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Trump Will Skim $32 Million Big-Donor Dollars Away From RNC, If Fundraising Tracks 2020

WASHINGTON ― Under a new scheme engineered by Donald Trump, his personal committee that has been paying his legal bills will be able to skim nearly $32 million from large-dollar donors that otherwise would have gone to the Republican Party, if he and the party can match their fundraising numbers from four years ago.

In the 2020 campaign, every dime of the $396 million jointly raised by the coup-attempting former president and the GOP from those writing big checks went to Trump’s campaign, the RNC and then a host of state parties.

This time, though, the “Trump 47” joint committee puts Trump’s “Save America” leadership PAC ― essentially a slush fund at Trump’s disposal that he has used to pay lawyers defending him from both criminal and civil charges ― second in line to collect money. After the first $6,600 goes to Trump’s campaign, the next $5,000 goes to Save America. Only when a donation exceeds $11,600 does the RNC get its first penny.

Had that arrangement been in place in 2020, Trump’s personal fund would have received $31.8 million that otherwise would have gone to the RNC and state parties, according to a HuffPost analysis of Federal Election Commission filings.

“The RNC has become a money-laundering operation for the most crooked president in history,” said Jennifer Horn, once an RNC member by dint of her former role as chair of New Hampshire’s Republican Party.

“The campaign doesn’t care, and it seems the donors don’t care either. I think people increasingly see the legal challenges as part of the campaign,” said longtime GOP consultant David Kochel. “He has to fight the ‘lawfare’ and the Biden campaign.”

The Trump campaign did not respond to HuffPost queries about how much the joint fundraising effort will help deal with his personal problems, rather than help the party win elections.

Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom during his civil fraud trial at New York Supreme Court on Jan. 11 in New York City.
Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom during his civil fraud trial at New York Supreme Court on Jan. 11 in New York City. Pool via Getty Images

Top Trump campaign aide Chris LaCivita, who is now also running the RNC’s day-to-day operations, claimed early this month that the party would not be paying Trump’s legal bills. Barely two weeks later, though, HuffPost and other news organizations obtained an invitation for the first joint fundraiser that does exactly that.

Some current RNC members privately grumbled about having to pay for Trump’s legal expenses, but others defended it.

“A donor can give directly to the campaign, or directly to the RNC and so forth,” said Richard Porter, a member from Illinois. “These vehicles make life easier for donors who prefer to write one check.”

“The honest transparency is the key. People will be making informed decisions about where they want donations to go. Many see President Trump’s legal problems as partisan. It has probably even boosted his following and many do want to direct funding to help his defense against what seem unfair charges,” added Ohio’s Jim Dicke.

How much, exactly, Trump’s personal slush fund will benefit from the joint fundraising agreement will depend on how many individual donors give at least $6,600 to Trump 47.

During the 2020 election cycle, the “Trump Victory” joint fundraising committee received 27,650 donations. Of those, 20,756 were smaller than $6,600 — meaning that, if they were given to Trump 47 today, they would provide money exclusively to the Trump campaign.

Another 1,482 donations were between $6,600 and $11,600, which would, if given today, produce $4,739,184 for Trump’s Save America committee, according to the HuffPost analysis.

And the final 5,414 donations exceeded $11,600, which, if given today, would produce $27,070,000 for Save America.

Because “leadership PACs” are so lightly regulated, their owners can essentially spend the money at their discretion, even though it was ostensibly raised for political purposes. In 2023, Trump used $54.2 million from Save America to pay his various lawyers.

And as much as Trump could benefit from wealthy donors with the imprimatur of the RNC, he could potentially collect more than twice that much from his millions of followers — a great number of them retirees — who send him $5 or $20 or $50 through his endless stream of email and text message solicitations.

Trump raised $732.6 million in 2020 alone from this army of small-dollar donors. Indeed, about $250 million of that came after he had lost the November election but told his supporters he needed more money to overturn the results in court.

If Trump can get those followers to give him in 2024 what they gave him four years earlier, that would generate $73 million for his personal use under the current allocation formula that sends 90 cents of each dollar raised to his campaign and 10 cents to Save America. He could also increase the amount flowing to his slush fund if he alters the formula to provide it a larger share of each dollar.

“If we didn’t live in ‘the upside down,’ this would be a much bigger issue with donors,” Kochel said.

Trump in recent years has come to need a host of lawyers to defend his actions in court.

Trump was sued by the New York state attorney general for fraud based on his decades of overstating the value of his properties to get better terms from banks and insurers. He lost the case and is now appealing the $464 million judgment.

He is also facing four separate criminal prosecutions — two based on his actions leading up to and on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of his followers attacked the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to reinstall him as president.

A federal indictment could go to trial as early as late August, depending on the timing of a Supreme Court ruling on his claim that he is immune from prosecution. A Georgia state prosecution based on his attempt to overturn his election loss in that state could also start later this year.

A New York state prosecution on charges that he falsified business records to hide hush money payments in the days before the 2016 election could start as early as next month, while a second federal prosecution based on his refusal to turn over secret documents he took with him from the White House to his South Florida country club has not yet been set for trial.

In 2023, a New York jury found that Trump had sexually penetrated writer E. Jean Carroll against her will in an incident in the 1990s, finding him civilly liable for sexual abuse. The federal judge in the case later clarified that Trump’s actions were rape in the “common modern parlance.” He is appealing the $88 million judgement from that verdict, as well.