A new investigative report just revealed a pay-for-play scheme linked to six-figure donations to the Republican National Committee from a Trump ambassadorial appointee who he could just buy his confirmation in the Senate. (podcast embedded below)
San Diego businessman Doug Manchester is a hotelier and part-time Bahamas resident who President Trump appointed to be the United States ambassador to that country in May 2017. He is the former publisher of the San Diego Times-Union and was an early supporter of Trump, even receiving a speaking slot at a 2016 campaign rally.
Newly uncovered emails that “Papa Doug” exchanged with RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel asking for a $500,000 donation and messages to Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Jim Risch (R-ID) reveal that the San Diego businessman believed he was purchasing his confirmation hearing with a new six-figure donation, and promises of more to come.
After Manchester’s August 2017 confirmation hearing, where he demeaned the Bahamas by calling the island chain a “protectorate” of the United States, the Senate put his appointment on ice.
But in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, the prospective ambassador made a relief flight to Grand Bahama Island, which caught the eyes of President Trump and earned a shout out to “Papa Doug” by tweet. CBS News reports:
Three days after the tweet, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel hit up Manchester for a donation. It was no small sum. In an email, obtained exclusively by CBS News, she asked Manchester, “Would you consider putting together $500,000 worth of contributions from your family to ensure we hit our ambitious fundraising goal?”
The Senate confirmation process is exactly what Manchester quickly addressed. He wrote back to McDaniel’s request for $500,000, “As you know I am not supposed to do any, but my wife is sending a contribution for $100,000. Assuming I get voted out of the [Foreign Relations Committee] on Wednesday to the floor we need you to have the majority leader bring it to a majority vote … Once confirmed, I our [sic] family will respond!”
If that email wasn’t bad enough, Manchester compounded his error by sending it to staffers for both Sen. Risch and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) with the expectation that his party loyalty and deep pockets would yield a confirmation vote.
This week, Doug Manchester told CBS that he didn’t believe he was being strong-armed, telling investigative reporter Jim Axelrod, “That’s part of politics. It’s unbelievable. You give and you give and you give and you give some more and more and more.”
Former Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) froze Manchester’s nomination. A Washington Post story about his inappropriate, physical handling of women in the workforce underscored why even the Republican-controlled Senate didn’t want to confirm his appointment. The former Senate Foreign Relations chair spoke with CBS News about the RNC’s quid pro quo:
“We had concerns about judgment, about demeanor, about just the whole reason for taking the job,” Corker said. He found McDaniel’s fundraising pitch problematic. “The timing of that request obviously was not appropriate,” he said.
Even worse, he said, was Manchester’s response. His big mistake was copying staffers of two senators who controlled his nomination, Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Idaho’s Jim Risch, alerting them to his willingness to donate more after confirmation.
He’s not kidding about giving and giving.
First, Doug Manchester and his wife donated nearly a million dollars to Trump campaign vehicles during the 2016 election. He also hosted high-profile fundraisers for Trump, along with diet magnate Jenny Craig. Then Manchester donated another million dollars to the Trump Inaugural Committee, which is still part of a criminal investigation.
It has been nearly eight years since America confirmed an ambassador to the Bahamas after Republicans froze President Obama’s last appointment to the role in a disgraceful effort to personally spite him.
On October 31st, Trump quietly withdrew his Bahamas Ambassador appointment on Halloween, without a hint of his party’s behind the scenes machinations to shake down more cash from one of his bigger individual donors, leaving that nation without a confirmed ambassador for 2,919 days and counting.
Now that Doug Manchester’s pay-for-play scheme with the Republican National Committee has been outed, how long until more of Trump’s many political appointees are revealed to have directly bought off politicians to gain their positions?
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Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition