How Craft’s Steering of Government Business to Trump’s Hotel Could Hurt Gubernatorial Bid

Former U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft steered government business back into the pocket of President Donald Trump while she was in office, but what does that mean for her potential bid for governor of Kentucky?

Forbes released a report just before Labor Day showing as the Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft used her official position to direct government business (taxpayer dollars) to then President Donald Trump’s Washington D.C. hotel. 

Federal government officials and employees stay at hotels approved by the government that provide government rates. As ambassador, Craft rejected the approved hotels and communicated with staff via email to book her on several occasions in the Trump Hotel, State Department records show. Craft never responded to Forbes questions about her stays. 

Craft does not have a deep history in Kentucky or national policy outside of the political donor space. Her time as Ambassador to Canada and the United Nations is her gubernatorial campaign in a nutshell, and one she will need to make her pitch to Kentuckians. If claims of pay-to-play surface against Craft it could very well end her potential political ambitions before they take off in the 2023 GOP nominating process. 

Another Trump appointee who donated heavily to Trump and the RNC, like Craft, never made it through the confirmation process to become an ambassador – but he did garner the attention of investigators. 

San Diego Developer Douglas “Papa” Manchester was nominated by then-President Trump in May 2017, months into the Trump administration. The nomination stalled in the U.S. Senate leading Trump to re-nominate Manchester in early 2018, he pulled himself from the nomination process in 2019. 

Weeks after Manchester dropped out of the nomination process emails surfaced showing a potential “pay-to-play” arrangement with the Republican National Committee. Emails between Manchester and the RNC showed that after his confirmation to the ambassadorship, Manchester would again donate to RNC fundraising efforts, according to a report from CBS News. Manchester’s wife donated $100k to the RNC. Some claim the email between Manchester and the RNC illustrated a willingness to move his confirmation through the chamber in exchange for a political contribution. 

The scandal was a black eye for Trump and is another case of a potential ambassador putting in writing a deal that benefitted the president. Manchester is now under federal investigation, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. 

Back in Kentucky, Craft is busy making the rubber-chicken circuit in a potential bid for Kentucky’s governorship. She and her billionaire husband recently split the purchase of a prize ham at the Kentucky Farm Bureau Breakfast at the state fair with Central Bank for a record $4.8 million. She is rumored to be spending $10 million on a campaign against Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. The GOP field to take on Beshear, including Craft, could be as high as six potential candidates.