Arcus Group, a security and event management company founded by former aides to President Donald Trump, received a last-minute government contract to provide protection to the White House for the election.
The contract comes as there is growing concern around riots or other forms of political turmoil in the wake of the 2020 presidential election results.
The U.S. Secret Service, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, provided Arcus Group with the contract to set up “perimeter security” to protect the “White House complex on Election Night.” The contract, signed last Friday, will cost the government $988,788.
It’s not the first time the Arcus Group has provided security for the White House. Last summer, following protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, the same company was contracted by the Secret Service to provide vehicle gates, pedestrian gates, and other fencing solutions for the area around the White House grounds. That contract cost $434,700.
Yesterday, media outlets reporting from outside of the White House noted that the fence appears to be the same style of multilayer security barrier that went up after the Floyd protests. NBC News reported over the weekend that construction crews began work on a “non-scalable” fence to secure parks around the White House, including Lafayette Square. Washington, D.C., police may be assisted by as many as 250 National Guard members that have been told to stand ready for potential violence.
The Arcus Group was founded by Anna Reahl and P.J. O’Neil, two former GOP aides who provided production and security for the Republican National Convention in 2016 and Trump’s inauguration the following year. Campaign finance records show Reahl has received payments directly from the Trump campaign since 2018, for advance work and event consulting. O’Neil’s professional biography lists work for a number of Republican politicians, including Trump and former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. The company bills itself as “a woman-owned, minority-owned, full-service event management company specializing in event design and production, event programming, internal and perimeter security.”
In June, the firm provided event production work for a Trump rally in Tulsa, a moment that provoked controversy as the first major indoor campaign event since the coronavirus pandemic began. Federal Election Commission records show the firm received $673,905 from the Trump campaign for its services for the event, which cost about $2.2 million.
The Arcus Group did not respond to a request for comment.
The Secret Service, which provides protection services for presidential candidates, also appears to be providing special election-night security services for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Last month, the agency entered into a $1.6 million contract with Showcall Security Services, another event management and security firm, to provide perimeter security for election night in Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, where he will be speaking tonight.
Four years of increasing political polarization, a destabilizing pandemic, rising unemployment, several instances of mass looting and violent confrontations between demonstrators and police over the last five months, and an incumbent president who has signaled that he may take unprecedented efforts to dispute the election result have many on edge for the potential of another round of unrest this week. Retailers and other businesses around the country have put into place new private security measures over fears of that mass looting may erupt over the election-related chaos.
The new White House fencing comes after officials were caught off guard from the protests that developed following Floyd’s death. In May, Trump was rushed to an emergency underground bunker as demonstrators, some of whom threw bricks and bottles, gathered outside the gates of the White House. Trump denied he was sheltering and claimed it was a brief “inspection,” and White House officials later said he was never in any danger.