Wealthy former Hillary Clinton donor Stephen Rosenberg is using secret shell company to back Trump

Key Points
  • Wealthy real estate executive Stephen Rosenberg is using a shell company to donate to President Donald Trump's reelection efforts.
  • Donors sometimes use shell companies as a way to anonymously finance campaigns.
  • Rosenberg's company, SR 2018 LLC, is listed as a six-figure donor to the Trump Victory committee and its also sent checks directly to Trump's campaign.
President Donald Trump waves upon his arrival in West Palm Beach, Florida, March 2, 2018.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Real estate investor Stephen Rosenberg once had an open checkbook for Democrats running for higher office, including Hillary Clinton.

That changed after Donald Trump was elected president. Since then, Rosenberg has created a shell company that so far is dedicated to only supporting Trump for his 2020 reelection campaign.

Rosenberg's company, SR 2018 LLC, is listed as a six-figure donor to the Trump Victory committee, a joint fundraising operation that divvies up funds between the campaign and the Republican National Committee. The company's name consists of Rosenberg's initials, while the mailing address of the LLC is identical to that of his real estate investment firm, Greystone, which is located in the Carnegie Hall Tower in New York.

After an extensive search in New York's corporate database, no names matching SR 2018 were found. However, Delaware's Division of Corporations did list a company with the same name as Rosenberg's. The filing shows the company has an annual tax assessment of $300.

Rosenberg and a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign did not return requests for comment.

Wealthy donors sometimes use shell companies as a way to anonymously finance campaigns. The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks the owners of these types of companies and who they're supporting, describes a limited liability company associated with GOP billionaire Bruce Kovner that recently gave $35,500 to the National Republican Congressional Committee. Like Rosenberg's firm, Kovner's uses his initials as the company name.

Delaware is one of the preferred states to create a shell company due to corporate-friendly laws and a judicial system that is known to efficiently resolve business litigation.

The $360,600 donation to Trump Victory came in May and, on another filing with Rosenberg's name as the contributor, a memo cites SR 2018, describing the company's contribution as "permissible funds." The shell company has also given directly to Trump's campaign with two separate max checks of $2,800, with one going toward the primary stage of the election cycle and the other for the later general election.

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Ethics experts say the memo indicates that the Trump campaign likely attributed the LLC's donation to Rosenberg because his company has no other employees and is likely not taxed as a corporation.

"The 'PERMISSIBLE FUNDS' memo entries indicates to the FEC that the committee understands the rules and that the contribution is permissible because the LLC contribution is attributed to an individual," said Paul Seamus Ryan, a vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause.

"An LLC with a single natural person member that does not elect to be taxed as a corporation is treated as an individual under campaign finance law — i.e., that LLC is permitted to contribute to candidates, party committees and JFC's like Trump Victory, subject to the individual contribution limits," he added.

Rosenberg is one of several business executives who wanted nothing to do with Trump in 2016 but have since decided to help him seek reelection.

Several GOP-friendly business leaders have decided to fall in with the commander in chief after Trump and Republicans in Congress passed a bill cutting the corporate tax rate and other laws eliminating business regulations. Their alliance helped Trump and the RNC raise more than $100 million in the second quarter.

Rosenberg contributed to candidates from both parties in the last election, including Democrats Clinton and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Republican Sens. Tim Scott and Mike Lee. None of his donations went to Republican candidates for president.

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