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Trump skewers new super PAC

Group that offers donors chance for dinner with candidate is unknown to Trump campaign

A new super PAC is offering one lucky winner a huge opportunity: the chance to dine with Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

“The flight, food and stay are on us,” declares Recover America PAC on its website, DinnerWithTrump.org, while asking for a financial contribution.

Just one problem.

“We have no knowledge of this at all,” Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said. “We haven’t heard of it.”

The super PAC, which filed registration paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Nov. 30, has other problems, too.

For example, it can’t keep its own name straight.

In its organizational paperwork, the super PAC first refers to itself as Rescue America PAC, then calls itself Recover America PAC. On its website, the name morphs into Go Donald Go PAC.

A representative for the group, which lists Michael Williams as its treasurer, could not be reached for comment: Calls made to it went to a full voice-mail box, and emails went unreturned. The super PAC’s physical address is a rental mailbox in San Francisco.

Trump has denounced super PACs, amplifying his assertion that he is the one presidential candidate in a crowded field of Republican contenders who can’t be bought by big-dollar donors with political agendas to push.

Most other Republican candidates enjoy the support of super PACs or politically active nonprofit groups, which, thanks in part to the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to advocate for and against political candidates.

About 85 percent of broadcast and national cable television ads for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination contest have been sponsored not by candidates but by super PACs and other noncandidate groups, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from ad-tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG.

After the Republican presidential debate in October on CNBC, Trump tweeted a call to fellow presidential candidates to “immediately disavow” super PACs fundraising on their behalf.

After the discovery that super PACs were using Trump’s name, the Trump campaign went a step further, sending cease-and-desist letter to numerous pro-Trump super PACs.

His campaign in October told the Federal Election Committee that eight super PACs trading on his name or campaign slogans “are not authorized” by Trump.

“While we certainly respect these committees’ First Amendment rights, given that we have over 75,000 donors, we must ensure our supporters are protected and there is no confusion about the unauthorized nature of such efforts (from which we have received no money, goods or services), especially when they use Mr. Trump’s name, slogan or likeness in their name or solicitation materials,” the Trump campaign wrote.

Trump’s tack is similar to that of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, another super PAC critic who nevertheless has found himself battling with a super PAC that purports to support him.

Trump’s anti-super-PAC stand has worked in some cases.

After pro-Trump super PAC Make America Great Again formed in July, it immediately drew criticism for its close ties to Trump’s team. The group shut down in October, reportedly heeding his wishes.

“Mr. Trump has said he doesn’t have a super PAC,” its director, Mike Ciletti, told Politico. “So to honor his wishes, I’m shutting my organization down.”

Not only is Recover America PAC acting against Trump’s wishes and without his knowledge, but it may also be violating its own stated rules.

Sending dollars to the group can apparently increase your chances of winning the dine-with-Trump sweepstakes — contradicting rules laid out on the website.

This isn’t the first fundraising contest offering the chance to dine with the Donald.

In 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney enticed potential donors with a chance to stay at a Trump hotel, tour the “Celebrity Apprentice” boardroom and dine with Romney and Trump.

Trump was game for that dinner, although Romney ultimately wasn’t: He stood up Trump at the last moment.

This story is from the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative media organization in Washington, D.C. Read more of its investigations on the influence of money in politics or follow it on Twitter.

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