Politics

Film company founded by Trump nominee Michael Pack profited off fund-raising deal with think tank he ran

Key Points
  • President Trump's nominee saw his media company gain a financial benefit from his work with the Claremont Institute.
  • Michael Pack's wife, then the president of their film company, signed a lucrative fundraising contract with the think tank when he led the conservative organization.
  • The discovery that Pack's film company was seeing a benefit off of a contract involving a nonprofit that he ran, comes as members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee review his candidacy and Democrats begin to demand answers.
Michael Pack
Source: US Senate

A film company founded by President Donald Trump's nominee to run a federal media agency signed a commercial fundraising contract with the Claremont Institute, a nonprofit conservative think tank.

The catch is that Trump's choice to be CEO of the agency was Claremont's president when the five figure deal was signed.

The unreported contract was signed in 2016 by Pack's wife, Gina, who is listed as the vice president of their production company, Manifold Productions, along with Claremont's then chief operating officer Ryan Williams. The contract shows that Pack not only led Claremont at the time. He was also listed as a director at Manifold.

Pack's business dealings could raise concerns among Senate Democrats charged with considering his confirmation.

The deal to lead the fund-raising efforts for Claremont was worth $75,000 to Pack's private film company Manifold, which was paid in $6,250 installments each month.

The document says Manifold's work was for "charitable purposes," and included dinners, telephone solicitation, in person meetings, along with educational and social events.

Claremont's tax return for fiscal year 2016, from July of that year through June 2017, shows that Manifold Productions helped raise almost $200,000 during that time period. California's state attorney general also listed Manifold as a commercial fundraiser for Claremont in 2017.

It's unclear why Manifold was chosen to do fundraising work for Claremont. Calls to Pack's office were not returned. Williams, the think tank's current president, did not return a request for comment. No other affiliated groups saw Manifold conduct similar fundraising efforts.

Pack has been nominated to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which was once known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The group's board controls U.S. government-funded media companies such as the Voice of America and Radio Europe. The current CEO, John Lansing, is a former president of Scripps Network.

The discovery that Pack's film company was seeing a benefit from a contract involving a nonprofit that he ran, comes as members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee review his candidacy and Democrats begin to demand answers.

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During a hearing in front of the committee last week, ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. brought up what he described as "some issues" and noted that his staff is asking Pack questions about his past. He declined to specify what Pack has been asked. The nominee said at the hearing he would move expeditiously to answer those questions.

A senior Democratic aide on the committee says they have yet to hear from Pack and are now pursuing additional questions that go beyond their original scope. This person declined to elaborate further on Democrats' concerns. Representatives of the Senate committee did not return a request for comment.

This wouldn't mark the first time Pack's charity work seemed to benefit his own company. Since 2011, his nonprofit, Public Media Lab, sent $1.6 million in grant money to Manifold Productions.

There are also rising concerns within the media industry that Pack, who has ties to White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, will find a way to disband the current board in a power grab, potentially leading to the creation of "Trump TV," as one senior media executive explained.

Read Manifold's contract with Claremont: