POLITICS

The Story Behind The Weird 'Mad Men' Firm That Donald Trump Is Using

Seriously, the firm is called Draper Sterling. But its origins are even more bizarre.

22/06/2016 2:24 AM AEST | Updated 22/06/2016 3:07 AM AEST
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Donald Trump paid $35,000 to a firm called Draper Sterling.

Donald Trump reported on Monday night that his campaign is virtually broke. Having raised roughly $3 million in the month of May, he retained just $1.28 million in cash on hand -- a sum better suited for a competitive House race than a run for the presidency.

Trump, naturally, attempted to placate the critics by saying he'd put in more of his own money if need be. But it's not just the poor nature of the incoming funding that has Republicans worried. The way the presumptive GOP nominee is spending his dwindling funds is drawing scrutiny as well.

Documents show the Trump campaign made four payments totaling $35,000 to a firm called Draper Sterling.

The name alone was enough to turn heads. Any self-respecting “Mad Men” fan would recognize it as a cheap rip-off of the acclaimed show. But the firm Trump is using for web advertising purposes isn't located on Madison Avenue. It's based in Londonderry, New Hampshire, on a pleasant residential street. It isn't even an office. Rather, it's a recently purchased four-room home occupied by a man who owns a cafe in a nearby town.

How did this place become a small hub for Trump for President activity?

That's not entirely clear but there are some intriguing political connections to the firm and equally intriguing theories to explain its existence. More on those later.

First things first. Draper Sterling is an actual firm. It was registered with the New Hampshire secretary of state's office with the address of 18 Crosby Lane, Londonderry. It is listed as a foreign limited liability company and was formed in Delaware on Dec. 2, 2015, according to public filings. Someone named Jon Adkins applied for registration in New Hampshire on Feb. 14 and the firm was formally created on March 25.

New Hampshire secretary of state's office
This is a real firm.

Adkins is the more mysterious part of the duo apparently behind Draper Sterling. Al Baldarsaro, a New Hampshire House member who represents Londonderry and has a prominent affiliation with the Trump campaign, said the name sounded familiar but he didn't know for sure. Other New Hampshire Republicans had no clue who Adkins is. According to the Secretary of State's database, he did register two other businesses: White Mountain Designs at the same address in Londonderry and Grace's Grantham Cafe, in Grantham, New Hampshire. An employee at the cafe said Adkins couldn't be reached Tuesday morning.

Adkins appears to live at 18 Crosby Lane, according to public records on Lexis Nexis. A Londonderry resident told The Huffington Post that a couple with that last name did move there relatively recently. She snapped the below picture of the place. Calls to the address went unreturned.

Crosby Lane
Does this look like a web advertising firm?

Trump's campaign did make a payment to Adkins directly in May: $3,000 for field consulting work. And on that payment, Adkins listed 18 Crosby Lane as his address. The campaign paid Paul Holzer $3,000 for field consulting work as well. He, too, listed his address as 18 Crosby Lane.

While it's unclear if the two live together (the neighbor suggested it was unlikely) they certainly are connected. Holzer and Adkins are the chief executive officer and director of business, respectively, at a company called Xeno Therapeutics, a 501(c)3 in Boston. The company says it uses "lifesaving xeno technology" to help burn victims. It was founded in 2016 but its place of business appears to be an apartment, at least according to this Zillow listing. There is no phone number listed and after this story was published its website was taken down.

Holzer is a fairly active political figure, it appears -- certainly more so than Adkins. He served as a U.S. Navy SEAL Officer for 10 years and attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander, according to Xeno's site. That's the same bio as the Paul Holzer who served as an aide to Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and as chief of staff for St. Louis businessman Jon Bruner's gubernatorial campaign in Missouri.

A top Republican operative who has worked with Holzer said he is infamous for burning bridges and for exaggerating his position. The operative said Holzer did not actually work on Baker's campaign. Instead, he worked for the Republican Party in Massachusetts on the victory fund that coordinated with the campaign.

Meanwhile, Mike Hafner, a spokesman for Bruner, said Holzer was only a "member of our temporary exploratory committee last summer" and "departed prior to the campaign's launch" in the fall of 2015. "We do not have contact with him," Hafner added. 

Holzer apparently went on from there to involve himself in a super PAC called "Patriots for America," which is spending money on the Missouri gubernatorial race and is run by his brother Adam McLain. And in a complaint that the website ThinkProgress first highlighted, that super PAC has been accused of having $56,234 in debt to a firm called, you guessed it, Draper Sterling LLC. Not only that, the number listed for the super PAC forwards to a voicemail for Grace’s Grantham Cafe. 

So, what is this all about? No one has any concrete answers. But there is suspicion among some Republicans that Trump's now former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, has a role to play. Lewandowski is based in New Hampshire and is close with a set of operatives in the state. Nothing came up when searching his name along with Adkins' or Holzer's. But fellow operatives have long suspected that he would send campaign business back to his allies.

"The campaign was seeded with lots of people who were personally loyal to Corey and had ties to Corey," said Fergus Cullen, a New Hampshire Republican who has butted heads with Lewandowski. "I don't doubt at all that Corey genuinely wanted to see Donald Trump's political prospects advance. But I don't doubt at all that he saw this as a windfall opportunity to line his own pockets and feather his own nests."

The Trump campaign did not return a request for comment. 

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S. 

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