Top GOP Fundraiser Says He's Leaving Politics to Start Coronavirus Business 1

A top Republican fundraiser who has helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars for political candidates over the last decade says he’s ditching the world of political giving in order to focus on a new business providing medical supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Mike Gula sent an email to clients of his fundraising firm, Gula Graham, on Thursday informing them that he would be leaving effective immediately. The firm, he added, will be “phas[ing] toward closure,” apparently ending an 11-year run for the fundraising company that netted it nearly $40 million in revenue from federal political committees alone.

“Over the last 14 days I have built another business outside politics and will be focusing my full attention there,” Gula wrote. “I am sorry you are receiving this news via email, but I know better than anyone how word travels faster than light in Washington and I did not want you to hear this second hand.”

“After this e-mail, I will be unreachable,” Graham signed off. “I wish you the best of luck in politics and life.”

The business that Gula had been building over the prior two weeks is called Blue Flame Medical, which he founded with John Thomas, a California public affairs executive. According to the company’s website, it will work to provide medical supplies and personal protective equipment to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

“We are the largest global network of COVID-19 medical suppliers providing healthcare logistics and hard to find medical supplies to beat the outbreak,” Blue Flame boasts. “We work with hundreds of well-known global suppliers bringing customers a wider range of products…We have the industry’s broadest product selection including 3M™ N95 health care respirator & surgical masks, COVID-19 test kits, travel kits and a wide selection of PPE inventory.”

Whether the company is actually as “large” a “network” as it claims to be is not clear, though it seems unlikely as it was incorporated in Delaware just this past Monday. Its website beckons visitors to “click here for our sales sheet,” but provides no actual link. The company did not immediately respond to inquiries on Friday.

Gula’s move to Blue Flame was nonetheless striking for its suddenness and for the scale of the business he leaves behind. “Since 2009,” according to his bio on the Blue Flame website, “Gula Graham has raised over $318,000,000 for House and Senate members of Congress, including $51,000,000 during the 2018 election cycle.”

Gula also co-founded the grassroots lobbying firm Prime Advocacy in 2010, which helps organize trade association fly-ins and similar advocacy efforts. Gula formed both Prime Advocacy and Gula Graham with Jonathan Graham, who passed away in 2018. It was not immediately clear whether Gula’s new venture would affect Prime Advocacy going forward.

Gula Graham’s client list over the years has boasted some big names in Republican politics, including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Tim Scott (R-SC), former senator and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and former congressman and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

John Thomas, Gula’s business partner at Blue Flame, is active in Republican politics as well, particularly in California. But he also runs a health care-focused real estate development firm called Thomas Partners Properties.