Trump Swears Off Super PACs as Supporter Carl Icahn Eyes One of His Own

Wall Street tycoon yet to say whom new group will back, but he and Trump have history

Donald Trump / AP
October 27, 2015

Donald Trump disavowed every Super PAC supporting his candidacy last week, but one such group, currently in its planning stages and backed by a partial owner of casinos bearing the real estate magnate’s name, could test his aversion to the groups.

The billionaire investor Carl Icahn announced this month that he would put $150 million of his fortune behind a new super PAC. Icahn has endorsed Trump, and the Republican frontrunner said that he would nominate Icahn to be his Treasury Secretary if elected.

The two also have longstanding business ties. Icahn bought up Trump Entertainment Resorts’ debts last year in order to keep Atlantic City’s Taj Mahal running. Icahn was also the Trump Taj Mahal’s top creditor when it filed for bankruptcy in 1991. (Trump himself is not involved in running the casino.)

Icahn’s super PAC will focus on tax policy, he said in a statement on his website. Specifically, it will seek to end corporate "inversions," a controversial technique to evade U.S. taxes by headquartering a business abroad.

However, if it sought to draw the line at issue ads, rather than explicit support for or opposition to federal candidates for office, it could have opted for a different corporate structure. As a super PAC, it will be permitted to spend on candidates’ behalves, as long as it does not coordinate with those candidates.

If such a deep-pocketed group decided to back Trump, it might test his stated aversion to super PAC spending.

"I have disavowed all Super PAC's [sic], requested the return of all donations made to said PAC's, and I am calling on all Presidential candidates to do the same [sic]," he said in a Friday statement. "I am self-funding my campaign and therefore I will not be controlled by the donors, special interests and lobbyists who have corrupted our politics and politicians for far too long."

Trump’s campaign is not entirely self-funded—according to FEC filings, he has donated $105,000 to his campaign committee and lent it another $1.8 million; it has received about $3.9 million in individual contributions—but unlike most of his Republican opponents, Trump is not enjoying the support of a high-dollar super PAC.

That could change if Icahn’s new group materializes. He did not respond to questions about how the group would spend its money, but Icahn’s letter announcing its formation focused on issues that Trump has also emphasized during the campaign.

"The first thing the PAC will do is focus on the pernicious effects that are occurring and will continue to occur as a result of Congress’s failure to immediately stop so many of our great companies from leaving our country," the investor said, referring to inversions.

Trump’s plan likewise took aim at inversions, and proposed tax policy reforms that he said would prevent companies from relocating overseas.

"This lower rate makes corporate inversions unnecessary by making America’s tax rate one of the best in the world," the plan said.

Published under: Donald Trump , Super PACs