Though previous Republican candidates for elected office have returned donations from white supremacists and neo-Nazis, the Trump campaign opted to keep and reroute donations made by such individuals rather than give the money back.
Almost exactly a year ago, white supremacists, Jew haters and racists of various stripes gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia at what they called the “Unite the Right” rally. One person was killed; many were injured and armed marchers menaced the town’s only synagogue during Shabbat services.
Trump told reporters, “I think there is blame on both sides,” after the white nationalist-planned Aug. 12, 2017 protest turned violent.
Now campaign filings reviewed by the Forward show that a participant in that event has donated to President Trump’s reelection campaign, as have two neo-Nazis. The filings show that the campaign is aware of the contributions, as they have redirected them — but not returned them. Experts say fundraising committees have a responsibility to vet donors.
One of the campaign donors, James Allsup, is described by both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center as a white supremacist and participated in the “Unite the Right” rally.
Allsup donated $48.33 to the Trump campaign.
He made the donation on Nov. 24, 2016; the campaign rerouted it to the primary fund on Jan. 20, 2017. Allsup was recently elected to a Republican Party position in Washington State.
Allsup declined to comment when reached via email, saying he does not “talk to fake news, especially ‘reporters’ that work for leftist rags like Forward.”
Trump’s reelection committee also accepted a donation of $262.16 from April Gaede:
Montana-based Gaede — whose twin daughters were in the white nationalist band Prussian Blue, named after a chemical used in Nazi gas chambers — is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a lifelong white supremacist who once told an interviewer, “Did you know anti-Semitism is a disease? Yeah, you catch it from Jews.”
And lastly, Morris Gulett:
Louisiana-based neo-Nazi Morris Gulett, known for sporting an Aryan Nations uniform, has given three donations totaling at least $200 to Trump’s campaign, most recently on June 29, records show.
Gulett practices an extreme, racist theology called Christian Identity, according to the SPLC, and “closes all his sermons with a Nazi salute,” before shouting “Heil victory.”
Though White House officials have occasionally said that Trump does not condone such beliefs and the Republican party continues to publicly distance itself from the growing number of white supremacists running for office under its name, it seems clear that Trump’s election has emboldened this fringe group.
“Clearly neo-Nazis and white supremacists are marching in the president’s name and are emboldened by rhetoric they’ve seen out of the administration,” said Stephen Spaulding, an attorney with the good government, nonpartisan group Common Cause.
These donations amount to a tiny fraction of the more than $16 million Trump’s campaign has brought in directly from individual contributors, but campaigns should have staff compliance officers to make sure they are not accepting illegal contributions that exceed the legal limits, or are from foreign nationals, Spaulding said.
As noted previously, other elected officials have returned the gifts of white supremacists and neo-Nazis:
Neo-Nazi speaker Richard Spencer donated $500 to Ryan Zinke’s 2014 Montana congressional campaign. White supremacist leader Earl Holt, who was referenced by church shooter Dylann Roof as an influence, gave $65,000 to various GOP campaigns, including Ted Cruz’s presidential run. Zinke returned the money; Cruz said he would do the same.
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