Ap­pointees for six posts do­nated about $12 mil­lion

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Matea Gold and Anu Narayan­swamy

wash­ing­ton» With his choice of restau­rant ex­ec­u­tive An­drew Puzder to serve as his la­bor sec­re­tary, Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump has now tapped six big donors and fundrais­ers to serve in his ad­min­is­tra­tion, lin­ing up an un­prece­dented con­cen­tra­tion of wealthy back­ers for top posts.

To­gether with their fam­i­lies, Trump’s nom­i­nees gave $11.6 mil­lion to sup­port his pres­i­den­tial bid, his al­lied su­per PACs and the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee, ac­cord­ing to a Wash­ing­ton Post anal­y­sis of fed­eral cam­paign fil­ings.

One ap­pointee — World Wrestling En­ter­tain­ment co-founder Linda McMa­hon — con­trib­uted $7.5 mil­lion to back his White House run be­fore Trump se­lected her to run the Small Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion this week. She and her hus­band, Vince, were also the top out­side donors to Trump’s pri­vate foun­da­tion.

It’s not un­usual for top pres­i­den­tial donors and bundlers to land plum as­sign­ments af­ter an elec­tion. Am­bas­sador­ships to sought-af­ter lo­cales, such as Lon­don and Paris, are usu­ally re­served for big money play­ers. In re­cent ad­min­is­tra­tions, se­nior cam­paign fundrais­ers have been cho­sen for com­merce sec­re­tary: Penny Pritzker un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, Don Evans un­der Pres­i­dent George W. Bush, Ron­ald Brown un­der Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, and Robert Mos­bacher un­der Pres­i­dent George H.W. Bush.

But long­time watch­ers of money in pol­i­tics can­not re­call any pres­i­dent in re­cent his­tory who has filled a Cab­i­net with so many ma­jor donors.

“In the past, they were a lit­tle hid­den — they were sent over­seas to be am­bas­sadors,” said David Don­nelly, pres­i­dent of Ev­ery Voice, an ad­vo­cacy group that seeks to re­duce the in­flu­ence of wealthy donors on pol­i­tics. “In this ad­min­is­tra­tion, they are go­ing to be front and cen­ter mak­ing pol­icy.”

Fred Wertheimer, pres­i­dent of the watch­dog group Democ­racy 21, said Trump’s choices raise ques­tions about his pledge to “drain the swamp.”

“This is bound to re­sult in all kinds of con­flict and ap­pear­ances of con­flicts in terms of the fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests of the peo­ple be­ing ap­pointed to high po­si­tions,” he said.

The pres­i­dent-elect’s de­ci­sion to put his ma­jor po­lit­i­cal back­ers in se­nior Cab­i­net po­si­tions is a jar­ring con­trast with Trump’s rhetoric through this year’s cam­paign. He re­peat­edly de­clared him­self in­de­pen­dent of wealthy donors and pre­dicted Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton’s bene­fac­tors would “have to­tal con­trol over ev­ery­thing she does.”

“Don­ald Trump gave his Foun­da­tion’s largest donor a CAB­I­NET spot yes­ter­day,” Clin­ton ad­viser Ron­ald Klain tweeted Thurs­day.

“Did you see blar­ing head­lines? Imag­ine if HRC had done that??”

Trump tran­si­tion of­fi­cials did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

The pres­i­dent-elect has de­fended his Cab­i­net picks, say­ing he is choos­ing “killers” who know how to win. “I want peo­ple that made a for­tune,” he told sup­port­ers at a rally in Des Moines Thurs­day night. “Be­cause now they are ne­go­ti­at­ing with you, OK?”

Here’s a break­down of the donors Trump has tapped for his Cab­i­net and how much they gave:

Linda McMa­hon, $7.5 mil­lion

McMa­hon, co-founder of the pro­fes­sional wrestling fran­chise and a for­mer Repub­li­can Se­nate can­di­date from Con­necti­cut, was Trump’s third big­gest fi­nan­cial backer, giv­ing $7.5 mil­lion to pro-Trump su­per PACs, the RNC and his cam­paign. Be­tween 2007 and 2009, she and her hus­band Vince gave $5 mil­lion to Trump’s foun­da­tion. Betsy Devos, $1.8 mil­lion (con­trib­uted by the Devos fam­ily)

The Michi­gan bil­lion­aire phi­lan­thropist and her hus­band, Richard, whose fa­ther was the co-founder of Amway, are ma­jor con­ser­va­tive donors and GOP con­trib­u­tors. The cou­ple gave nearly $317,000 to the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee this cy­cle. Al­to­gether, the Devos fam­ily con­trib­uted $1.8 mil­lion to the party and Trump’s cam­paign.

Todd Rick­etts, $1.3 mil­lion (con­trib­uted by his par­ents)

TD Amer­i­trade founder Joe Rick­etts — the fa­ther of Todd, a co-owner of the Chicago Cubs — helped fi­nance Fu­ture45, a su­per PAC that spent lav­ishly for Trump in the fi­nal weeks of the cam­paign. Joe Rick­etts gave the group $1 mil­lion. He and his wife, Mar­lene, also con­trib­uted nearly $343,000 to sup­port Trump’s cam­paign and the Repub­li­can Party. Steven Mnuchin, $425,000

Mnuchin served as Trump’s na­tional fi­nance chair­man, help­ing or­ga­nize dozens of high-dol­lar cam­paign fundrais­ers across the coun­try. The for­mer Gold­man Sachs ex­ec­u­tive and hedge fund man­ager also per­son­ally con­trib­uted $425,000 to the cam­paign and party.

La­bor sec­re­tary: An­drew Puzder, $332,000 (with his wife)

Puzder, who runs CKE Res­tau­rants, the par­ent com­pany of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., served on the Trump Vic­tory com­mit­tee as one of his top fundrais­ers in Cal­i­for­nia. Wil­bur Ross, $200,000

The bil­lion­aire in­vestor was an early fi­nan­cial sup­porter of Trump’s cam­paign. Ross opened his Southamp­ton, N.Y., es­tate for one of the cam­paign’s first fundrais­ers and con­trib­uted $200,000.

It re­mains to be seen whether Trump will draw any other ma­jor con­trib­u­tors into his ad­min­is­tra­tion. New fed­eral fil­ings show his bil­lion­aire sup­port­ers poured mil­lions more into pro-Trump su­per PACs in the fi­nal stretch of the race. His big­gest sup­port­ers: casino mag­nate Shel­don Adel­son and his wife, Miriam, who gave $21.2 mil­lion to sup­port his run. They were fol­lowed by Home De­pot co-founder Bernard Mar­cus ($7.6 mil­lion), McMa­hon ($7.5 mil­lion), Dal­las banker Andy Beal ($4.4 mil­lion) and hedge fund ex­ec­u­tive Robert Mer­cer ($3.4 mil­lion).

One of Mer­cer’s daugh­ters, Re­bekah Mer­cer, is close to three of Trump’s top ad­vis­ers: Stephen Ban­non, Kellyanne Con­way and David Bossie.

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