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WME-IMG Forming Political Action Committee for Donald Trump Era (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 2/8/2017 James Rainey
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WME-IMG is forming a national political action committee and planning on increasing its contact with office holders from both political parties, the agency’s co-CEOs told employees in an internal memo.

Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell said in the email on Tuesday that several initiatives are designed to help workers at the Beverly Hills-based company engage in the political process. The actions are in response to the election of Donald Trump, though the memo is careful not to take sides in any of the many controversies that have erupted during the president’s 19 days in office.

“No matter what side of the aisle you sit on or where you live in the world, the call for meaningful and sustained civic engagement is louder than ever,” begins the memo, delivered under the subject line “Influence.”

The email continues:

“In the coming weeks, you will hear more from us about:

• The formation of a federal political action committee (PAC) in the U.S.

• Convening internal and external forums with politicians and allied stakeholders

• Connecting our clients with elected officials

• Introducing company-wide matching policies to support donations of time and money

• Developing actionable public policy solutions

The email concludes: “This company’s greatest asset is the diversity of our backgrounds and beliefs. Please know that we will do everything in our power to support and protect this diversity now and in the months and years ahead.”

The email is from Emanuel and copied to his co-CEO, Whitesell, though the initials of both men appear at the end of the short message.

An insider said that lawyers are currently working out details of the political action committee, which might take on partners from outside of the agency. The financial commitment by WME will be “substantial” — with money to be contributed to causes and candidates that the agency’s employees agree to support. It was unclear how the agency will decide who and what to back, though the source said the calls will be directed by an array of employees, not just Emanuel and Whitesell.

Emanuel has connections on both sides of the political aisle. He once served as Trump’s agent and visited the President-elect after his victory over Hillary Clinton, but before the Republican took office on Jan. 20. Emanuel declined to disclose what he and his former client talked about at the November meeting, which took place at a Trump’s golf course in New Jersey.

Emanuel also contributed to Clinton’s campaign and he is the brother of Democrat Rahm Emanuel, the current mayor of Chicago and President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff. Trump donated $50,000 to Rahm Emanuel’s 2010 Chicago mayoral campaign.

The insider said that some of Trump’s actions have made “people here very concerned, including the leadership of the company. But it’s also an incredibly diverse company and there are probably people in our company who are in favor of what is going on in the White House. We want to be respectful of those people too.”

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