Only after that point does money start flowing into a recount account set up by Trump ’s presidential campaign. “Leadership PACs can be used to effectively keep your campaign staff on the payroll, keep them in your orbit, pay for travel, pay for rallies, even for polling,” said Brendan Fischer, the director of the federal reform program at the Campaign Legal Center, which supports greater regulation of these entities.
One thing Trump wouldn’t be allowed to use the leadership PAC money for: directly financing a 2024 presidential bid, should he announce plans to run again. But in addition to other campaign-like activities, Trump could use his PAC to weigh in on Republican primaries through big-money independent ad buys.
“These tremendous fundraising numbers show President Trump remains the leader and source of energy for the Republican Party, and that his supporters are dedicated to fighting for the rightful, legal outcome of the 2020 general election,” Bill Stephen, Trump 2020 campaign manager, said in a statement, alluding to the president’s conspiracy theories that he actually won the election. Matt Gorman, another GOP strategist, noted that Trump ’s post-White House strength won’t be determined by a PAC.
President-elect Joe Biden also broke a major milestone: His campaign reported raising and spending more than a billion dollars. Only one presidential campaign in history spent more than Biden's: Mike Bloomberg’s short-lived, self-funded primary run earlier this year, which shelled out more than $1.1 billion.
From the ludicrously expensive Georgia Senate runoffs to the full extent of Democrats’ strong small-dollar fundraising, here are four other notable takeaways from the campaign finance filings covering Oct. 15 through Nov. 23. The NTSC, Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, had $36.8 million in the bank, as of Oct. 23, to help fund its defense of the two incumbents.
“Money isn’t everything, but fundraising is an early leading indicator of enthusiasm,” Steven Law, the president of the group, said in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday announcing the totals. SLF’s opposite number, Democrats' Senate Majority PAC, similarly raised and spent a lot of money in the same time period.
Still, some Republicans complained that the party’s efforts in Georgia could have even more support, if Trump weren’t redirecting resources to himself. “As a Republican, the thing to do right now is to make McConnell stronger by winning these two seats in Georgia, and Trump has taken both money and oxygen away from that failure to concede and fundraising efforts,” Eberhard said.
That enormous total showed up in Democratic coffers up and down the ballot, where those candidates routinely smashed fundraising records. The Lincoln Project was spawned by a group of “Never Trump Republican operatives trying to sink the president’s reelection bid.
“WTF SVP,” a Democratic aide who worked on a Senate campaign texted after a POLITICO reporter tweeted out the fundraising figures. Trump ’s formidable campaign fundraising machine was eventually lapped by Biden’s huge financial surge.
Several prominent Republican mega donors shelled out millions to Preserve America PAC in the closing weeks of the presidential race, which was launched at the tail end of the summer as Trump was getting drubbed on the TV airwaves. The biggest donors were Sheldon and Miriam Abelson, who collectively gave the super PAC $15 million in the latter half of October.
Bernie Marcus, the founder of Home Depot, also gave $5 million at the end of October to Restoration PAC. America First Action, the super PAC Trump endorsed as his preferred vehicle for outside spending, also had its patrons in the closing weeks of the race.
On the Democratic side, Priorities USA Action, one of the largest pro-Biden super PACs, brought in $14 million in that same time period. The figures were announced by the campaign Thursday and are to be made public in federal filings this month and in January.
“These tremendous fundraising numbers show President Trump remains the leader and source of energy for the Republican Party, and that his supporters are dedicated to fighting for the rightful, legal outcome of the 2020 general election,” Bill Stephen, Trump ’s 2020 campaign manager, said in a statement. Much of the money raised since the election probably will go into Save America, a political action committee that the president can use for various activities after he leaves office.
Some contributions will go toward what is left of the president’s legal fights over the certification of election results, which have failed to gain traction in the courts. Since late October, the Trump campaign spent $8.8 million on bringing legal challenges to election results in key states, including recounts.
By far the most common theme in the hundreds of donation requests sent in November was an appeal for contributions to the “Election Defense Fund,” a nonexistent fundraising account that the president’s campaign has been touting in hyperbolic language about voter fraud and election integrity. We must FIGHT for the future the American People TRULY support: FOUR MORE YEARS OF PRESIDENT TRUMP,” one email read.
The contributions, from thousands of donors across the country, are deposited into several accounts, including Save America, which is loosely regulated and could be used to personally benefit the president after he leaves the White House. President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed, falsely, that the election was rigged, and he won.
He echoed this theme in his remarks after the Senate continued the electoral vote counting following the storming of the capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump. There is no question that Trump and allied groups have aggressively sought to raise funds after the election, including using the legal challenges in their pitches.
In early December, CNN reported that, in its effort to raise money, the Trump political operation had sent 414 emails and 132 text messages between Election Night and Dec. 3. We weren’t able to reach firm conclusions because of reporting lags and a lack of transparency around campaign finance laws.
“All candidates and political groups must regularly file campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission. In early December, Trump ’s camp said it would be filing the FEC’s required “post-2020 election” disclosure forms showing that the campaign and several allied groups had collectively raised $495 million.
The campaign statements in early December specify that $207 million of that total was raised after Election Day. Compared with the other groups, a leadership PAC has looser restrictions on how money raised can be spent.
That number is destined to rise by Jan. 31, when Save America files documentation with the FEC on what it raised between Nov. 24 and Dec. 30. “It is likely to be sitting on significant funds that could be used to further President Trump's political ambitions for months or years to come,” Becker said.
These are just three subject lines from more than 20 fundraising emails that the Trump campaign sent on Sunday, overwhelmingly asking their supporters to pony up money to fund lawsuits that keep failing in court and, most serious legal experts agree, stand little to no shot of changing the outcome of the contest. Corey Gold stone, a spokesman for the non-profit Campaign Legal Center told Law&Crime that financial incentives should not be overlooked in President Donald Trump ’s decision to drag out the contest through the courts.
“We have filed a lawsuit in the Michigan Court of Claims to halt counting until meaningful access has been granted,” Team Trump 2020 wrote, in a sentence whose carefully worded present-perfect tense makes it technically accurate, if misleading. “Come on now,” Michigan Judge Cynthia Stephens scoffed when she dismissed the case on Thursday, but the Trump campaign still solicited money based on that thin gruel three days later.
Ross Garber, an election litigation expert and professor at Tulane Law School, is skeptical the Trump campaign could stand to profit off of these messages in the short-term. “I mean, to maintain all of these activities and the litigation and staff recounts and kind of keep some semblance of a campaign operation going actually is an incredibly expensive venture,” Garber said, adding that this drag would provide more of an incentive for Trump to abandon the cases than prolong them.
“I think they will better have something new, because that first round was a pathetic series of duds,” Elie Honing, a former Southern District of New York prosecutor and current CNN legal analyst, told Law&Crime. In Georgia’s Chatham County, a judge quickly booted a Trump campaign petition in a ruling finding no evidence to support claims of late ballot-counting there.
“Beginning Monday, our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated,” his statement read. Offering no evidence, Trump and Republican leadership have joined together in baseless undermining public confidence in the integrity and transparency of U.S. elections, but their depictions of a corrupt and opaque system awash in voter fraud are false.
After the New York attorney general’s office shut down the Trump Foundation in 2018, the president paid millions to settle claims he used the non-profit as his personal piggy bank. That federal lawsuit continues through Trump ’s lame-duck period and inevitably will extend into his post-presidency, when staggering debts, well above those campaign accrued, are expected to become due and owing.
While many Republicans in Washington have privately dismissed the president’s claims about a stolen election as a flailing publicity stunt, Trump ’s narrative is proving far more compelling to voters: A full 70 percent of Republicans don’t think the election was free or fair, a recent POLITICO/Morning Consult poll found. On Parker, people seeking money off the election fraud claims include QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene, who last week won election to Congress in Georgia, and has in recent days repeatedly circulated a “STOP THE BIDEN STEAL!” petition and fundraising link to her followers.
And, if he wanted to, he could place his family members and former administration officials on payroll, and continue to host lavish events at his properties without tripping up campaign finance law. So-called “leadership PACs” affiliated with lawmakers have come under scrutiny in recent years for their lax spending rules.
In recent years, congressional lawmakers have used such PACs to travel to Puerto Rico and London, fly on private jets, pay dues at private membership clubs and book rooms at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., a report by the good government group Issue One found. Such PACs are much less tightly regulated than lawmakers’ campaign committees, which carry strict rules about how a candidate can spend donors’ money.
“It’s extremely misleading,” said Not, who noted the RNC already had money set aside for recounts and other post-election legal proceedings that it may spend in the coming weeks. Though Trump ’s attempt to overturn the election results could help him build a valuable foundation for the months to come, some establishment Republicans are increasingly concerned the push will suck money and energy from their party’s biggest challenge in the coming months: the high-stakes pair of runoff Senate races in Georgia that will determine which party has control of the Senate.