Several political operatives tied to Kanye West’s presidential campaign are experienced Republican Party pros, some of whom have ties to President Donald Trump.
In several reports in recent days, reporters have identified the West campaign staff who’ve been collecting signatures and registering his campaign in states across the country. The entertainer and designer is mounting a long-shot bid for the presidency — he’s failed to meet the qualifications appear on the ballot in several states — but West’s campaign could make a difference in certain states like Wisconsin, where the margin between Donald Trump and Joe Biden could be slim.
New York Magazine first reported Monday that two people tied to West’s campaign had a history with the GOP.
Chuck Wilton, a presidential elector for West in Vermont (Wilton would cast an electoral college vote for West if he wins the state) will also be an elected delegate for Donald Trump at this year’s Republican National Convention.
“Somebody said that Vermont needs electors for certain people and [it was] something I said that I’m more than willing to do,” Wilton told New York, adding that while was “not disappointed” with Trump, he “wanted to search out some more alternatives to him.”
In Arkansas, the magazine noted, Republican operative Gregg Keller is listed as the West campaign’s contact with the secretary of state’s office. Keller, an experienced operative, previously worked for Mitt Romney and used to be the executive director of the American Conservative Union. The New York Times reported Tuesday that in 2015 he was under consideration to lead Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
In Wisconsin, after WISN’s Matt Smith filmed someone dropping off signatures for West’s campaign, Vice News identified the person as Lane Ruhland — who is also representing the Trump campaign in a lawsuit against a small Wisconsin television station that aired an advertisement from a Democratic-aligned super PAC that the Trump campaign alleged was defamatory. Among other roles, Ruhland served as legal counsel for the Wisconsin Republican Party in 2014 and 2015, Vice noted.
“No comment” as woman enters election commission building just after 5p in Madison to drop off signatures for Kanye West pic.twitter.com/zVxePn5Fe2
— Matt Smith (@mattsmith_news) August 4, 2020
“It appears that the Kanye West campaign made a smart decision by hiring an experienced election attorney,” a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Republican Party told multiple outlets. “We welcome Kanye West and all other candidates who qualified for ballot access to the race, and look forward to delivering Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes to President Trump.”
The Times reported Tuesday on another tie: Operative Mark Jacoby’s group, Let the Voters Decide, has been collecting signatures for West’s campaign in Ohio, West Virginia and Arkansas, the paper reported, citing earlier reporting from TMZ.
Jacoby was arrested in 2008 while registering Republicans to vote in California and charged with voter fraud and perjury; he ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for using the address of his childhood home on his own registration paperwork. Voters claimed that Jacoby’s staff tricked them into registering as Republicans.
The West operatives didn’t respond to TPM’s requests for comment about the nature of their work or the campaign’s aspirations, nor did the the West campaign itself.