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WASHINGTON (AP) — A former top adviser to Donald Trump's presidential campaign has signed on to work as a volunteer for a super political action committee backing his former boss — despite Trump's request that the group stand down.
Roger Stone, who publicly parted ways with Trump's campaign in August, says he is supporting the Committee To Restore America's Greatness, which first filed paperwork with federal regulators in October.
"I just really think this is something that needs to be done," said Stone, who has known Trump for decades and remained a vocal supporter, even after he left the campaign.
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski called the group "a big-league scam," and said Stone had not notified the campaign of his plans. "He's welcome to talk about what he wants, but he's in no way shape or form authorized by the campaign," Lewandowski said.
Trump, currently the Republican front-runner, routinely rails against the unprecedented role that super PACs are playing this election cycle, blasting his rivals as the puppets of donors who can write checks of any size. Indeed, the Committee To Restore America's Greatness was one of several super PACs that Trump's campaign sent letters to in October demanding they cease their operations and return any money after reports emerged about ties between the campaign and one such group.
Lewandowski said that the Trump campaign was drafting a new letter protesting the group's fundraising as illegitimate.
But Stone said the committee would be different from the ones Trump dislikes because it won't be accepting corporate or "special interest" money.
"I don't expect large contributions from anybody. This will be funded by small donors who are opposed to Marco Rubio and the establishment Republican candidates," he said, referring to one of Trump's chief rivals.
Typically the campaigns — rather than super PACs — seek out these valuable small contributions because campaigns are limited to $2,700 per contributor, while super PACs have no such limits.
The first evidence of Stone's involvement in the PAC came Thursday in the form of a fundraising letter soliciting contributions distributed via an email list bought from the conservative website NewsMax.com.
"Dear Fellow American, If you think it's essential that the Republican Party nominate Donald J. Trump for President instead of Senator Marco Rubio, I urgently need your help," the letter begins.
The group's website says it was launched to stop attempts by "The Washington, DC insiders, special interests, lobbyists and a handful of self-interested billionaires... to destroy the candidacy of Donald Trump."
Stone said that the group's work would be aimed at educating voters about the records of the candidates he sees as Trump's chief rivals, including Florida Sen. Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
"I think it's vitally important that their records become known to Republican primary voters," he said.
Stone left the Trump campaign amid clashes over its direction. While Trump maintained that he fired Stone, Stone has said he quit. Trump "didn't fire me - I fired Trump," he wrote on Twitter.
While Stone said he is not a principal with the group, he said "it would probably be wise" for him to cease conversations with Trump about the campaign due to conflict of interest rules which bar coordination between the two entities.
Lewandowski denied that Stone was engaged with the actual Trump campaign in any way.
"Honestly, I haven't talked to Roger Stone since we fired him in June or July," Lewandowski said.
In his NewsMax email, Stone also said he has begun contacting cable television and radio stations in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and will be reserving airtime "within days."
There is no record of the group having raised or spent money, and its first report to federal regulators isn't due until the end of January.
Details on who specifically is running the PAC are unclear. The only official listed on its federal election commission registration is Tom Fay, a Southern California man whose LinkedIn profile does not highlight significant experience as a political operative. Reached at work, Fay initially hung up — then called back and referred any questions to Stone.
A media line on the group's website also advises callers leaving messages that "Mr. Stone" will get back to them.
The group's advertising to NewsMax subscribers follows in the Trump Campaign's own footsteps — in August, Trump's campaign spent $112,488 on a "list rental" from NewsMax, according to his most recent federal campaign finance report.
Stone's note blasts establishment Republicans for attacking Trump, singling out Rubio for opposing Trump's proposal to temporarily freeze Muslim immigration to the United States.
"The people who gave us John McCain and Mitt Romney — losers — now want to foist Marco Rubio on us," Stone writes.
The nearly 2,000 word email concludes with a link to a page collecting donations, along with a reminder that "there are no contribution limits."
On October 21, a Trump campaign attorney sent Fay a letter saying it was "formally disavowing" the Committee to Restore America's Greatness and notifying the group that it was not authorized to use Trump's name and likeness.
"While we certainly respect your rights guaranteed under the First Amendment to speak your mind regarding politics, candidates and issues of the day, our concern is the confusion likely caused by your efforts," the attorney wrote, asking that the group return all money collected from its fundraising activities to date.
The letter also repeated Trump's regular criticism of candidates who rely on Super PACs, adding that Trump "has made it clear that he does not need the financial support of others."
Colvin reported from Newark, New Jersey.
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