ENTERTAINMENT

Trump’s Legal Fees Deplete His Campaign Coffers

Topline

Former President Donald Trump and his political network are spending exorbitant sums to defend the ex-president and his associates against his mounting legal woes, according to multiple reports citing new financial disclosures that have prompted his opponents to claim he is grifting his supporters.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a political rally while campaigning … [+] for the GOP nomination in the 2024 election at Erie Insurance Arena on July 29, 2023 in Erie, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

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Key Facts

Trump’s political operation has spent $42.8 million of the $53 million it’s raised this year, the Associated Press reported, citing mid-year Federal Election Commission disclosures filed Monday, leaving him with $31.8 million in cash.

The spending includes approximately $25 million on legal fees, according to the Associated Press, which cited a person familiar with the situation who said the figure is closer to $40 million.

Funds in Trump’s Save America political action committee have been depleted from $105 million last year to less than $4 million, the New York Times reported, after loaning $60 million to the Trump-aligned Make America Great Again Inc. super PAC—a transfer Save America has requested a refund for as it faces a cash crunch.

MAGA Inc. also ended the mid-year filing period in the red after raising $14.6 million and spending $25.6 million, Politico reported.

Trump’s closest competitor in the 2024 GOP primary race, Florida Gov. Ron DeSanits, has capitalized on the new revelations by claiming his supporters were “scammed” into footing his legal bills, DeSantis’s rapid response director Christina Pushaw tweeted.

The spending has also drawn the interest of Special Counsel Jack Smith, who has pressed witnesses in his investigations into Trump about whether Trump’s affiliated organizations are footing their lawyer fees as a possible means of coercing them to speak favorably on Trump’s behalf, the Washington Post reported.

Tangent

Save America is a leadership PAC, a type of political action committee traditionally established for politicians to raise money in support of other candidates and their political causes, but they have $5,000 donation limits and are prohibited from directly contributing to a candidate’s campaign, while super PACs such as Make America Great Again have no contribution limits and are allowed to directly spend money on campaigns.

Chief Critic

“For the super PAC and the Trump PAC to be sending tens of millions dollars back and forth depending upon who needs the money more strongly suggests unlawful financial coordination,” Adav Noti, legal director for the watchdog group, the Campaign Legal Center, told the Times. The CLC filed a complaint with the FEC over the $60 million transfer from Save America to Make America Great Again, arguing it skirted campaign finance laws.

Contra

“Everything was done in accordance with the law and upon the advice of counsel. Any disgusting insinuation otherwise, especially by Democrat donors, is nothing more than a feeble attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump is dominating this race,” Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said in response to allegations the transfer was unlawful.

Big Number

$23 million. That’s how much money Make America Great Again Inc. spent on attack ads against DeSantis during the first half of the year, the New York Times reported.

Key Background

Trump saw a financial boost in April after his first indictment in Manhattan Criminal Court, when he raised about $4 million per day, according to a New York Times analysis that shows his subsequent indictment by the Justice Department in its classified documents case has failed to keep up the same fundraising pace. After the Justice Department charges were filed in June, he raised just over $1 million per day, the analysis shows, a figure that spiked slightly following his arraignment in the case in Miami. To help foot the mounting legal costs for Trump and his associates who have become entwined in the cases, Trump’s team is forming a legal defense fund, expected to be called the Patriot Legal Defense Fund Inc., multiple outlets reported over the weekend.

Further Reading

After Paying Lawyers, Trump’s PAC Is Nearly Broke (The New York Times)

Trump has spent millions more than he’s raised in 2023 (Politico)

Trump PAC has spent more than $40 million on legal costs this year for himself, others (Washington Post)

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