By Maggie Haberman – – –
A veteran Tea Party activist who helped kick off a “super PAC” supporting Donald J. Trump resigned shortly after the candidate became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, a fresh blow to a group whose other senior strategist was convicted on Thursday of trying to hide payments made to an Iowa politician in an effort to effectively buy his endorsement.
The resignation of Amy Kremer, the former Tea Party activist, came as the group, Great America PAC, has tried to ramp up for the general election in the hopes of receiving an overt blessing from Mr. Trump’s campaign. The group announced that the veteran Republican consultant Ed Rollins would become its new strategist this week, and, in a conference call, used Ben Carson, the former Republican presidential candidate, as a signal to prospective donors that they should participate in the group’s activities.
But Ms. Kremer, who along with the businessman William Doddridge was an early leader of the group — originally called TrumPAC — quit because numerous decisions were made without her involvement. And the future of the group’s structure was not yet clear after Jesse Benton, a former adviser to Representative Ron Paul and his son, Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, was brought on board as a senior adviser. Mr. Benton was convicted on Thursday in Iowa on federal charges of public corruption related to efforts to woo a state senator to endorse the senior Mr. Paul for president in 2012.
In a statement, Ms. Kremer confirmed that she had left. “As of May 4, I’m no longer at Great America PAC,” she said. “I’m working on an amazing new project that I will announce soon.”
In her resignation email to Eric Beach, who oversees the finance operation, Ms. Kremer wrote, “This isn’t working out as we agreed when you asked me to join you, so I’m resigning effective immediately. I hate for it to end this way, but I cannot allow my name to continued to be used when there is too much going on without my knowledge.”
In a statement, Mr. Beach said, “We think the world of Amy Kremer and she remains a good friend. We are sorry to see her move on, but we know she will continue to do tremendous work supporting limited government principles.” He declined to address Ms. Kremer’s complaint about activities taking place without her knowledge.
A person involved in the super PAC and briefed on Ms. Kremer’s issues said that she was never apprised when Mr. Benton was brought on board. Decisions were made by Mr. Beach, Mr. Benton and the group’s attorney, Dan Backer, without her knowledge, she said. Her name went out on email solicitations that she was never shown, the person said, including last week when Mr. Trump became the party’s presumptive nominee. And Mr. Benton produced a video aimed at softening Mr. Trump’s image without seeking her input, the person said.
The group has drawn scrutiny for its unusual ad-buying efforts, purchasing television time through DirectTV and the Dish network, instead of by using traditional methods. Some of their ads urged viewers to call a telephone number to vote on who should be Mr. Trump’s vice presidential running mate, a technique that is often used to harvest names for future small-dollar fund-raising solicitations.
While their Federal Election Commission filings show spending of more than $1 million on ads, groups like C.M.A.G., which track media spending, and independent media buyers have only been able to detect a few hundred thousand dollars worth of ads that have run.
Recent federal election filings indicate the group is $1 million in debt. The group was asked by the Trump campaign to change its name because it used the candidate’s name, and in recent weeks it received another letter from the campaign disavowing its efforts. But it has continued to try to raise money.
In the conference call on Wednesday with potential donors, Mr. Rollins, who has been a television commentator and a senior adviser to the Clinton-aligned firm Teneo, said the group would move away from ad spending and try to fill in gaps in the campaign’s infrastructure.