WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has invoked the Georgia Senate runoffs dozens of times over the past month while raising money for his $100 million-plus “leadership” political committee — but has not reported spending a dime on those races.
“It would suggest that the PAC is blatantly lying to its supporters to raise money that President Trump could use for his own personal benefit,” said Robert Maguire, a campaign finance expert with the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “We’ve seen lots of scam PACs over the years, but never one tied so closely to a president.”
A HuffPost analysis of all “independent expenditures” reported to the Federal Election Commission through Thursday for the Jan. 5 election found that 114 different groups have spent $172.6 million in the two races that will determine control of the Senate for the next two years.
They range from the Senate Leadership Fund, the superPAC run by allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that spent $31.3 million, to the tiny Ohio-based Heroes PAC, which spent $7,600 for digital ads on behalf of incumbent Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.
That figure, though, is still $7,600 more than has been reported spent by Trump and his Save America committee, which he created six days after his Nov. 3 reelection loss.
The Trump campaign did not respond to HuffPost queries on this matter.
“Same old song,” said Joe Walsh, a former congressman who unsuccessfully ran against Trump for the 2020 GOP presidential nomination. “It’s what he is. It’s what he does. It’s all a con. It’s all a lie. It’s all a grift. And sadly, millions continue to fall for it.”
It is unclear from public filings exactly how much Trump has raised for the entity — which he can use to pay expenses ranging from golf clubs to meals to hush money; or even pay himself an enormous salary. But his campaign boasted earlier this month that he had raised over $207 million since Election Day.
Under the distribution formula disclosed on his campaign website’s donation page, Trump has likely collected at least $150 million for Save America since Nov. 3.
“Just another example of our grifter in chief playing his supporters for fools as he milks them of their money,” said Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer and “fixer” who wound up serving time in prison for, among other things, helping Trump pay hush money in the days leading up to the 2016 election to women whom he had had affairs with.
Cohen said he would be shocked if Trump winds up spending any of Save America’s money on the Georgia races. “He considers that account to be his slush fund. That’s his money,” Cohen said.
Trump has stressed the importance of the Georgia runoffs and keeping Republican control of the Senate in repeated fundraising texts and emails to his army of small-dollar donors. “Help us WIN both Senate races in Georgia & STOP Socialist Dems!” read a text his campaign sent out Saturday just after noon. That was followed up five hours later with one from his son Eric Trump, urging recipients to “SAVE THE SENATE!”
The accompanying link goes to a fundraising page bearing the Trump campaign logo and advertising the “GEORGIA ELECTION FUND,” donations to which would help secure “these two critical Senate seats.”
The fine print much further down, however, reveals that 75% of the first $6,667 of a donor’s money goes to Trump’s Save America, with the rest going into the Republican National Committee’s general fund.
Trump’s committee can only give each GOP candidate $2,800 directly for the runoff, while the RNC can give Loeffler and Perdue just $5,000 each. Both groups can spend without limit to support those two or oppose the Democrats, so long as they do not co-ordinate with the candidate.
To date, however, the RNC has only reported $3.1 million in such independent spending for the runoff, and Trump has not reported anything at all.
It is unclear who paid for the rally Trump staged on Dec. 5 in Valdosta, Georgia, purportedly for the two Republicans, but in which he spent most of his time airing his various grievances and putting forth lies claiming he had actually won reelection.
Reports detailing fundraising and expenses by his campaign and Save America for the month of December are not due to the FEC until Jan. 31.
Loeffler is facing Raphael Warnock for the two remaining years in the term won in 2016 by Republican Johnny Isakson, who stepped down at the end of 2019 for health reasons. Perdue is running for his second six-year term against Jon Ossoff.
None of the four reached the 50%-plus-one threshold in the Nov. 3 general election, which under Georgia law necessitates a runoff.
Republicans, who already have 50 Senate seats, will retain control of the chamber if they win either of the two Georgia seats. If they lose both, Democrats will take control, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking 51st vote.