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Trump Lays Down Another Marker to Show He’s Still the...

Newsdeck

Trump's 2024 do-over

Trump Lays Down Another Marker to Show He’s Still the GOP King

A hat on a chair during a Save America rally with former U.S. President Donald Trump in Des Moines, Iowa, in Octorber.
By Bloomberg
01 Feb 2022 1

Former President Donald Trump’s political committees closed out 2021 with $122 million in their coffers, enough to help him maintain his grip on the Republican Party as he sends increasingly strong signals that he intends to run for his old office in 2024. 

By Mark Niquette and Bill Allison

Word Count: 952
(Bloomberg) —Trump reported raising $51 million for his burgeoning political operation in the second half of the year in filings with the Federal Election Commission on Monday, driven by his army of loyal small-dollar donors, despite not being a declared candidate. No previous president has maintained a similar fundraising structure.

The disclosures come after Trump made the strongest comments about his future since leaving office. During a rally in Texas on Saturday night he said he would consider pardons for those charged in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol if he decides to run again in 2024 and wins.

The former president also unleashed a fresh attack on Sunday on his former vice president, Mike Pence, for refusing to reject legally certified Electoral College votes for Joe Biden on Jan. 6 as Trump had demanded. Trump said in the starkest terms yet that he wanted Pence to overturn the election, which Pence has said he lacked the authority to do under federal law and the U.S. Constitution.

Trump’s efforts to minimize the deadly assault to stop the peaceful transfer of power and re-litigate the 2020 election also comes as Republicans favored to win back control of the House in this year’s midterm elections try to focus on issues such as rising inflation that they consider to be political liabilities for Democrats and Biden.

“The haul demonstrates his hold on the base, and as long as he has the voters, the party is going to continue to defer to him,” said Dan Eberhart, a longtime GOP donor. “Whether a good thing or not, it allows him to maintain his influence over the party’s agenda.”

Eberhart said his guess is Trump hasn’t made up his mind yet about whether to make another White House bid. But maintaining a big war chest is an effective way to keep a lot of potential challengers for the GOP nomination at bay, he said.

The former president often teases that he’s running again in 2024 without actually announcing, saying his supporters will be “happy” with his decision. The strategy allows him to use money from his PACs to act like a candidate without the restrictions that come with an announcement.

Trump is raising money for Save America, his main political vehicle, through a joint fundraising committee that also collects money for his former presidential campaign. Trump converted his campaign to a political action committee in January 2021.

“President Donald J. Trump has built a political organization that continues to capture and define the future of the Republican Party,” Taylor Budowich, the spokesman for Save America and the former president, said in a statement.

Read More: Trump Attack Puts New Focus on Bipartisan Election Law Effort

The former president is endorsing GOP candidates running this year, especially those who support his baseless claims the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him or are challenging Republican incumbents who opposed him.

The report filed Monday shows that Trump’s Save America gave the maximum $5,000 contribution to 41 federal candidates he’s endorsed, including the challengers to Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming and other members of the House and Senate who voted to impeach or convict him.

The former president contributed to 28 state-level candidates and Republicans challenging GOP officeholders he wants to defeat, including former Senator David Perdue against Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia and Representative Jody Hice opposing Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Trump blames Kemp and Raffensperger for not overturning the Georgia election results.

Trump has endorsed more than 100 candidates so far since leaving office, including 54 running for federal office, 41 for state-level positions, three local candidates, four GOP chairmen, as well as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Yet Trump had contributed to only a dozen federal candidates as of Sept. 30. Budowich said in December that every one of Trump’s endorsed candidates would receive a contribution from Save America and that candidates who support Trump’s “America first” policies and causes “will be supported at unprecedented levels,” both financially and through the political engagement of Trump’s campaign-style rallies.

Off Limits

One thing Trump can’t spend the money on is a 2024 presidential race. If he became a candidate, Save America would be limited to giving his campaign $5,000 per election. Unable to use the PACs’ millions to pay its expenses, a new Trump presidential effort would have to start raising money from scratch.

As long as he’s not a candidate, however, Trump faces fewer restrictions on how he can use money raised by Save America than he would for funds raised for a campaign, which can’t be converted to personal use. PAC funds face no such limits.

But coaxing money out of donors was expensive: Trump’s main fundraising committee spent $19 million, or 38 cents for every dollar it took in.

Save America, which ended the year with more than $105.4 million in the bank, spent $7.8 million, including donations of $350,500 to federal and state candidates Trump has endorsed. Save America also gave $1 million to the Conservative Partnership Institute, a nonprofit founded by former Senator Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, and Mark Meadows, a former North Carolina congressman who served as Trump’s last chief of staff. The group offers support and training to conservatives in Washington.

Save America also spent $1.4 million on staging events, $327,000 on strategy consulting and $241,000 on legal consulting. It also paid staff $24,500 in year-end bonuses.

(Updates with additional details from first paragraph.)
© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.
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