A top political ally to Vice President Pence is an investor in the conservative news organization that was granted special access to cover Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's latest overseas trip, BuzzFeed News reported Friday.
Nick Ayers, an Atlanta-based political strategist who worked on the campaign, is a part owner of the Independent Journal Review, whose White House correspondent was the only reporter allowed to accompany Tillerson on a trip to Asia this week, according to the report.
BuzzFeed reported that there is no evidence to suggest that Ayers was behind or involved in the decision to allow the reporter to accompany Tillerson on his trip, nor is there any indication that the strategist is involved in the organization's editorial decisions.
A State Department spokesman said the decision to allow IJR reporter Erin McPike on the trip was "to bring somebody in who doesn’t necessarily cover the State Department, a media outlet that isn’t steeped in foreign policy and give it a new, fresh perspective.”
That decision enraged reporters assigned to cover the State Department, and reignited questions about the whether the Trump administration grants special privileges to news outlets that it views as favorable.
Ayers joined President Trump's campaign last year after Pence was chosen as the real estate mogul's running mate in July and was an adviser to Pence during the transition process.
The political operative does not currently work in the Trump administration, but was among several prominent Trump campaign veterans who launched an outside group earlier this year to support Trump's White House agenda.
Ayers isn't the only person close to Trump's administration with ties to media organizations.
White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is the former executive chair of the far-right Breitbart News, and some former Breitbart employees, such as counterterrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka, have gone to work in the administration.