Nick Ayers

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James Nicholas "Nick" Ayers is a conservative political strategist and consultant. Since July 2017, he has worked as Chief of Staff to Vice President Mike Pence. Ayers was born in Cobb County, Georgia on August 16, 1982. In November of 2018, multiple news outlets reported that Ayers had become a "leading candidate to replace White House chief of staff John Kelly.[1]

He became the manager for the successful reelection campaign of Georgia governor Sonny Perdue, his second cousin. Ayers was appointed as the Executive Director of the Republican Governors Association after Perdue was elected Chairman of the RGA. Ayers worked to defend WI Governor Scott Walker as Walker faced recall in 2012. Damning Ayers emails were swept up by prosecutors in an investigation of whether groups like RGA, registered as independent "express advocacy" groups in Wisconsin, and independent "issue ad groups" were illegally coordinating their activities with Walker staff. Ayers' tenure at the RGA overlapped with the 2011-2012 Chairmanship of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell who was convicted of multiple charges of corruption in Virginia in 2014. As a private consultant, Ayers also worked to elect Missouri Governor Eric Greitens who was charged in 2017 with improperly obtaining and using a list from a charity for campaign purposes.

Ayers has been active as a private political consultant, running the firm C5 Consulting until he joined Pence's staff. In the buildup to the 2018 mid-term elections, Ayers' political capital continued to rise as he was in charge of directing how Vice President Pence (seen as a much more effective campaigner for Republican candidates than President Trump) spends time on the campaign trail.[2] His performance in that role reportedly impressed Trump.[1]

In 2017, when Ayers was 35 years old, his financial disclosure report stated his net worth as between $12.2 and $54.8 million.[3]

News and Controversies

Declining Chief of Staff Offer

On December 9, 2018, The New York Times reported that Ayers turned down Trump's offer for the position chief of staff. Moreover, "according to people familiar with his plans," Ayers is leaving the Trump administration entirely, stepping down as VP Mike Pence's chief of staff by the end of 2018. The NYT story says that Ayers had told the president he would accept the position only on an interim basis, which was not what Trump wanted. Potential explanations for Ayers rejection of position include "newfound scrutiny of his personal finances." In 2017, the then-35-year-old "reported a net worth of $12.2 million to $54.8 million." There is also speculation that Ayers will run for office in Georgia.[4]

Potential Chief of Staff to President Trump

According to White House officials "and others close to the presidential orbit" Ayers has a "serious" chance of being chosen to replace John Kelly as Trump's chief of staff.[1] Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon are supporters are Ayers.[1]

Leadership of the Republican Governors Association

After Sonny Perdue was reelected governor of Georgia in 2006, he became was elected Chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA) in 2007. Perdue then brought his cousin Ayres in as Executive Director.[5] Despite running the association at the young age of 24, Ayers was praised for his leadership at the RGA. A 2010 profile of Ayers in The Washington Post described him as having "transformed the creaky committee into a tight ship that has attracted Republican money bundlers disillusioned with Michael Steele's Republican National Committee and its spending sprees."[6] Ayers served in this role until 2011.

Ayers' tenure at the RGA overlapped with the 2011-2012 Chairmanship of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. McDonnell gained nationwide attention when he and his wife were convicted on 11 counts of corruption in 2014. A Virginia court found the Governor and First Lady guilty of numerous counts related to acceptance of more than $135,000 in gifts, loans, trips and other items from Richmond businessman Jonnie Williams Sr.[7] The jury verdict was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Support for Scott Walker and Involvement in the Wisconsin "John Doe" Investigation of Illegal Campaign Coordination

At the direction of Ayers, RGA was deeply involved in defending Scott Walker during the 2012 Wisconsin recall race. RGA emails were subpoenaed by prosecutors investigating whether or not RGA and other express advocacy groups such as Republican State Leadership Committee, illegally coordinated their activities to defend Walker with Walker campaign staff. The investigation was dubbed "John Doe II." Some RGA emails were part of a package of materials leaked to the public in September 2016 expose in the Guardian "Because Scott Walker Asked."[8]

An early email dated March 25, 2011, from Ayers to Scott Walker and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus laid out a coordinated strategy to defend Walker in the June 2012 recall races: "Spoke to Gillespie this morning. My sense is that everyone's heart (AFP, WIGOP, RSLC, RGA, CFG) is in the right place but no one is clear on the entire battle plan, and that is leaving very vulnerable gaps in both the planning and execution of a winning strategy." Here, Ayers names key groups involved in the campaign coordination prosecutors were investigating; Ed Gillespie from the Republican State Leadership Conference, Americans for Prosperity, the Wisconsin Republican Party, and Club for Growth. The groups would go on to spend some $30 million in the recall races ($20 million funneled through Wisconsin Club for Growth, $10 million via the RGA) an enormous sum in a small state.[9]

Ayers laid down the battle plan and others continued to execute it. A September 2016 lead of John Doe documents to the Guardian included emails indicating that Keith Gilkes, Scott Walker's campaign manager, held weekly meetings with the Republican Governor's Association. On October 14, 2011 an RGA staffer wrote to Gilkes in an email "Josh mentioned he would like to make this a recurring call on Fridays at 2:30 pm (EST). Does that work for you?" Gilkes replies: "This works on my end for a weekly call… Shoot me the phone number and dial-in when you have it." Josh is likely Josh Robinson, RGA's political director who later boasted of "overseeing the largest independent expenditure campaign defending Scott Walker during the 2012 recalls" in his biography.[10]

The legal problem was that both RGA and RSLC registered their campaign entities in Wisconsin as express advocacy groups, required to swear an oath not to coordinate with candidates or their agents. RGA would later run a pounding rotation of ads attacking Walker's Democratic opponent, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, and defending Walker. Even the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision shutting down the John Doe case recognized that express advocacy ads were prohibited and chose to ignore evidence of express advocacy by RGA and RSLC offered by prosecutors, see CMD's Mary Bottari report "Supreme Coverup: How the Wisconsin Justice System Failed in the John Doe."[11] The entire ruling was based on a false premise, see report by CMD's Arn Pearson "Leaked Documents Reveal Court Dismissal of John Doe Investigation Based on a False Premise." [12]

Governor Eric Greitens Scandals

During the 2016 Missouri Governor election, Republican Eric Greitens hired Ayers and his consulting firm C5 Consulting to support his campaign. In early 2018, Greitens became embroiled in a campaign finance scandal. The Greitens campaign used a donor list from a charity called The Mission Continues, which Greitens himself had founded. Some estimates claim that use of the list led to raising more than $2 million for the campaign.[13] However, serious questions were raised if the list was obtained from the charity and used in line with campaign finance laws.

On April 20, 2018, Greitens was charged with a felony for tampering with a computer to obtain the donor lists from The Mission Continues for fundraising purposes.[14] Ayers, who joined the campaign after the acquisition of the donor's list, was placed under investigation and was rumored to be the target of a subpoena to further his examine his role, as of May 1, 2018. Two of Ayers' close associates, Mike Adams, a lawyer who represents Pence’s political action committee, and Austin Chambers, a protege of Ayers and Greitens’ top campaign consultant in 2016, are also involved in the case. The two advisors were named repeatedly in a report accusing Greitens of knowingly falsifying a settlement document related to the improper donor list acquisition with the state ethics committee, a class A misdemeanor.[15]

Greitens' sexual relationship with his hairdresser also made headlines and the circumstances under which he took sexually explicit photos of her became subject to a legislative and a criminal investigation. “He was charged with invasion of privacy, accused of taking an explicit photograph of the woman without her permission, and then threatening to reveal it publicly if she told anyone about their relationship,” wrote the New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/30/us/eric-greitens-missouri-takeaways.html

The New York Times reported that “after four months of spiraling political scandal, criminal charges and the threat of impeachment" Greitens resigned in May 2018.[16]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 CHRISTOPHER CADELAGO, ANDREW RESTUCCIA and BEN SCHRECKINGER [https://www.politico.com/story/2018/11/13/nick-ayers-replace-john-kelly-987654 Top Pence aide resurfaces as leading candidate to replace Kelly] Politico Nov 13, 2018
  2. Jake Sherman, Politico Playbook Power List: Nick Ayers, Chief of Staff for Vice President Mike Pence, "Politico," 2017.
  3. Kenneth Vogel PFD Report Document Cloud, accessed Dec. 2018
  4. Maggie Haberman Nick Ayers, Aide to Pence, Declines Offer to Be Trump’s Chief of Staff The New York Times Dec. 9, 2018
  5. Ryan Mahoney, Perdue campaign manager to lead RGA, "Atlanta Business Chronicle," December 1, 2006.
  6. Jason Horowitz, Young Nick Ayers has full-grown plans for a Republican return to the White House, "Washington Post," April 27, 2010.
  7. Rosalind S. Helderman and Matt Zapotosky, Ex-Va. governor Robert McDonnell guilty of 11 counts of corruption, "Washington Post," September 4, 2014.
  8. Ed Pilkington, Because Scott Walker Asked, "The Guardian", September 14, 2016.
  9. Lisa Graves, The Koch Connection in the Scott Walker John Doe Documents, "PR Watch", September 28, 2016.
  10. Red Print Strategy, Josh Robinson Bio, accessed May 13, 2018.
  11. Mary Bottari, Supreme Cover-Up: How the Wisconsin Justice System Failed in the Walker John Doe, "PR Watch", September 18, 2016.
  12. Arn Pearson, Leaked Documents Show Court's Dismissal of the John Doe Was Based on a False Premise, "PR Watch", September 18, 2016.
  13. Jo Mannies and Jason Rosenbaum, Former aide says Greitens relied on charity donor list, ‘dark money’ to kick-start campaign, "Saint Louis Public Radio", May 9, 2018.
  14. Rebecca Berg, Trump administration officials inquiring whether Greitens scandal could impact top aide to VP, "CNN", May 1, 2018.
  15. Lindsay Wise, Jason Hancock, and Steve Vockrodt, Greitens’ legal woes entangle political advisers with ties to Pence’s chief of staff "Kansas City Star", May 3, 2018.
  16. Julie Bosman and Mitch Smith Gov. Eric Greitens of Missouri Resigns: 5 Takeaways The New York Times, May 30 2018


External Resources

  • Nick Ayers (2011-05-25). WI. Nick Ayers. Retrieved on 2018-05-13.