Former Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle has built her own power center within Donald Trump's re-election campaign, helping to bolster fundraising amid the coronavirus pandemic even as the president frets about his standing with voters.
Guilfoyle, 51, has dated the president's son Donald Trump Jr. for two years. But since taking a role in mid January as national chairwoman of the Trump Victory Finance Committee -- where she draws a salary of $15,000 a month -- she has amassed a team and operates with the authority of a member of the Trump family.
She operates mostly independently of campaign manager Brad Parscale and Jared Kushner, the de facto head of the president's re-election campaign.
"I have to answer to the president," Guilfoyle said when asked about some tension with other Trump aides. "I'm not going to let him down. He's been my friend for 15 years. So, in that sense, you know, I make no apologies for coming in and trying to just totally, you know, kick ass, and do well."
She is partly credited with the Trump campaign's main fundraising committee more than doubling its take in the quarter after she came aboard in mid January, to $64 million, people close to the campaign said.
Guilfoyle has expanded the concept of donation "bundlers" to middle-income supporters, aides said. In 2018, the campaign rewarded hosts who raised at least $25,000 and at least $45,000. Now, raising as little as $1,000 can earn supporters a reward, such as access to a campaign event.
About 2,500 new bundlers have signed up since March, according to the campaign.
Now with in-person fundraising canceled by the coronavirus, the events have moved online. While former Vice President Joe Biden has personally hosted a string of virtual fundraisers since the pandemic began, Trump hasn't done any himself. He gets a charge from hosting a rally with a stadium full of fans, not from sitting in front of a computer monitor, one person close to him said.
Guilfoyle, a former prosecutor who was once married to Gavin Newsom, now the governor of California, has hosted eight virtual fundraisers since April 24, according to two people familiar with the events.
Her team within the campaign includes senior adviser Caroline Wren, finance director Falicia Mandel, deputy director Lauren Bosler, external affairs aide Ashley Mocarski, operations aide Maggie Mulvaney, a data team and a slate of regional and state directors.
During a recent virtual fundraiser, Donald Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle bantered with the participants. The private event was closed to the press, but the access code was shared with Bloomberg News.
"There's no doubt that Kimberly will extract money from me like she has all of you," the younger Trump told the donors. "It's a thing of beauty. Or brutal, I can't tell which one it is. It's sort of like watching nature: It can be incredible and mystical and as vicious as it gets."
Guilfoyle looked at him, then told the donors: "You kind of say to yourself, 'Wait a second -- a Trump is calling me too aggressive?"'
Several other top Republicans were on the Zoom call, including the Republican National Committee's finance chairman, Todd Ricketts, who told the group of California-based donors he thinks enthusiasm for Biden is low.
"There are people that I know who acknowledge that they are going to vote for Joe Biden, but there is no one who I know that says they actually support him," Ricketts said, despite polls showing Biden leading in many states.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, who joined the call from an office with a framed poster of "Shipwrecks" on the wall behind him, told the donors that "there's real promise" for a coronavirus vaccine, that Trump will rebuild the economy, and "the sooner we can open up, the safer we'll be."
The Trump campaign has tried to create online content most evenings to stay connected with voters until rallies can resume, which likely won't be for months, two people familiar with the situation said.
Guilfoyle set up a studio in her New York home, using her laptop for virtual appearances after she became impatient waiting for lighting and other equipment to arrive. A talk-style show called "The Right View," a riff off of ABC's "The View" featured Guilfoyle, Lara Trump, and Trump campaign surrogates Katrina Pierson and Mercedes Schlapp.
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