Lobbying Firm Plays Both Sides, Working With Super PACs That Support and Oppose Donald Trump

The co-founding partner is advising the largest pro-Trump SuperPAC; the managing director is spokesperson for the anti-Trump Never Trump project.

Alex Castellanos, Republican media consultant, political commentator, shares a stage with pundits during a panel discussion, "2012: The Path to the Presidency", at the University of Chicago in Chicago on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Alex Castellanos, Republican media consultant, political commentator, shares a stage with pundits during a panel discussion, "2012: The Path to the Presidency", at the University of Chicago in Chicago on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) Photo: Nam Y. Huh/AP

Purple Strategies is playing both sides of the Donald Trump divide.

The bipartisan firm, run by Democrats and Republican operatives, is a full-service political shop that produces campaign advertisements, employs lobbyists, and provides crisis communication consultation to candidates and corporate clients.

Alex Castellanos, a co-founding partner of Purple Strategies, is advising the largest pro-Trump Super PAC.

Rory Cooper, a managing director at Purple Strategies, is serving as the spokesperson and advisor for the Never Trump project of the Never Means Never PAC.

It’s not the first time Purple Strategies has taken on conflicting clients battling over a controversial subject. As we previously reported, Purple Strategies officials provided work for the National Rifle Association while simultaneously providing work for leading gun control groups.

But this would appear to be a special case of the firm’s ability to reconcile what would normally be considered irreconcilable differences.

Over the last eight years, the team at Alexandria, Virginia-based Purple Strategies has gained a record of working for clients under a storm of negative attention, notably rebranding BP and controlling fallout from the company’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Purple Strategies did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The firm was founded in 2008 by Castellanos, the former advertising strategist for George W. Bush, and by Steve McMahon, former advisor to the Democratic National Committee under Chairman Howard Dean. Purple Strategies now employs a large stable of political consultants from both sides of aisle, including former officials with the DCCC, former journalists, and current Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, R-Ark.

Castellanos, a CNN commentator, was until recently an outspoken critic of Trump, pillorying the real estate tycoon as an autocratic “strongman.” But now he has made a political U-turn, cutting advertisements and advising Rebuilding America Now, one of several Super PACs recently formed to support Trump. Last week, Rebuilding America Now announced that it has $32 million in committed funds and began the very first general election television commercial supporting Trump’s election bid. The spot depicts both Bill and Hillary Clinton as dishonest, editing together a statement about the use of a private email server.

“My choice is now binary. Either I support her, or I support him,” Castellanos told the New York Times. “And the certainty of more of the same in Hillary Clinton is much more dangerous to this country than the uncertainty and disruptive change of Donald Trump.”

Campaign finance filings show that Rebuilding America Now is using Cold Harbor Films, the in-house production company of National Media, part of the family of firms run out of Purple Strategies’ Alexandria office complex and owned by Purple Strategies’ founding partners, including Castellanos. Cold Harbor Films produced the firm’s advertisements for BP, as well as for a lobbying group representing the drug industry and the Republican-led House Ways and Means Committee.

Rory Cooper, formerly a congressional aide, has spent the last several months as the spokesperson and senior advisor to the Never Trump project, formed to block Trump from winning the Republican nomination. (Pierre Omidyar, the founder of The Intercept’s parent company, First Look Media, donated $100,000 to the Never Means Never PAC that funds the project.)

The group spent about $200,000 in independent expenditures against Trump during the primaries, but made little impact on the election results.

After Trump effectively won his party’s nomination following his win in the Indiana primary, Cooper’s Never Trump group recast its mission. Cooper, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Intercept, told RealClearPolitics reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns that his group will now seek to diminish the impact of Trump’s role within the Republican Party. “We don’t want the party to become an echo chamber of his beliefs,” Cooper said.

Purple Strategies proudly touts its mission as providing clients with “perspective and experience from both sides — even if they don’t always like it.”

Top photo: Alex Castellanos in 2007.

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