Trump camp makes play for West Coast donors

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Richard Riordan, the former mayor of Los Angeles and an elder statesman of the Republican California establishment, is as good an example as any of the inroads Donald Trump has been making in wealthy West Coast circles.

Less than six months ago, Riordan, who is also a major political benefactor, told The Hill that if he were forced to choose between Trump and Hillary Clinton, he would “probably go find a deserted island.” 

{mosads}Describing Trump as “crazy,” Riordan said he could never imagine supporting him.

That was then. 

Fast forward six months and Riordan is not only prepared to support the presumptive GOP nominee, he’s even sent a memo offering advice to the Trump campaign. 

“He’s looking a lot more like a president,” Riordan told The Hill on Tuesday, explaining his changing view of Trump. 

Riordan represents the kind of shift by influential West Coast Republicans that would make a big difference in Trump’s general election fortunes. 

In California — a political gold mine rivaling New York — Trump’s allies are moving aggressively to make up ground on Hillary Clinton, who has relationships with donors there dating back decades. 

“California has always been a hotbed for the political donor community,” said Eric Beach, a California-based operative who leads fundraising for the pro-Trump super-PAC Great America PAC.

Beach, who spoke to The Hill on Wednesday, said that West Coast donors are “following the trend like the rest of the country” that’s seeing Republicans finally rally around Trump as their nominee.

Trump is well behind in his fundraising after mostly self-funding his primary campaign and telling donors he was so rich he didn’t need their money. That’s all changed now that Trump faces the prospect of a general election costing more than $1 billion. But he’s got a lot of catching up to do and relationships to repair.  

Trump has only in the last week finalized a joint fundraising account with the Republican National Committee and 11 state parties that allows individual donors to give nearly $500,000. 

The Trump campaign’s outreach to Riordan illustrates the efforts being made on the West Coast. 

Riordan was contacted recently by Noel Irwin Hentschel, a well-known California businesswoman and a supporter of Trump. 

“I was asked by the [Trump] campaign to speak to people that I knew that would be interested potentially in endorsing or supporting or meeting with Mr. Trump,” Hentschel told The Hill on Thursday. 

“Mr. Riordan is a very special person and influential here in California, and we’ve known each other for a long, long time. He tells me he is supportive of [Trump] because he’s pro-business and that’s the key for California and for our country.” 

Hentschel, the CEO of travel organization AmericanTours International, said she is “ready to help” the Trump campaign in any way she can. She said the message that Trump will be the best person to create jobs is what’s resonating among West Coast Republicans. 

The Trump-Riordan meeting has yet to happen due to scheduling clashes, but Riordan said he sent a memo to Trump, via Hentschel. Riordan advised Trump to form a “kitchen cabinet” with respected Republicans in the fields of economic policy and national security, such as former Secretary of State James Baker. 

Riordan said he is getting the sense that other West Coast donors, who were previously skeptical about Trump, are starting to warm to the presumptive nominee.  

“Do you know who Robert Day is? He’s probably the most powerful person in LA and is a good friend of mine,” Riordan said, referring to the California philanthropist who previously wrote a $1 million check to a super-PAC that backed Jeb Bush. 

Day, who is among the most respected and influential conservative donors in California, told Riordan he is scheduled to talk to Trump. It would be a coup for Trump if Day agreed to support him — not only because he can write seven-figure checks, but because of the establishment credibility his approval would bestow. 

A spokeswoman for Day told The Hill that Day is still making up his mind about whether to support Trump.

But the fact that he’s even considering supporting Trump speaks volumes about the degree to which the presumptive nominee has penetrated the West Coast GOP donor elite.  

Both of the two main super-PACs supporting Trump’s candidacy — Great America PAC and the Committee for American Sovereignty — are also mining the Republican West Coast. 

“Our super-PAC has a Los Angeles address; it has a Los Angeles treasurer; I’ve got lawyers out there. We really started as a California PAC,” said Doug Watts, spokesman for the Committee for American Sovereignty. 

Watts said about 60 percent of the $2 million pledged so far to his super-PAC comes from West Coast donors. 

“Major donors are six-deep,” he said. 

Watts said that even though Trump has already wrapped up the GOP nomination, the Committee for American Sovereignty is nonetheless considering engaging in California in the lead up to the June 7 primary. 

“Number one, Hillary Clinton is going to be trashing us during the primary,” Watts said, explaining his group’s calculations. 

“Number two, if we were to take Hillary Clinton on during [the California] primary it might help Bernie Sanders win that primary. So we are thinking about that.” 

Two of Trump’s most influential donor advocates are also based in California. 

Multimillionaire investor Thomas Barrack and California developer “Papa” Doug Manchester have been the two central players in the monthslong effort to boost Trump on the West Coast. 

Barrack and Manchester are co-hosting a fundraiser for the Trump campaign at Barrack’s home on May 25. 

“Everybody’s starting to really realize that obviously he’s the presumptive nominee and they certainly do not want to support eight more years of Obama, which is what you get when you elect Hillary,” Manchester told The Hill on Wednesday. 

“I think [Trump] would be the first true capitalist to be elected as president.” 

To win over the West Coast donor community, Trump will need to moderate some of his more extreme positions. Trade remains a major sticking point, as do Trump’s comments about Muslims, including his proposed ban on foreigners of that religion entering the United States.

A key messenger of reassurance about Trump has been RNC Chair Reince Priebus. 

On Sunday’s “Face the Nation” on CBS, Priebus highlighted the presumptive nominee’s transformation, saying, “You have seen actually Donald Trump this week nuance a little bit on some of those positions.” 

And sure enough, Trump is now calling some of his more inflammatory ideas — such as banning Muslims from entering the country — mere “suggestions.” 

One of those West Coast Republicans who needs reassurance and who recently spoke to Priebus about Trump, is former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Rockwell Schnabel. 

Schnabel told The Hill on Thursday that he will support the Republican Party and therefore its nominee despite his lingering misgivings about Trump. He even plans to attend Barrack’s fundraiser on May 25. 

Whatever signals Schnabel has been given — and he won’t go into private conversations — he feels reassured enough so far to join the RNC chairman and others in supporting the presumptive nominee for the good of the party. 

“I think that [Trump] is going to dramatically change his tune and become a candidate that is responsible with responsible advisers,” Schnabel told The Hill on Thursday. 

“I get the feeling that [Trump] is hearing the message on trade and protectionism and other things,” he added. 

“I have a lot of faith in the chairman.”

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