DOnald Trump’s penchant for turning his political and legal problems into fundraising schemes has long been acknowledged, but the former US president’s money laundering tricks seem to have widened since his defeat at Joe Biden, prompting new scrutiny and criticism from campaign and legal watchdogs. analysts.
Critics note that Trump has built up an arsenal of political committees and nonprofits, staffed by dozens of former administration officials and loyalists, who appear to be aiming to maintain his political hopes of a comeback and demand revenge on Republican congressional critics. These groups have been aggressive in raising money through sometimes misleading appeals to the party base, which polls show share Trump’s false views that he lost the White House due to fraud.
Just days after his defeat last November, Trump launched a new political action committee called Save America, which, along with his campaign and the Republican National Committee, quickly raised tens of millions of dollars through text and email appeals to a Trump “Electoral Defense Fund”, apparently to combat the results of unfounded lawsuits alleging fraud.
The young Pac had raised as much as 31.5 million. At the end of the year, however, Save America spent nothing on legal expenses during the same period, according to public records. Powered by Trump’s campaign manager in 2016, Corey Lewandowski, Save America spent only $ 340,000 on fundraising expenses last year.
In another move, Trump announced last month that he was suing Facebook, Google and Twitter, claiming “censorship” because of the platform’s ban after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack that Trump helped sting. But the move prompted several legal experts to breach the lawsuits as junk and a fundraising trick.
Trump’s new legal strategy raised red flags, in part because he joined the America First Policy Institute (AFPI), a nonprofit group led by former White House official Brooke Rollins. At a news conference with Trump, Rollins publicly told supporters they could “participate in the trial” by signing up for a site, takeonbigtech.org, a claim that has disappeared from details on the site that had a red button with the words “DONATE to AFPI “.
“Donald Trump is a one-man scam Pac,” Paul S Ryan, vice president of politics and litigation, told Common Cause. “Bait-and-switch is one of his favorite fundraising tactics,” Ryan stressed, noting that Trump’s Save America Pac told “supporters that he needed money to challenge the outcome of an election he clearly lost.” , and then he did not end up spending anything on lawsuits last year.
“Now he knows it again, with junk lawsuits filed [in July] against Facebook, Twitter and Google, accompanied by appeals for fundraising, ”Ryan added. “This time he has the unlimited dark money group America First Policy Institute on the racket.”
Other experts express strong concern about Trump’s tactics with Save America
“The president deceived his donors. He asked them to donate money so he could contest the election results, but then he used their contribution to pay off unrelated debt, “said Adav Noti, a former assistant attorney general in the Federal Election Commission and now chief of staff at the party’s Legal Campaign Center.
Noti added: “It is dangerously close to fraud. If an ordinary charity – or a person who did not happen to be president of the United States – had raised tens of thousands of dollars through such deception, they would have a serious risk of prosecution. ”
Such concerns have not deterred Trump’s fundraising machine from expanding further with the launch of a super Pac, Make America Great Again Action, which can accept unlimited donations. Both Super Pac and Save America are run by Trump’s former campaign manager Lewandowski, did not return calls and seek comments.
The Super Pac has reportedly hosted at least two mega-donor events at Trump’s Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey and Dallas, but it is not known how much has been withdrawn so far.
Both Pacs are seen as a means for Trump to raise more funds to influence congressional races in 2022, where he has promised to try to defeat more politicians, e.g. Anti-Trump Republican Liz Cheney, who voted to charge him this year after the Capitol attack.
Campaign applications for the first six months of 2021 reveal that Trump’s political groups led by Save America raised $ 82 million dollars, an unprecedented sum for a former president. Save America tapped most funds while using some to pay for Trump’s travel and other expenses, instead of challenging election results in states like Arizona despite Trump’s false allegations of fraud there.
Veteran campaign funding analysts say a host of Trump-affiliated groups launched since his defeat raise new questions about his motives and political intentions
“Trump’s aggressive fundraising with the help of a number of committees and surrogates raises questions about whether his ongoing hints of running in 2024 are primarily a donation trick,” said Sheila Krumholz, head of the impartial Center for Responsive Politics. “Trump may be more interested in fundraising than actually running, especially given how unprecedented his collection after losses is.”
In addition to Trump’s fundraising seats for his new Pacs and nonprofits, some major Republican groups have collaborated on fundraising appeals since his defeat and continue to swine to lure him to the party base despite Trump’s repeated erroneous falsehoods that the election was stolen.
In the eight weeks after the election, for example, the RNC, the Trump campaign and Save America raised about $ 255 million, but spent only a small fraction on lawsuits.
In addition, Trump’s small donor cachet is still being exploited by party allies, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee, (NRSC) fundraising arm for Republican senators.
For example, in July, the NRSC announced email fundraising sites for a free Trump T-shirt to a limited number of donors who wrote checks ranging from $ 35 to $ 5,000 to “protect America First Majority.”
Similarly, in an July 19 email warning, the RNC rolled out a money order to become an “official Trump Life member in 2021” for donors who chipped in $ 45 or more at midnight.
Charlie Black, a longtime Republican operator, said the Republican Committee realizes that Trump’s name has the most popular appeal to the grassroots, so of course they will try to figure out ways to use his brand where they can to raise more funds. “.
But legal analysts warn that Trump’s fundraising modus operandi with his various new Pacs and nonprofits is different and carries clear risks for ignorant donors and U.S. campaign funding laws.
“Our country’s campaign funding and anti-fraud laws have proven unsuitable for Trump’s schemes,” Ryan of the Common Cause said. “So my one piece of advice to Trump supporters is donor, beware!”