Trump Grift Watch: The Case of Ryan Call

What's stealing $280,000 among friends?


Yesterday, Washington Babylon brought you news of apparent corruption involving Patrice Cullors, a founder of Black Lives Matter, and of Saikat Chakrabarti, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s former chief of staff. Since we cover corruption and grifting on both sides of the aisle, I’ll bring you today news concerning Ryan Call, a GOP operative and former Colorado Republican Party chair who is accused of stealing roughly $280,000 from a pro-Trump Super PAC called Rebuilding America Now.

As Colorado Newsline reported yesterday, the allegations against Call “were disclosed in a complaint filed against him this month by the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel, a division of the Colorado Supreme Court that handles attorney disciplinary matters. The OARC’s complaint was obtained by Newsline through a public records request.”

Rebuilding America Now was created to support Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The story reported that Call, a former attorney with the Denver-based law firm Hale Westfall, served as the group’s treasurer between June 2016 and June 2019. “The complaint alleges that Call embezzled nearly $280,000 from Rebuilding America Now through a variety of methods, including by secretly awarding himself a $5,000-per-month consulting contract and reporting false campaign-expenditure information to the Federal Election Commission,” the story said. “The complaint describes Call’s actions as criminal theft.”

The story quoted Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform for the Campaign Legal Center, a campaign-finance watchdog group, as saying there was “all sorts of shady stuff happening” with Rebuilding America Now, and that there were “a number of still-pending complaints before the FEC pertaining to the Super PAC.

It would be easy to write all this off as Trump grifters grifting each other, but it does raise a serious question. Why wasn’t Call prosecuted? Other PAC scammers who committed the same crimes are sitting in federal prison right now.

These include Kyle Gerald Prall, a Texas entrepreneur and all around bon vivant who “created several political committees—including Feel Bern, HC4President and Trump Victory—which he advertised online to solicit contributions purportedly in support of presidential candidates in the 2016 election,” according to the Justice Department:

Prall advertised that the contributions would be used to support the candidates in various ways, including paying for transportation for voters to the polls; paying for training for volunteers to make phone calls and canvass neighborhoods to support the respective candidates; paying to help voters obtain appropriate identification documents; and making contributions directly to one of the candidates and to other organizations supporting his campaign. In reality, Prall did not intend to, and did not, use the contributions for these purposes and instead transferred much of the money to himself through sham LLC accounts.

In 2019, Prall was sentenced to 36 months in prison and ordered to pay $548,428 in restitution.

Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller discovered Call’s activities during his investigation of Trump presidential campaign chair Paul Manafort in 2019. He found that Rebuilding America Now funneled a $125,000 payment to an attorney representing Manafort. Meanwhile, a Rebuilding America Now director, lobbyist Laurence Gay, “is a longtime Manafort ally,” Colorado Newsline reported.

Mueller made multiple referrals to the Justice Department at the end of his investigation. Call’s corruption was almost surely one of them. So why was Call allowed to quietly leave his law firm and move to Utah?

His crimes date back years and now he faces only the risk of “private admonition, public censure, probation, suspension, or disbarment.” Even the worst of those, if applied, don’t seem like much given that Call apparently stole more than a quarter of a million dollars.

No wonder this “proud father” and practitioner of “human decency” is smiling. In America, as always, grifters are gonna keep on grifting because the rules and laws that are supposed to apply to all of us — and do if you’re poor — don’t apply at all to well-connected political criminals.

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