Is Donald Trump a One-Person Scam, Pac?
Despite Trump's repeated assertions that the election was stolen, specific big Republican organizations have partnered in fundraising efforts after Trump's defeat. They'll attempt to find any way to use his brand wherever they can with the "grassroots" loyalists to collect more money.
Following his loss by Joe Biden in the 2020 Presidential Election, Donald Trump's propensity for leveraging his political and legal problems into fundraising strategies has come under increased attention and criticism from campaign finance watchdogs and legal experts.
Trump has amassed a vast network of political committees and nonprofit organizations, staffed with dozens of former administration officials and loyalists, all of which appear to be aimed at sustaining his political hopes for a comeback while exacting retribution on his Republican congressional critics.
They have been active in collecting money via often deceptive appeals to the party base, which surveys indicate shares Trump's incorrect beliefs and believe he was denied the presidency as a result of fraud in the election.
The Republican National Committee and Trump's campaign joined forces to raise tens of millions of dollars through text and email appeals for a Trump "election defense fund," ostensibly to fight the election results with baseless lawsuits alleging fraud. The Save America political action committee, which was launched just days after Trump's defeat in November, quickly surpassed its fundraising goal of $1 million.
As part of his ongoing campaign against censorship, Trump announced last month that he would file class-action lawsuits against social media platforms Facebook, Google, and Twitter, alleging "censorship" as a result of bans imposed by the platforms following the January 6 Capitol attack, which Trump assisted in instigating.
Former President Donald Trump's new legal strategy has aroused eyebrows, in part because the president has partnered with the America First Policy Institute (AFPI), a nonprofit organization headed by former White House staffer Brooke Rollins.
As part of a news conference with President Donald Trump, Rollins publicly said that supporters could "join the lawsuit" by signing up on a website called takeonbigtech.org. This claim was contradicted by the website's design, which included a red button with the words "DONATE to AFPI."
He has enlisted the help of the limitless dark money organization America First Policy Institute to pull off another heist.
Other academics have expressed significant reservations about Trump's methods in the Save America campaign.
While he solicited donations to challenge election results, he instead used the funds to pay off unrelated obligations, according to Adav Noti, a former assistant general counsel at the Federal Election Commission who is now chief of staff at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.
It is possible that a normal charity, or even a person who was not President of the United States, might have collected tens of millions of dollars via this kind of fraud and would face severe legal consequences."
This has not stopped Trump's fundraising machine from growing even further, as shown by establishing a SuperPAC, Make America Great Again Action, which may take limitless contributions.
Both the Super Pac and Save America are managed by Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who did not respond to requests for comment when reached by phone.
According to reports, the Super Pac has held at least two parties for big contributors at Trump's golf estate in Bedminster, New Jersey, and Dallas, although it is unclear how much money has been raised.
These two political action committees are seen as vehicles for Trump to raise additional funds to exert more influence over congressional races in 2022, where he has vowed to try to defeat several politicians, including anti-Trump Republican Liz Cheney, who voted to impeach him this year following an attack on the Capitol.
According to campaign records for the first six months of 2021, Trump's political organizations, headed by Save America, raised $82 million.
Despite Trump's bogus allegations of election fraud in places such as Arizona, Save America chose to bank the majority of the money while spending some to pay for Trump's travel and other costs. The organization decided not to challenge election results in those states.
Veterans in the field of campaign financing believe that the slew of Trump-affiliated organizations that have sprung up after his loss raises fresh concerns about his motivations and political ambitions.
According to Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Trump's aggressive fundraising, which has included various committees and surrogates, raises questions about whether his constant hints at a presidential run in 2024 are primarily a ploy for donations.
"It's possible that Trump is more interested in fundraising than he is in the running for president, particularly considering the extraordinary amount of money he has raised since losing the election."
Beyond Trump's fundraising pitches for his new political action committees and nonprofits, some major Republican organizations have collaborated in fundraising appeal since his defeat, and they have continued to capitalize on his appeal to the party's base despite Trump's repeated denials that the election was stolen.
For example, in the eight weeks after the election, the Republican National Committee, the Trump campaign, and Save America allegedly collected approximately $255 million. Still, they only spent a quarter of that amount on litigation.
Furthermore, party supporters such as the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which serves as the fundraising arm for Republican senators, continue to capitalize on Trump's popularity among small contributors.
For example, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) in July email fundraising appeals offered a free Trump T-shirt for a limited number of contributors who sent checks ranging from $35 to $5,000 to "defend the America First Majority."
In a similar vein, the Republican National Committee (RNC) sent an email notice on July 19 offering the opportunity to become an "official 2021 Trump Life Member" for those who contributed $45 or more by midnight.
A long-time Republican strategist, Charlie Black, says Republican committees are well aware that Trump's "name has the most popular appeal to the grassroots, so naturally, they'll try to find out ways to exploit his brand everywhere they can to collect more money."
On the other hand, legal experts warn that Trump's fundraising strategy with his numerous new political action committees and nonprofits is distinct and poses significant dangers to unknowing contributors and U.S. campaign finance rules.
According to Ryan of Common Cause, "our nation's campaign finance and anti-fraud rules have proved to be ineffective against Trump's schemes."