The fundraiser, Mike Gula, didn’t specify his new line of work in the email. But in an interview, he said he’d started a new company selling medical equipment that’s been in short supply during the coronavirus pandemic.
The company, Blue Flame Medical LLC, was formed Monday in Delaware, according to state records. Its website says it sells coronavirus testing kits, N95 respirator masks, “a wide selection” of personal protective equipment and other “hard to find medical supplies to beat the outbreak.”
Asked how he’d managed to procure such equipment when there are shortages in hospitals across the country, Gula said, “I have relationships with a lot of people.”
Gula started Blue Flame with John Thomas, a consultant who until recently worked as chief strategist for Don Sedgwick, a Republican who ran against Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) but lost in the primary earlier this month. Gula’s firm raised money for Sedgwick, according to campaign finance records.
The abrupt move to shutter Gula’s firm has set the Republican operative world ablaze, with many in the business wondering about Gula’s intentions and how he was able to move so swiftly.
Thomas declined to specify how he and Gula had managed to obtain masks that have become so rare that some hospitals have resorted to reusing them or having health care workers tie bandannas or scarfs around their faces. “It’s just relationship-based,” he said. “I can’t say anything else.”
He also declined to reveal how much money the pair had made but said they were not price gouging.
“We are incredibly sensitive to gouging,” he said.
The new company may draw scrutiny as the Trump administration has moved to crack down on the hoarding of critical medical supplies and the sale of supplies at above fair market value. President Donald Trump issued an executive order on Monday designed to combat price gouging and Attorney General William Barr told reporters this week that the Justice Department has set up a task force to stop people from “manipulating the market and ultimately deriving windfall profits.”
In an interview, Thomas said Blue Flame had already sold medical supplies to authorities in Georgia and other states. Police departments are “almost begging for supplies,” he said.
“I don’t want to overstate, but we probably represent the largest global supply chain for Covid-19 supplies right now,” he said. “We are getting ready to fill 100 million-unit mask orders.”
Gula is a veteran fundraiser who’s raised money for more than two dozen lawmakers in this cycle alone, including Sens. Steve Daines of Montana, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Martha McSally of Arizona and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.
His note to the lawmakers he’d worked for was blunt, informing them that Thursday “will be my last day working for you.” It arrived right before the end of the quarter, during what is typically a hectic time for fundraisers that’s now quiet because nearly all events have been canceled.
“After this email, I will be unreachable,” he wrote. “I wish you the best of luck in politics and life.”
One person who received Gula’s out-of-office email response shared it with POLITICO: “Mike Gula no longer checks this email account. If you wish to get in touch with Mike please contact him at his new email ____and his new cell_____, and yes it’s blank for a reason.”
Gula said he’s not shutting down his firm quite as quickly as his email to lawmakers made it appear. “I’m helping them, and I’m finishing out everything they need for this quarter,” he said. “The lights are not turned off.”
He said he decided to trade in fundraising to sell medical supplies “because nobody was doing it. Because the president and the vice president were asking people to help.”
Gula also has two other firms: Prime Advocacy, which organizes Washington fly-ins for industry groups and others, and AMP, which he started last month to provide services for PACs.
He said he started Blue Flame in part because he wanted to leave behind the pressures of political work.
“I just want to live a private life,” he said. “I want to get out of politics.”