Nick Ayers, a veteran political operative from Georgia who has been working with the vice president for three years. Mr. Ayers was the chief political strategist for Mr. Pence, then the governor of Indiana, when President Trump chose the governor as his running mate.
Mr. Ayers had been seen as a potential contender for governor of Georgia in a crowded field. He had been urged to think about running by some of Mr. Trump’s allies, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
More recently, Mr. Ayers has been one of the leaders of an outside group supporting the White House, America First Policies.
When Ayers entered the White House, he didn’t immediately sell his lucrative business, C5 Creative Consulting, as previous administrations would have required. He also obtained a broad waiver permitting him to talk to former clients. His ownership of C5 turned his White House job into a minefield of possible conflicts of interest.
In 2001, while he was a freshman at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, Ayers met a reserved senior who would become his close friend and sidekick: Paul Bennecke, the state chairman of the College Republicans. The pair signed on to state senator Sonny Perdue’s long-shot campaign for governor. In a matter of days, Ayers was zipping around the state in Perdue’s four-seater plane. Perdue’s upset victory swept a Republican into the governor’s mansion for the first time since Reconstruction—and two very young, very ambitious operatives into the big leagues.
In 2006, Perdue was appointed chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Ayers became the RGA’s executive director—a spectacular promotion for a 24-year-old with no experience in national politics. Bennecke was the political director. In 2005, Ayers had married Perdue’s second cousin, Jamie Floyd.
On Ayers’ watch, the RGA moved vast sums of donor money all around the country. When he joined the organization, its budget for the 2005-2006 election cycle was $43 million. By the end of the 2010 cycle, the budget had increased to $132 million.
Ayers took a partnership at a media buying firm that was barely known in D.C. Target Enterprises was a company of about 15 people who worked out of an office tower in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. Its founder, a brash New Yorker named David Bienstock, was about as far away as you could get from the Washington establishment.
Target Enterprises hardly had a presence in national political advertising. But in his West Coast milieu, David Bienstock was known as a consummate hustler. In 2009, Bienstock acquired a right-hand man who could help him break into national politics. Adam Stoll, a former Goldman Sachs executive then in his mid-30s, had run New York governor George Pataki’s 2002 reelection campaign. Whatever Target’s dangle to Ayers and Bennecke was, it seemed to be persuasive. Target suddenly became the RGA’s biggest vendor, receiving $31 million for buying ads—about 36 percent of the RGA’s budget.
Ayers had been at Target for a few weeks when he made a startling announcement: He was taking a hiatus. It turned out he was attempting to get Tim Pawlenty elected president. The Pawlenty campaign was a bust, fizzling in less than three months and somehow racking up a debt of half a million dollars.After the campaign wound down, Ayers returned to Target and immediately resumed pitching the firm to his political friends.
He stayed on as a partner at Target, but also advised candidates and outside groups through his company, C5. In 2014, Ayers was working as the lead strategist for Bruce Rauner, the Chicago businessman who had launched a bid for governor of Illinois.
In 2014, Target was working for David Perdue’s campaign for the U.S. Senate in Georgia. In that same race, C5 was retained by an outside group supporting Perdue (who is Ayers’ distant relation by marriage).
his most ambitious venture was an effort to create his own political star—a candidate with the potential to one day go all the way to the White House. Eric Greitens, a candidate for governor of Missouri, was a GOP consultant’s dream. The 41-year-old was an intensely ambitious, chisel-jawed former Navy SEAL and Rhodes scholar turned best-selling author.
IN JANUARY 2018, Eric Greitens’ political future exploded when a local news station reported allegations that he had tied a woman to gym equipment in the basement of his home, blindfolded her, taken a picture and then used it as blackmail. Greitens admitted to an extramarital affair, but denied blackmailing the woman, who had been his hairdresser. On February 22 2018, he was indicted by a grand jury on a felony invasion of privacy charge.more » « less
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