After bombarding supporters daily with emails blaring lies about the election and soliciting donations to overcome virtually non-existent voter fraud, President Donald Trump's political operation has reportedly raised more than $150 million since November 3, a staggering windfall that is being funneled into a Republican joint fundraising committee and a Trump PAC established to fuel his post-White House activities.
While the Trump team's aggressive emails—sometimes as many as 15 per day—purport to be raising money for an "Official Election Defense Fund" set up to finance the president's flailing legal effort to overturn the election, the fund does not exist.
"The average donor who gives in response to Trump's appeal for funds to 'stop the fraud' likely doesn't realize that their money is actually retiring Trump's debt or funding his leadership PAC."
—Brendan Fischer, Campaign Legal Center
"There is no such account," the Washington Post reported late Monday. "The fundraising requests are being made by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising committee that raises money for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. As of November 18, that committee also shares its funds with Save America, a new leadership PAC that Trump set up in early November and which he can use to fund his post-presidency activities."
Observers said the post-election fundraising initiative has all the markings of a shameless grift, with much of the money likely going toward paying off the Trump campaign's debts, financing events at the president's properties, and other purposes. The Post noted that "there are very few limitations on how money going to" the Trump leadership PAC can be spent.
Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), told the Post that "small donors who give to Trump thinking they are financing an 'Official Election Defense Fund' are in fact helping pay down the Trump campaign's debt or funding his post-presidential political operation."
"The average donor who gives in response to Trump's appeal for funds to 'stop the fraud' likely doesn't realize that their money is actually retiring Trump's debt or funding his leadership PAC," Fischer said, pointing out that "only bigger donors who've maxed-out to Trump's campaign or the RNC will see any portion of their contribution go to dedicated recount or legal funds."
It’s all about the grift. Always and forever. https://t.co/jTjadQrWpo
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— Dan Froomkin/PressWatchers.org (@froomkin) December 1, 2020
Buried in the fine print of the early barrage of Trump's post-election fundraising emails, as Common Dreams reported last month, was language informing those who read far enough that a percentage of donations would go toward "general election debt retirement."
"According to the fine print in the latest fundraising appeals," the Post reported, "75% of each contribution to the joint fundraising committee would first go toward the Save America leadership PAC and the rest would be shared with the party committee, to help with the party's operating expenses. This effectively means that the vast majority of low-dollar donations under the current agreement would go toward financing the president’s new leadership PAC, instead of efforts to support the party or to finance voting lawsuits."
News of the Trump operation's massive fundraising haul came shortly after two additional battleground states, Wisconsin and Arizona, certified President-elect Joe Biden's victories there and dealt yet another blow to the president's disastrous court fight.
In a tweet late Monday, Rob Flaherty, digital director for the Biden campaign, called Trump's "election defense" fundraising ploy a "plain and simple grift."