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News / Northwest

Bellevue man gives $1 million to Trump PAC after felony convictions

By Jim Brunner, The Seattle Times
Published: June 24, 2024, 1:43pm

SEATTLE — A prominent Bellevue wealth manager gave $1 million to a super PAC supporting former President Donald Trump the day after the ex-president was convicted of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

Walter P. Schlaepfer made the big donation May 31 to Make America Great Again Inc., according to a new Federal Election Commission filing.

Schlaepfer’s contribution was part of a massive surge in donations backing Trump in the wake of his convictions by a jury in New York stemming from hush money payments to cover up a sex scandal in the run-up to the 2016 election. It was the single largest pro-Trump contribution from Washington state in this period, which ended May 31.

In the immediate aftermath of the verdict, donors poured tens of millions of dollars into Trump’s presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee — all but erasing a big fundraising advantage held by President Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Some wealthy Trump backers, like Schlaepfer, gave to Make America Great Again Inc., which as a super PAC has no limit on the size of contributions it can accept.

Billionaire Timothy Mellon made national headlines this week by giving $50 million — one of the largest-ever disclosed political contributions — to the super PAC on the same day as Schlaepfer. The surge in donations will help power the group’s plans to run $100 million in TV ads in swing states through Labor Day, according to The New York Times.

Schlaepfer, who goes professionally by the name Phil Scott, did not respond to emails and a phone message Friday seeking comment.

Republican elected officials and organizations have by and large united behind Trump after his felony convictions, with many echoing his claims that he’s been a victim of a political prosecution and some attacking the U.S. judicial system and vowing retribution if he retakes the White House.

Schlaepfer, who lists his employer as J.P. Morgan, has been a frequent donor to Republican causes, nationally and in Washington state, but his May 31 check appears to be his largest single federal political contribution, according to FEC data.

In 2020, he donated $815,000 to Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee backing Trump. He has donated more than $400,000 this year to the Republican National Committee.

Last year, he donated $250,000 to a slate of initiatives backed by Redmond hedge fund manager Brian Heywood. Three measures are headed to the November ballot, including one that would repeal Washington’s new capital gains tax on profits from stock and bond sales for the state’s wealthiest residents. The others are focused on repealing a climate law and challenging a long-term insurance program.

For 35 years, Schlaepfer worked as an investment adviser for Merrill Lynch and was named a top financial adviser by Barron’s, according to a biography on the website of his family foundation. He served as a Navy flight officer and deployed aboard the USS Constellation, before leaving the military to pursue a financial services career, according to the bio.

The Schlaepfer family’s foundation gives money to causes including rowing groups, police charities and the Washington Policy Center, a conservative think tank.

In 2022, the foundation also donated $20,000 to Battlefront, a Gig Harbor-based nonprofit started by conservative activist Christopher Rufo, who has become a national figure in culture wars over what is taught about race and LGBTQ+ rights in U.S. schools.

Battlefront is described as a “center for narrative, legal and policy warfare” and “a Christian organization fighting for American principles,” in the tax filing for Schlaepfer’s foundation.