It’s Day 1 of the Trump campaign and its backers are already exhausted

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When Donald Trump officially announced Tuesday that he is running for president again in 2024, the fundraising race was reset.

But in many ways, that race has never stopped. The former president has been fundraising relentlessly over the past year, and while his massive war chest may seem like an asset, in reality he may also come with a number of liabilities, especially as Trump tries to tighten his grip on an increasingly nervous Republican Party.

The biggest problem for Trump is that he can’t jump-start his campaign with the money he’s raised for his flagship Save America leadership PAC, which would otherwise give him an intimidating $70 million advantage.

There’s a hard and fast rule against candidates using leadership PACs to support their own political endeavors, so Trump’s campaign can’t touch any of that money. And that fact has led him to use creative, confusing and possibly illegal ways to move it.

First, Trump created a new campaign committee for his 2024 re-election bid: “Donald J. Trump for President 2024.” That will give the one-term hopeful a more or less clean start to fundraising, albeit with some key structural advantages over its rivals.

One of those benefits is the extensive donor contact list that Trump has built up over the years. Trump has used that information to raise money since he left the White House, but he needs to find a way for the new campaign to get its hands on that valuable data — and he doesn’t want to pay for it.

The Trump team will solve that problem with a joint fundraising committee called “Trump Save America Joint Fundraising Committee”. (Not to be confused with Save America, or its Save America Joint Fundraising Committee, of course.) That new group will serve to connect the new campaign to Save America, providing access to that valuable donor data.

But that still leaves the biggest question unanswered. Even after bombarding donors with Save America fundraising requests for the past two years — including via auto-recurring giving programs and potentially fraudulent pledges — Trump now finds himself unable to spend that money where he needs it most. He will have to start over and find a way to motivate and sustain a petty dollar base that comes from an interim fundraiser and is already dangerously depleted.

Jordan Libowitz, communications director at Washington government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, explained that while Trump has a huge bankroll — with nearly three times more cash than the Republican National Committee — Trump has locked himself in.

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“It comes back to what I see as the most basic: Donald Trump doesn’t like spending money on anything that isn’t Donald Trump — and he doesn’t even like spending his own money on Donald Trump” said Libowitz. . “He likes to spend other people’s money.”

Over the past two years, Trump has chosen to raise money for his personal leadership PAC, which Libowitz described as “simply shy of a slush fund.”

“He can basically spend it on whatever he wants except for his own re-election,” he said, pointing to excessive spending and skyrocketing personal legal costs.

But recent data shows that Trump’s once-mighty army of small-dollar donors may be unable and unwilling to give him what he needs.

“That’s a real concern,” Libowitz said. ‘They are not mega donors. They only have so much money, and they have been consistently asked for years to hand it over.”

While Trump has licked his wounds at his Mar-a-Lago resort complex for most of the past two years, he has also bled out his small dollar donors. And it’s getting harder and harder to convince them to part with their money. Trump’s most recent campaign finance filings revealed a total loss of more than $13 million, and every dollar he now raises is nearly wiped out by fundraising costs alone.

And that’s not just a concern for Trump; it has also been a concern for the GOP.

To solve that problem, Trump’s allies have created super-PACs to raise money from wealthy lenders in unlimited amounts.

But that causes headaches again, because the commissions really start to pile up.

The entire Trump-aligned apparatus has at least nine separate active political committees. But because they often use the same names, it’s maddening to keep track of them. And all the old commissions in this armada also have money left over — over $10 million combined, though Trump can’t claim it all.

Here they are, in all their eponymous glory:

  • Donald J. Trump for President 2024
  • Trump Save America Joint Fundraising Committee
  • Save America (leadership PAC; $69.7 million in the bank)
  • Make America Great Again PAC (converted from old Trump campaign; $1.1 million in the bank)
  • Save America Joint Fundraising Committee (divides money between Save America and MAGA PAC; $6.3 million in the bank)
  • Make America Great Again, Inc. (new super PAC; $23.4 million in the bank)
  • Make America Great Again Action (old super PAC created by Corey Lewandowski; essentially defunct, but with $725,000 in the bank)
  • Make America Great Again, Again! Inc. (created super PAC after Lewandowski was suspended for allegedly sexually assaulting a donor; reportedly being phased out; $1.6 million in the bank)
  • Trump Make America Great Again (joint small dollar fundraising committee between the old campaign and the Republican National Committee; reportedly started winding down last year; $5.4 million in the bank)
  • America First Action (old super PAC; said to be winding down; $1.5 million in the bank)
  • Trump Victory (high dollar joint fundraising commission between the old campaign and RNC; said to be winding down; $1.8 million in the bank)
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These commissions total $111.5 million. And campaign finance rules mean Trump’s new campaign won’t get access to the vast majority of it — including all that super PAC mega-donor money.

But that doesn’t mean he won’t try to get around those rules. In fact, it looks like he’s already trying to do that.

The first indicator came last month, when the Save America leadership PAC transferred a whopping $20 million to the new Make America Great Again Inc. super PAC (MAGA Inc.).

The move raised eyebrows among legal observers, who said it looked like Trump was trying to jump-start his campaign by funding a super-PAC that would support him going forward. Only problem: that’s against the law.

Brendan Fischer, deputy director of the good government watchdog Documented, told The Daily Beast that now that the midterms are over, it’s “even clearer” that the MAGA Inc. super PAC “was never really about helping other candidates, and always about helping Trump. .”

“When it comes to helping Republicans through the midterm elections, MAGA Inc. a failure. It spent money late on races that were already saturated, and the roughly $16 million it spent may not even make it into the top 20 outside spending groups,” Fischer said, pointing out that all of this happened while Save’s bank account America was full. the rand of money he could have spent on those races.

However, Fischer said that since Save America’s funds cannot be used to support Trump’s presidential run, he transferred the money to MAGA Inc.

“The super PAC spent a relatively small amount in the latter part of the midterms, and the remainder will almost certainly be spent supporting Trump’s 2024 run,” he said.

On Monday, the nonpartisan government watchdog Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the FEC, accusing Trump of breaking the law on the eve of his big announcement.

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Saurav Ghosh, CLC’s director of federal campaign finance reform, told The Daily Beast that Trump clearly wants to use the money he’s raised for himself, but the law stands in the way.

Ghosh said those coordination rules “are often openly trampled on by candidates, especially those running for president.”

“Presidential candidates want to get ahead and start with as large a war chest as possible. Clearly Trump saw Save America as that war chest from the very beginning, and his legal team figured out a way to make this pot available on day one,” Ghosh said. “Unfortunately, the law does not state when you announce you are going to run, but when you decide you are going to run. So the decision to transfer all this money is a violation of that law.”

Yet all of this leaves Trump with the enviable problem of what to do with his nearly $70 million in Save America funds—much of which he raised with the Big Lie’s back, and can essentially afford to do anything but his own campaign.

“It’s really a matter of what he’s going to do next,” Ghosh said. “You can only spend so much money on direct transfers to other candidates and on organizing events, but eventually you run out of ways to spend the money. At this point, the midterms are over and all he can spend the ads on is for himself. So what he’s doing is putting it in a vehicle that can buy ads for Donald Trump and attack his opponents.”

Libowitz reiterated that point, saying that Save America’s millions, which can be transferred directly to campaigns and spent on political ads for other candidates, could serve as a “carrot and stick” — to both boost allies and intimidate rivals .

As for those rivals, Trump’s main concern, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis happens to be facing a problem similar to Trump’s.

“DeSantis is raising this absurd amount for his PAC, clearly given to him by donors on the understanding that he is running for president,” Ghosh said. Like Trump, DeSantis can’t use that money for a federal presidential campaign, and he can’t transfer it to a pro-DeSantis super PAC.

“No one will ever do this, but you can pay it back and ask those donors to instead give it to a committee you set up for a federal campaign,” Ghosh said. “But you can’t just move the money wherever you want.”