Indictment turbocharges Trump’s fundraising
The figures provide a snapshot of how Trump’s arrest has, at least for the time being, shaped the Republican primary. While the former president’s indictment — along with potential future charges in several ongoing investigations — puts him in serious legal jeopardy, it has helped to solidify his standing with his supporters and grow his campaign war chest.
“In general, any time a candidate’s name is all over the media and dominating attention, it’s good for fundraising,” said Eric Wilson, a Republican digital strategist. “The wall-to-wall coverage just put him top of mind for donors.”
Whether Trump’s torrid fundraising pace persists — or gradually returns to its slower, pre-indictment level — is uncertain. Trump had been raising roughly $168,000 per day from Jan. 1 until when charges were filed against him on March 30, according to the figures his team provided. In the 24 hours that followed, he raised over $4 million. (The first quarter ended on March 31, the day after Trump’s indictment was first confirmed, meaning only a small segment of Trump’s post-indictment fundraising is reflected in the first-quarter figures.)
Trump has been raising money into a pair of political vehicles since launching his campaign last November: his leadership political action committee, Save America, and his presidential campaign. According to the figures provided by his campaign, Trump’s filing with the Federal Election Commission will show that the campaign collected $14.5 million during the first quarter, nearly all of which came from a transfer by the joint fundraising committee. The campaign will also report that it spent $3.5 million and had $13.9 million in cash on hand as of the end of March.
Trump representatives did not disclose stand-alone financial specifics for Save America, such as how much it spent and what it had in cash on hand. That group is not required to disclose its activity with the Federal Election Commission until July.
The former president has turned his legal battles into the centerpiece of his digital fundraising push, regularly sending out appeals to supporters portraying himself as a victim and pleading with them for campaign cash.
“With the witch hunts heating up like never before, please make a contribution to stand with me in the fight to SAVE AMERICA,” read one such Trump campaign email.
The appeals have helped Trump raise money from donors who are giving in small increments. According to the figures provided by his team, more than 97 percent of those who contributed to Trump’s joint fundraising committee and his campaign in the two weeks following the indictment did so in increments of less than $200. Trump received more than 312,000 donations, with an average contribution of $49, between the accounts in the two-week period following the indictment, his campaign said.
While Trump’s fundraising performance is a fraction of what he raised when he was president — he brought in $30.3 million during the first three months of 2019, during his reelection run — he is almost certain to be a top performer in the current election given his substantial base of support and because he has accelerated his fundraising since the indictment. His numbers top that of another announced candidate, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who has announced raising more than $11 million between her Feb. 15 campaign launch and the end of the first quarter. Haley has $7.8 million on hand.
But Trump faces a formidable force on the fundraising front in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Since winning reelection last November, DeSantis has been continuing to draw large- and small-sized donations into a state-based political account that he would likely look to transfer toward a presidential bid, should he choose to run. According to filings released earlier this week, the organization reported having $85 million available. Since last November, DeSantis has drawn seven-figure contributions from prominent conservative donors, including Pennsylvania options trader Jeff Yass, investor John Childs and TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts.
A pro-DeSantis super PAC, meanwhile, recently announced that it has raised $30 million. The organization, Never Back Down, on Friday placed $3.5 million in television buys for one-week, national cable and early-state broadcast ad blitz beginning next Tuesday promoting DeSantis, who has been winning backing from Republican Party donors who wish to move on from Trump.
Trump’s campaign has been taking steps to bolster its fundraising. It has brought aboard GOP fundraiser Meredith O’Rourke to oversee its finance efforts, a role that had previously been unfilled. O’Rourke has also been since October working for Make America Great Again, Inc., the principal pro-Trump super PAC. The group ended last year with $54 million on hand, and over the last few weeks has been airing TV ads targeting DeSantis.
The campaign has also tapped Parks Bennett, the owner of the Republican digital firm Campaign Inbox, to spearhead its online fundraising. The firm was also involved in Trump’s 2016 campaign.