Billionaires are cozying up to Trump

  • Former President Donald Trump's previous campaigns were largely fueled by small donors.

  • New FEC filings show the RNC and his 2024 campaign are strapped for cash.

  • But some of the nation's wealthiest CEOs are starting to back him.

A handful of influential billionaires and tech moguls has increasingly aligned with former President Donald Trump as campaign filings show he's struggling for cash.

Newly released campaign-finance reports confirm that Trump continues to lag President Joe Biden in amassing donations ahead of the November election.

Trump's decision to rely on his allied groups to help cover his mounting legal fees has exacerbated the overarching deficit.

Biden's campaign ended February with more than double the amount Trump's campaign had available, $71 million compared with the former president's $33.5 million. At the same time, Trump's leadership PAC, Save America, spent another $5.6 million last month on legal fees. The outfit even received a cash infusion from a pro-Trump super PAC to help.

The former president needs to close this gap soon. It doesn't help matters that the Republican National Committee, which will now work alongside Trump's campaign, is separately getting outraised by the Democratic National Committee. It's difficult to say for certain what the overall cash on hand is for pro-Trump PACs and groups, as super PACs weren't included in the totals posted Wednesday night. That being said, there's an undercurrent of concern beneath Trump's own outreach to the billionaires.

While Tesla and X CEO Elon Musk previously said he wouldn't donate money "to either candidate for US President" in 2024, he cemented his political alignment in a recent post, saying "America is doomed" if a "red wave" voting phenomenon doesn't occur. Musk personally met with the former president earlier in March, The New York Times reported.

Some of the richest men in the world, including the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, have taken to X in recent years to voice their displeasure with the Biden administration's policies. Other billionaires have openly praised Trump. The Silicon Valley investor Chamath Palihapitiya, for example, recently said on his podcast that "so much of the work that happened in that administration turned out to have been right."

While Musk is not a megadonor, the Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison very much is. Ellison donated over $30 million to Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina ahead of his unsuccessful presidential run. Puck previously reported that Ellison had dined with Trump multiple times.

Up until now, Trump has largely relied on the support of his small-donor machine. Most politicians struggle with building and maintaining a large-enough donor base to sustain a campaign, let alone the massive sums needed to finance a presidential run. Thanks to the Supreme Court's rulings in Citizens United and other cases, Trump can avoid that hassle by getting a billionaire to write a pro-Trump super PAC a six-figure check.

The outreach could come with a cost.

As a political neophyte in 2015, Trump touted his personal wealth as a way to avoid the cringe-inducing trade-offs that often dominate the world of large politics. He ultimately spent relatively little of his own money, but his small-donor operation allowed him to keep most big-money backers at arm's length. It helped that some megadonors, including the Koch brothers, openly avoided him. Trump did welcome super PACs amid a deluge of attack ads. But now, the former president's outreach feels swampier than ever.

On the eve of a major fundraiser with an Anheuser-Busch lobbyist, Trump asked his loyal followers to give the company a second chance after a conservative-led boycott cost the beer giant billions, Politico reported. The former president once supported banning the popular social-media app TikTok but reversed his view after meeting with the Republican megadonor Jeff Yass, who has a 15% stake in ByteDance, TikTok's Beijing parent company. Trump denies that he and Yass talked about TikTok.

Someone close to Trump's campaign told The New York Times they expected Yass to make a "significant donation" to a pro-Trump group.

Read the original article on Business Insider