The fund affiliated with former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election paid $60,000 to a fashion designer known for styling Melania Trump’s wardrobe when the couple was in the White House.
According to records filed with the Federal Elections Commission, the Save America political action committee distributed the money to Hervé Pierre Braillard in four payments starting April 7 and going through June 24. The committee reported that these payments were all for “strategy consulting.” It’s not clear what the money was specifically paid for.
“Mr. Pierre serves as a senior advisor to Save America, involved in event management and special projects,” said Taylor Budowich, a senior official with Save America.
The payments offer a window into one of the many ways Trump, who is not a candidate for any federal office, is allowed to use money in the PAC, which has raised more than $100 million since it was registered in November 2020 to fight debunked voter fraud allegations in the 2020 election.
The Jan. 6 committee has scrutinized the advertising and spending of Save America. Fundraising emails advertised an “Official Election Defense Fund” that an investigative counsel for the committee said never existed. The PAC also spent millions paying the company that put on the Jan. 6, 2021, rally and keeps former White House aides on the payroll.
The Federal Election Commission does not allow candidate committees, which are formed to raise money for a specific candidate, to spend money on personal items, including clothing. But Save America is not a candidate committee, it’s a leadership PAC, originally designed for politicians to raise and give money to other candidates. They carry fewer restrictions and have been criticized as slush funds.
Experts who spoke with USA TODAY said using leadership PACs to spend money with fewer rules is a loophole that should be closed.
“If you are going to a political function and trying to buy a new dress or a new tuxedo, that’s typically something that the FEC would say campaign funds should not be used for,” said Michael Beckel, the research director for Issue One, a bipartisan political reform organization.
“So it really raises questions if leadership funds are being used to pay for something like a new dress or new clothing that campaign funds could not be used for legally,” he said.
Braillard, who goes by Hervé Pierre, is a French-American fashion designer based in New York who has worked with other first ladies, including Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush, while they were in the White House. While Trump was in office, Braillard was featured in Vogue and the New York Times for his work dressing Melania Trump.
“I do a bit of styling with (Melania Trump), but it’s not really my forte,” Braillard told the New York Times in 2017. “What interests me in this relationship is not just finding pretty clothes – many people can do that. It’s more about the legacy of this woman. Everybody has a different reaction to what she’s wearing.”