PAC and Gran—with no response—the anti-Trump net neutrality page mysteriously vanished from the site. As of Tuesday, however, it was visible in Google’s Internet cache.
UPDATE: Jessica Oakes of Taking America Back Fund emailed ThinkProgress on Tuesday saying that they “are in the process of setting up the organization and are not ready to speak with the press,” and would answer questions after they send out a press release “within the next 90 days.” She also noted that their web design firm had outsourced the job to Sicard as a subcontractor.
In a follow-up, she added that the website — which was listed in the FEC filing — is merely an “early draft” and is “non-functional (for example, the donation forms do not work).” “As we have not publicized the site yet, we didn’t expect to receive any traffic. Obviously we did not plan to publicize the site until it is finished. This is also why you may have seen pages with a conflicting message, as it’s my understanding that the design firm used a Net Neutrality message when mocking up the site. Do [SIC] to all of the interest we are taking down the website until it is complete,” she wrote.