One of the biggest potential spoiler candidates in next year’s presidential race is having trouble getting his 2024 campaign off the ground. Various teams of lawyers, far-right provocateurs, and seemingly random entrants with an interest are vying for control of his 2020 presidential committee, which still has unfinished business.
At the center of the battle are an attorney and a GOP activist who were central to Trump’s 2020 bid to reverse his loss, and who have recently begun to work for hip-hop star Ye, formerly known as Kanye West.
If Ye manages to run in 2024, he could present a bizarre and formidable celebrity challenger for Democrats. Not because he has a chance at winning, but because he has a chance to more fully inhabit the role that many in MAGAworld saw him playing in 2020: chipping away at the thin, swing-state margins which assure victory in presidential elections, potentially using Ye’s celebrity to peel off support from President Joe Biden and throwing the race to the Republican candidate — almost certainly Donald Trump — next year.
But insiders involved in the attempts to get Ye’s 2024 campaign running describe an undertaking that has become mired in a surreal fiasco, with nobody quite sure who is running the presidential committee, and various stakeholders lobbing lurid allegations of grifting and computer hacking. Figures from across the firmament of the far right have made appearances, including Milo Yiannopoulos, Nick Fuentes, and Ali Alexander, among others.
Many of those involved say that the 2024 campaign cannot begin until various legal issues — including an outstanding Federal Elections Commission probe — involving Ye’s 2020 campaign are resolved. But the involvement of chaotic and performative figures in the campaign appears to have slowed that process down.
Many of the details of the infighting among those around Ye are being reported here for the first time. This isn’t a story with a conclusion, or where all the questions get answered. Every layer of infighting reveals another level of internecine conflict, where virtually all the facts are in dispute.
What is clear is that much of the melee in recent weeks has come to revolve around Bruce Marks, a former Pennsylvania state senator who currently represents the Russian government in a D.C. civil case and was a lawyer for the 2016 Trump campaign. Marks may be the only person in American history to have lived through what Trump wanted to achieve in 2020: In 1994, Marks won a Pennsylvania state senate race after a federal judge reversed his defeat, finding that fraud had caused him to lose.
Marks consulted with the Trump campaign in 2020, and has surfaced in reporting around the effort to reverse Trump’s defeat that year.
But as of July 2023, Marks is repping a different politico: Ye.
Marks has brought in his associate Mike Roman to assist, messages reviewed by TPM show. Roman, a longtime GOP voter fraud activist who worked on Trump’s 2020 fake electors plan, was among the 19 people indicted on Monday in Fulton County, Georgia, by District Attorney Fani Willis. He is reportedly cooperating with Jack Smith’s investigation.
‘Industrial Scale Fraud’
Marks entered the chaotic situation unfolding at Ye’s presidential committee last month. Years of investigation by the FEC and, more recently, allegations of byzantine financial misconduct around Ye adviser and right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, had caused the committee’s treasurer to depart in May.
Ye had been looking to clear up the outstanding legal issues from his 2020 campaign in order to get the ‘24 run going, former campaign staffers told TPM and messages from the campaign show. At the heart of the legal issues is an FEC investigation into whether the campaign properly logged payments it made to Mercury Public Affairs, which, the campaign told the FEC, provided “ballot access services” to Ye in the 2020 election.
Ye’s effort to wrap up loose ends has been complicated by his own public commentary. The week he spent last year spreading virulently anti-Semitic remarks hasn’t helped his ability to find top talent, so to speak; he’s spent much of the past year paling around with Yiannopoulos and Fuentes, while right-wing provocateur Ali Alexander has provided personnel recommendations, a former staffer said. Complicating things further, Yiannopolous and Fuentes have reportedly been at odds; Yannopolos was reportedly fired and, this spring, rehired, at which point Fuentes was fired.
After the treasurer left in May, Ye’s committee ended up replacing him with an obscure Florida financial adviser named Devin Anderson White, who readily admitted to TPM that he had no experience in campaign finance.
“This was my first federal election campaign situation,” he said.
This is where it gets weirder.
After weeks on the committee, White became locked in a escalating battle with Bruce Marks, the Trump 2020 consultant.
The fight is marked in part by a letter which White, and an attorney he retained on the committee’s behalf named Bruce Fein, sent to Ye on July 19.
Titled “State of the 2020 Campaign Wind Down / URGENT” and addressed to Marks, Yiannopoulos, Roman, and American Apparel founder’s Dov Charney, the letter claims to have identified “industrial scale fraud” at the committee.
“Ye, you are the only person who can assist the Committee with crystallizing a plan to wind down Kanye 2020 Political Committee in strict compliance with the law, a condition precedent to a 2024 campaign,” the letter reads.
Fein and White also had a request: they needed $225,000 to “cover expenses,” they wrote, “otherwise” there could be “further public scrutiny.”
It’s not clear whether Ye replied to the message.
But Marks, who says he represents Ye in a personal capacity, has cast White and Fein’s letter as an attempted threat. Marks told TPM that he believed White wasn’t properly hired by the committee when the previous treasurer left, and that Fein, a former Reagan administration official, was never properly retained. Marks added to TPM that Ye “categorically denies” any FEC violations, and emphasized that he’s “made no determination” about running in 2024.
Cease and Desist
As White tells it, he and Fein were simply trying to muster the resources to resolve complicated fraud — even more complicated than they initially expected to find. According to a May Daily Beast report, Yiannopoulos had used Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA)’s campaign credit card to buy the Ye24.com internet domain, with the Greene campaign paying $7,020.16 for the domain name and Yiannopoulos charging the Kanye 2020 committee $9,955 for the “domain transfer.”
White said that that issue, as well as lingering questions over whether Yiannopououlos’s U.S. immigration status allowed him to work for a federal political campaign in the first place, led him to hire Fein. Yiannopoulos didn’t return TPM’s request for comment.
Messages reviewed by TPM show that, early last month, Marks worked with White on understanding — and trying to resolve — the FEC investigation into the 2020 campaign payments. He brought in Roman, the GOP activist and reported Jack Smith cooperator, to help. But after the July 19 letter asking for $225,000, their relationship appears to have collapsed.
A notice was filed with the FEC on July 28 saying that Marks was the committee’s new point of contact, and added to reporters that he was there to assist with winding down Kanye 2020. The filing also said that White had been replaced with a new treasurer, a New Jersey attorney and former Republican National Lawyers Association member named Hassan Sheikh.
White and Fein did not like that. They refused to relinquish control over the committee, and spent the next week sending a series of document preservation letters to Marks, Sheikh, and others involved. Messages show that on July 29, they contacted a clerk for the Ye 2020 committee’s bank demanding that the body’s accounts be frozen. On July 30, Fein contacted the FEC, claiming Marks’ July 28 filing dismissing them was the result of a “cyber breach” at the federal agency. In all the messages, they claimed that they were the true representatives of the committee, acting to stop what they described as efforts by Marks to obstruct their investigation into “multiple illegalities.”
By early August, it had all degenerated into a lawyerly shouting match.
Marks sent Fein and White a cease-and-desist letter on Aug. 4, saying that the pair’s claims — and “demand for money and further services” — could violate federal law. Marks demanded that they stop speaking to the press about the situation, and refrain from contacting Ye’s associates.
Fein replied the next day by comparing Marks to “a clown like Malvolio in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.” He then demanded a list of documents including confirmation that Marks was representing Ye and his wife Bianca, and a record establishing Ye’s legal right to “manage or control” the Kanye 2020 committee.
Marks sent an email in response, which TPM reviewed, calling the letter “deliberately insulting.”
Ye did not return repeated requests for comment for this story, including questions about who is in control of his 2020 presidential committee.
But in spite of the chaos and feuding over winding down the 2020 run, the plan for a 2024 run appears to remain in place. Should that plan come to fruition, his candidacy — and closeness with Trump-aligned operatives and activists — could be a deciding factor in a tight race.
TPM reviewed text messages which Ye sent in July saying that an Oct. 30, 2023 announcement date would allow his campaign to “be on the ballot in every state.”
Milo purchased the Ye24.com domain name on the same day that Ye met for dinner at Mar-a-Lago with Trump and Nick Fuentes; TPM reviewed text messages from March in which Fuentes appears to discuss when Ye should file for his 2024 candidacy.
Marks, for his part, emphasized to TPM that the 2024 campaign may not even be happening. It’s not clear who, among the others currently surrounding Ye’s political efforts, takes the campaign seriously, and whether it has any purpose beyond hype for the hangers on and damage to rest.
Milo himself expressed the situation in a poem he posted to Telegram in May.
“If you are full of love and creativity
Your movement will be full of love and creativity
If you are cruel, vengeful, childish, hollow-hearted and venomous
Your movement will reflect that
Blessed to be leading the charge for a fountain of love like Ye
Free yourself from evil influences
They can do nothing for you
Nothing for anyone
Good fruit does not grow on bad trees