President Donald Trump’s campaign, the National Republican Committee, and three affiliated political groups raised nearly half a billion dollars from mid-October through late November, the campaign announced on Thursday evening, including more than $200 million since Election Day.
The eye-popping sum came after weeks of relentless fundraising by Trump and national Republicans, who used baseless claims of a widespread conspiracy to illegally deny the president a second term to rake in huge sums from grassroots Trump supporters. That fundraising push has largely asked for funds to attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election in court, where the campaign has so far been wildly unsuccessful in convincing any judge of its case.
In total, the campaign, the RNC, and two joint fundraising accounts brought in at least $495 million from October 15 through November 23.
“These tremendous fundraising numbers show President Trump remains the leader and source of energy for the Republican Party, and that his supporters are dedicated to fighting for the rightful, legal outcome of the 2020 general election,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement on the campaign’s finances.
The legal outcome—President-elect Joe Biden’s victory—is, in fact, already known. But the campaign and the RNC have propped up the fiction of a vast anti-Trump conspiracy involving rigged voting machines and the deceased president of Venezuela as they continue pulling in money for activities mostly unrelated to the litigation Trump’s attorneys have pursued in states around the country.
That litigation has been almost uniformly unsuccessful. Courts in multiple states have tossed out the campaign’s efforts to prevent the certification of Biden’s electoral college victories and disenfranchise huge numbers of largely Democratic voters.
Trump’s legions of grassroots supporters have nonetheless stepped up to fund the effort, even as some of his higher dollar donors head for the exits. But a large portion of those grassroots donations haven’t actually funded the post-election legal fights. Much of it went towards retiring Trump campaign debt, and a significant portion has financed Save America, the leadership PAC created in the aftermath of the election, as it became clear Trump will not be re-elected.
Trump will likely use that group to finance expenses associated with an anticipated 2024 presidential run—or at least a trial run over the next few years as he ponders one. The Trump Make America Great Again Committee, one of the two RNC-campaign joint fundraising accounts, is now steering 75 cents of every dollar donated to that group—a fact that’s only evident in the fine print of its solicitations.
In its first two weeks in existence, Save America raised about $570,000, according to its inaugural financial filing with the Federal Election Commission, nearly three quarters of that sum coming from donations of under $200. Its only expenditures were merchant fees paid to the GOP fundraising platform WinRed—meaning all the group did in its first two weeks was raise money, despite the frequent fundraising appeals invoking a fight against election fraud.
Leadership PACs generally use the money they raise to shell out funds to like-minded elected officials, often as a way of building political capital. But such groups are frequently criticized for the wide latitude they give the officials that control them to spend money on activities that are at best tangentially related to actual political activity. Numerous federal officeholders, for example, have been scrutinized for spending leadership PAC funds on personal expenses.
The rules governing leadership PAC spending, which are more lax than regulations on actual campaign committees, mean that Trump will be free to spend the money that Save America raises on a wide variety of activities—and, if he pleases, at plenty of Trump properties—as he mulls another run at the White House in four years.