The Astro-Turfing Democratic Strategist Who Launched Donald Trump's Presidential Campaign
Just over a year ago, Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign from the atrium of Trump Tower, standing at the base of his gilded escalator to deliver his populist warnings about Mexican rapists and radical Islam. That event was organized by Bradley Gerstman, a lobbyist and Democrat strategist.
Not long after Trump made his announcement, the Hollywood Reporter obtained an email from Extra Mile Casting, sent to its client list, looking for background actors who would be willing to appear at the announcement event for $50 in cash. “We are looking to cast people for the event to wear t-shirts and carry signs and help cheer him in support of his announcement,” the email read. “We understand this is not a traditional ‘background job,’ but we believe acting comes in all forms and this is inclusive of that school of thought.”
The email notes that “We are working helping one of are [sic] associates at Gotham GR,” and included a link to the website of Gotham Government Relations, the New York City-based lobbying firm of which Gerstman is a founding partner. At the time, neither Extra Mile nor Gotham would confirm or deny the authenticity of the email, and it fell off everyone’s radar.
Until! A couple months ago, Gawker received a tip about a disgraced former lobbyist who might have information about the campaign launch and would be willing to talk off the record. He wasn’t, but I started looking for other ways to connect the dots—et voila, campaign finance records filed with the Federal Election Commission show that on October 8, 2015 the Trump campaign paid Gotham Government Relations $12,000 for “event consulting.” A source close to the Trump campaign confirms that the event in question was the campaign launch.
Trump’s relationship with Gotham dates back to at least 2011, when the Trump Organization retained the firm to lobby the New York state government to sign off on “Trump on the Ocean,” a ludicrous restaurant Trump wanted to build on Jones Beach, Long Island, which is a state park. It was to have been “the finest dining and banquet facility in the world,” he told the Associated Press. “I was going to build a magnificent building on the boardwalk that would have made Robert Moses envious and proud,” he said. “It would have been the best building in the entire state parks system.”
Despite the fact that the project failed (after six years), Gotham cites a “case study” on its website that sounds an awful lot like the Trump on the Ocean. “A prominent developer had proposed a project on state land and came to Gotham after a long period of stalled efforts,” it reads, going on to describe a rally it organized at the site of the proposed project. “Using our ability to bring together like minded groups and individuals to advocate for our clients’ needs, Gotham created a broad coalition of civic leaders, business representatives, and citizens.”
“With a turnout of over 300 people, our rally paved the way for the project to begin,” the firm claims. Still, the project was scrapped by the end of the following year.
On its website, Gotham still claims the Trump Organization as a client, and Gerstman frequently appears on cable news to discuss Trump. “I’m asked questions,” Gerstman told Gawker. “I give answers.” He declined to comment about the event consulting work Gotham did for the Trump campaign.