Trump fundraising plunges in first six months of 2022, DeSantis tracks

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Former President Donald Trump’s fundraising slowed in the first half of 2022, falling below $50 million in a six-month span for the first time since he left the White House 18 months ago .

A fundraising committee that distributes money to its various political groups raised $17 million in the second quarter of this year, according to a new federal filing. That brings the committee’s loot to at least $36 million so far this year.

The tally does not include new direct contributions to Trump’s Save America PAC, which will not be disclosed until the end of this month and which have totaled in recent months up to $20,000. The PAC received $23,409 this quarter through WinRed, which processes online transactions for Republican candidates and committees.

The former president’s returns plummet as his time in the White House recedes into the past. During the same six-month period last year, Trump raised more than $56 million in online donations, then collected around $51 million from July to December 2021.

The latest filing puts Trump’s loot behind that of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a possible candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. DeSantis, who has delighted conservatives nationwide with his hands-off approach to the pandemic coronavirus, raised about $45 million in the first six months of the year, according to state filings.

Small-dollar online donations have plummeted in the GOP, said people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal party data, blaming the trend for donors to have less disposable income due of inflation and their fatigue with incessant fundraising. calls. Many Democratic incumbents in tight Senate races brought in second-quarter records, including Georgia Sen. Raphael G. Warnock, who brought in $17 million compared to GOP challenger Herschel Walker’s $3.6 million , and Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who raised $7.5 million. compared to GOP challenger Adam Laxalt’s $2.8 million.

The new numbers offer fresh evidence of the financial muscle Trump could be putting behind a third presidential run as he probes his allies about a possible announcement. That dynamic could influence the timing of any eventual campaign announcement, as Republicans ponder whether he would clear the playing field and how his designs for 2024 could reshape this year’s midterms.

Trump and DeSantis are their party’s top fundraisers, with Trump maintaining a reservoir of support from small donors and DeSantis having garnered support from some of the GOP’s most generous megadonors, foremost among them hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, who recently said he would move his company, Citadel, from Chicago to Miami. Next week, DeSantis is hosting a trio of fundraisers in Utah. He is asking for $25,000 from couples attending a reception in Salt Lake City hosted by, among others, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and real estate developer Scott C. Keller, according to invitations obtained by The Washington Post.

The comparison is imperfect. DeSantis raises money for a committee that can accept unlimited contributions, while donors can only donate $10,000 a year to Trump’s joint fundraising vehicle. DeSantis also has an ongoing race he’s raising money for — he’s getting re-elected this fall. The same goes for Texas Governor Greg Abbott (right), another possible candidate for his party’s presidential nomination in 2024. He raised $29 million in the first six months of the year , according to his campaign.

But Trump is hardly choosing to “hang up his hat and sail into the sunset”, as the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, advised him this week to do. Instead, he’s scouring the country for endorsed candidates, repeating his debunked claims of voter fraud and hinting at a third run for president. He recently told supporters in Las Vegas that he “ran twice and won twice, and he might have to do it a third time.”

“Not only is he fundraising at an unparalleled rate, he’s investing in America First candidates and continuing to grow the MAGA movement through 2022 and beyond,” Taylor Budowich, a Trump spokesperson, said in a statement. response to new documents filed on Friday.

Latest fundraising numbers show his online pleas continue to resonate with his base, even as House investigators investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol accuse him of misleading supporters with promises. of a non-existent fund devoted to the fight against electoral fraud.

“Having campaigned and raised funds for President Trump since 2015, there hasn’t been stronger support and interest for him than today,” said Ed McMullen, Trump’s ambassador to Switzerland, who also served as his state director in South Carolina during the 2016 presidential campaign. “President Trump’s popularity and fundraising continue to grow and flourish at every level.”

Trump’s name and image dominate fundraising appeals for other GOP candidates and party committees, a sign of his enduring appeal with the party base. Trump has recently taken steps to curb attempts by other entities to fundraise after him, and the tension will only escalate if and when Trump officially announces his candidacy.

“The entire Republican Party fundraising apparatus revolves around President Trump,” said Caroline Wren, a Trump-aligned GOP fundraiser who helped organize the Jan. 6, 2021 rally. candidates and party committees rely on President Trump’s name for their low-dollar fundraising efforts, and when it comes to high-dollar fundraising, President Trump has spent the last two years selflessly raising millions of dollars for America First candidates and organizations, including headlining fundraising events for every major Republican committee.

Trump had largely hoarded his PAC contributions, but a person familiar with the group who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe his financial details said his spending jumped in June. The increase stems from bills stemming from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, additional transfers to support other candidates and committees, and higher costs to fundraise online, the agency said. nobody. The Save America PAC ended June with $112 million in hand, the person said, which would represent a net gain of about $11 million from the previous month.

The Save America PAC’s June report to the FEC is due July 20. Earlier documents show the group has dispersed about $6 million in recent months to boost Trump’s favorite candidates in the Pennsylvania Senate primary and Georgia governor’s primary. He prevailed in Pennsylvania, successfully lifting famed physician Mehmet Oz above a crowded field, but failed to topple incumbent Governor Brian Kemp in Georgia.

The committee paid $75,000 in May to the law firm of an attorney representing Cleta Mitchell, a pro-Trump lawyer who advised it on efforts to overturn the election results. The attorney, John P. Rowley, did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump’s PAC has also continued to spend money on its properties, donating around $30,000 in recent months to the Trump Hotel Collection.

There are no explicit restrictions on the personal use of funds raised by leadership PACs. These committees, in addition to stimulating like-minded candidates, can be used to pay advisers, cover travel expenses, and pay legal fees, among other costs.

One limitation, campaign finance law experts have said, is that the people behind these PACs can’t use the money to advance their own future campaigns. Travel and other expenses that advance a candidate’s political activities are subject to contribution limits once the candidate has declared themselves for a certain position, these experts said.

Even transferring those funds to a super PAC making independent expenditures to boost the candidate would likely provoke complaints if the money “establishes the super PAC or constitutes the majority of the money funding the super PAC,” Charles Spies said, a Republican election lawyer.

Trump’s committee has reported its dividends as its fundraising practices come under scrutiny from the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Amanda Wick, a committee investigator, pointed out at a hearing last month how Trump and his allies raised $250 million in the weeks after the election by bombarding his supporters with fundraising emails. promoting an “official electoral defense fund”, even though such a fund did not exist.

“Not only was there the big lie,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California) said. “There was the big scam.”

A Trump spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the allegations.

Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor who specializes in securities and commodities fraud, said the Justice Department is unlikely to bring charges related to the fundraising practices highlighted by the committee. Prosecutors would face a host of challenges, he said, including proving that the solicitors intended to defraud and countering a possible defense the donors would have brought regardless of the substance of the appeal.

These calls continue. Four emails sent in May by Trump’s PAC, for example, asked donors to contribute to a “Protect Our Election Funds.”

A subject line: “Alert to future electoral fraud”.

He implored supporters: Please contribute at least $45 or more IMMEDIATELY to the Protect our Elections fund.

Josh Dawsey, Dylan Freedman, Anu Narayanswamy and Chris Zubak-Skees contributed to this report.

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