WASHINGTON ― Just weeks after touting a new super PAC to help Republican candidates in the November midterms, Donald Trump wound up spending just a fraction of the $100 million he had available ― and hoarded the rest for his own 2024 presidential run.
The coup-attempting former president in October transferred $60 million from his Save America “leadership” PAC to his Make America Great Again Inc. super PAC, which was ostensibly created to boost GOP candidates in tight races. It collected another $9 million from an existing pro-Trump super PAC and $4 million from new contributions.
Of that $73 million total, though, only $15 million went toward electing Republicans in five Senate races, according to a HuffPost analysis of Federal Election Commission filings, with not a dime spent helping Herschel Walker in Georgia for his Dec. 6 runoff. A full $54 million remains available for the super PAC’s new stated goal, helping Trump win back the White House.
“It’s so obvious to the point of cliche at this point that Trump is in this for one person and one person alone, himself,” said Rory Cooper, once a top aide to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. “He steals fundraising, picks lousy candidates, and is an anchor in competitive races, so one would wonder how much longer the party tolerates this loser nonsense.”
Taylor Budowich, formerly a spokesman for Save America and now the head of MAGA Inc., did not respond to HuffPost queries.
He told Politico in late September: “President Trump is committed to saving America, and Make America Great Again Inc. will ensure that is achieved at the ballot box in November and beyond.”
On Dec. 9, in an op-ed published by Newsmax, Budowich describes MAGA Inc. as “the primary super PAC supporting Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign for president.”
Robert Maguire, a campaign finance analyst at the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, pointed out that spending unlimited amounts of money on behalf of other candidates was something Save America could do on its own. That “leadership” PAC, however, is not allowed to spend on behalf of Trump’s own candidacy ― something that the super PAC, which in theory is independent of Trump, can do.
“So he used the midterms as an excuse to dump piles of money into a super PAC that was always meant for Trump’s favorite candidate: himself,” Maguire said.
Republicans ended up with an expectedly poor showing in the midterms, barely flipping the House and actually losing a seat in the Senate. Since then, they have been complaining that their candidates were unable to raise as much from small-dollar donations as their Democratic opponents.
“We really have to modernize to compete with the Democrats dollar-for-dollar, in the ways they fundraise,” Harmeet Dhillon, a Republican National Committee member from California who is challenging Ronna McDaniel for the chair, said in a Fox News interview earlier this month.
Dhillon, who counts Trump as a client in her law practice, failed to mention that Trump’s Save America collected $147 million in small-dollar donations over the past two years ― a significant percentage of all the under $200 contributions given to all Republicans.
Other senior Republicans point out that there are only so many GOP dollars to be had, and if Trump is collecting that many of them when he was not even a candidate, that necessarily translated into less money available for those who actually needed it.
“Trump hoarding cash wasn’t helpful, especially since he dragged most of these losing candidates into the races they eventually lost,” said Scott Jennings, a former White House political adviser to President George W. Bush and an ally of Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell’s super PAC, in contrast, spent a total of $274 million helping Republican Senate candidates, including those who won the party nominations thanks to support from Trump but who were then largely abandoned by him.
Walker, for example, received $15.4 million in assistance in the Dec. 6 runoff from McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund. Trump did not report spending anything on his behalf, either through Save America or MAGA Inc.
Walker lost that runoff by three points to incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.
At the end of the midterm elections, Trump still had $31 million in Save America and its associated fundraising committee, in addition to the $54 million in the MAGA Inc. super PAC. The Save America money cannot be used for his campaign, but can be used as a slush fund for other expenses, including personal costs such as his legal bills from the various criminal probes he faces.
Trump is under investigation by the Department of Justice for his role in the Jan. 6 attack, including the scheme to submit to the National Archives fraudulent slates of electors from states that voted for Democrat Joe Biden as a way to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to award Trump a second term. A separate probe is investigating Trump’s removal of highly classified documents from the White House and subsequent refusal to hand them over, even in defiance of a subpoena.
In addition to the federal criminal investigations, a Georgia prosecutor is looking at Trump and his allies’ attempts to coerce state officials into falsely declaring him the winner in that state.
Trump, despite losing the election by 7 million votes nationally and 306-232 in the Electoral College, became the first president in more than two centuries of elections to refuse to hand over power peacefully. His incitement of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol ― his last-ditch attempt to remain in office ― led to the deaths of five people, including one police officer, the injury of 140 officers and four police suicides.
At rallies and in statements on his personal social media platform, Trump has continued to lie about the election and the Jan. 6 House select committee’s work, calling it a “hoax” similar to previous investigations into his 2016 campaign’s acceptance of Russian assistance and his attempted extortion of Ukraine into helping his 2020 campaign.