Trump stocks new PAC with tens of millions as he bids to retain control of GOP

Trump stocks new PAC with tens of millions as he bids to retain control of GOPFebruary 1, 2021

Former President Donald Trump amassed $31.2 million in his new political operation by the end of 2020, giving him a powerful tool to keep the Republican Party in his grip as he left office.

Save America, a leadership PAC created in the aftermath of the 2020 election, is set to play a key role in Trump’s plans to keep a strong hand in party politics — both to boost loyalists and also to seek retribution against Republicans he believes have wronged him, such as the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in mid-January. Trump cannot spend the PAC funds directly on any future campaign of his own, but he can use it to wield influence in campaigns in the midterm elections, pay his political advisers and travel the country.

“The more money [Trump] stacks up in his committee, the greater his grip will remain on many elected Republicans who will fear those resources could be turned against them,” said Rob Stutzman, a California-based Republican consultant. Stutzman said that it “should be no surprise” that Trump “has continued to fundraise well during this period.”

The money in Trump’s PAC, detailed in a new financial report filed with the Federal Election Commission on Sunday evening, was largely raised via grassroots fundraising appeals pleading for help with legal challenges aimed at the 2020 election results. But Save America spent little money at the end of last year, reporting only $218,000 in merchant fees to Republican online donation processor WinRed.

An affiliated joint fundraising committee — the Trump Make America Great Again Committee — has also filed its report. Recent fundraising calls from that group have said that it is splitting donations between Save America and the Republican National Committee, with 75 percent going to Trump’s leadership PAC and 25 percent going to the RNC.

Even after transferring over $78 million to the RNC, Save America and Trump’s campaign, the joint fundraising committee still has nearly $60 million in its own coffers. Some of that money is likely earmarked for Save America, so the $31.2 million in Trump’s new PAC could be the low end of what he has at his disposal.

The former president has already used Save America to target Republicans he sees as disloyal. The PAC’s most prominent target thus far has been Rep. Liz Cheney, the House Republican Conference chair and the most prominent GOP impeachment supporter. Save America commissioned and circulated a poll that purportedly found Cheney’s political standing under seige in Wyoming after her vote.

“Trump’s biggest weapon is his megaphone. But without his twitter account, he especially needs the money to fund his desired political infrastructure,” said Matt Gorman, a veteran Republican operative.

In some of his earliest post-White House political moves, Trump backed Kelli Ward for another term as Arizona Republican Party chair, after Ward steadfastly backed his election conspiracy theories in the aftermath of the November elections. Ward narrowly won another term. He also endorsed former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders when she entered the Republican primary for Arkansas’ open race for governor, anointing her over the state’s sitting lieutenant governor and attorney general, who were both already running.

“President Trump’s popularity has never been stronger than it is today, and his endorsement means more than perhaps any endorsement at any time,” read a statement from Save America, following Trump’s meeting with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy last week.

Party committees start 2021 flush with cash

Both the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee started the new year with plenty of money to spend.

The once-beleaguered DNC is starting in an entirely different position in 2021 compared to the last presidential election, closing out the 2020 cycle with nearly $39 million in the bank and just $3.1 million in debts.

Another $40 million is also earmarked for the committee, a total leftover by its joint operations with President Joe Biden’s campaign, according to The New York Times. That would leave the DNC with about $75 million in cash on hand. The now-flush committee is in a better position than ever before to build out its operations under the Biden administration.

The DNC drew enormous power from its small-dollar program, drafting off of anti-Trump energy that drove Democratic candidates and groups up and down the ballot over the last four years. In 2020, unitemized contributions — totaling $200 or less — accounted for more of the DNC committee’s direct donations than those from larger checks.

The new DNC chair, Jaime Harrison, is deeply familiar with the power of online fundraising. He smashed records in 2020, becoming the most well-funded Senate candidate in history before losing his race in South Carolina, largely through those grassroots donations.

The RNC had even more money in the bank than its Democratic counterpart. The group reported over $80 million in the bank at the end of the year — a number that is likely a floor. Like Save America, Trump’s leadership PAC, the RNC is likely entitled to at least some of the money that the Trump Make America Great Again Committee is holding in its coffers.

The RNC will be led by Ronna McDaniel for another cycle, a close ally of Trump who has nevertheless insisted the party would be independent in any future presidential primary even if the former president throws in his hat again.

It’s not yet clear whether either party will be able to maintain the same fundraising pace without Trump in the White House. While Democrats benefited from furious backlash against Trump from their online donors, Trump also built an enormous online fundraising list that directed millions to the RNC.

Another look at the mammoth spending in Georgia’s Senate races

The year-end campaign finance filings also detailed the flood of cash into Georgia’s Senate runoffs earlier this year, where now-Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock defeated incumbent Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

The Senate Leadership Fund, the primary Republican super PAC, attracted over $62 million in contributions and spent an enormous $117.9 million from late November through the end of the year. The group’s single largest donor in that time period was One Nation, its affiliated nonprofit group, which does not have to reveal its donors — meaning the true source of the contributions will remain masked.

The American Petroleum Institute gave $5 million, as did Charles and Helen Schawb.

Senate Majority PAC, Democrats’ comparable super PAC, brought in significantly less. It raised $28 million and spent a little under $30 million in the same time period.

The group took out a $5 million loan — fairly unusual for a super PAC — and took in over $4 million from Fair Fight, a group affiliated with Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, and over $3 million from its nonprofit affiliate, Majority Forward.

Meanwhile, the DSCC raised $24 million and spent $31.7 million. It had $9.8 million in the bank, with $20 million in debt, putting them in the red to start the 2022 election cycle. The NRSC raised $43 million and spent $65.5 million. It had $14.4 million in cash on hand and $9 million in debt to start the year.

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