Pro-Trump super PAC paid thousands to firm owned by Trump campaign manager's wife

A top pro-Trump super PAC paid thousands of dollars to a company owned by the wife of Brad ParscaleBradley (Brad) James ParscaleMORE, President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE’s campaign manager. 

Federal Election Commission (FEC) files show America First Action, which was founded in 2017 to support the president and Republican candidates across the country, gave $910,000 to Red State Data and Digital, which was founded by Candice Parscale.

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While super PACs are permitted to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to support certain causes or candidates, they are prohibited from coordinating their spending with a campaign.

Both Brad and Candice Parscale insist the transactions are above board and that there is no coordination between the super PAC and Trump’s reelection campaign.

"This is a perfectly legal and appropriate arrangement, which is firewalled, with zero chance for coordination," Brad Parscale said in a statement to CNN, which was the first to report the news. "There could not possibly be coordination because the ads placed were for other candidates in the 2018 midterms. Everything is in FEC compliance." 

Nonetheless, the payments raised eyebrows among federal election law experts, who say the appearance of cooperation could toe a legal line.

"It calls into question the independence of the super PAC," Larry Noble, a former general counsel to the FEC, told CNN. "One would hope a watchdog agency would investigate allegations of coordination."  

Delaware incorporation documents reviewed by CNN show that Candice Parscale founded Red State Data and Digital on March 2, 2018, days after Brad Parscale was announced as the Trump campaign manager.

The America First Action super PAC made its last payment to Parscale Strategy, a marketing company Brad Parscale founded in 2017, on March 13, 2018. It made its first payment to Red State on March 21.

The super PAC has made several payments to Red State Data and Digital ranging from $495 to $10,000. FEC files say the payments were made for “website design and development” and “fundraising consulting.”

Candice Parscale told CNN this week that she is only the firm’s bookkeeper and does not have any involvement in Red State's strategy or work for campaigns. 

"I do payroll and invoicing," she said. 

The super PAC remains Red State's only client, according to FEC records. Candice Parscale told CNN that Red State is run by a woman who reports directly to Brian Walsh, the president of America First Action.

“Red State is a valued vendor that provides us with digital consulting services at a competitive rate,” a spokeswoman for the super PAC told CNN.

“America First strictly complies with FEC rules and regulations and any suggestion otherwise is patently false,” she added when asked about the legality of the Trump campaign manager’s wife working for a firm directed by an associated super PAC.

Noble told CNN the setup appears “concerning.” 

“It looks terrible because it's hard to believe they would not share information,” he said.