Trump’s 2020 campaign wants you to think it’s raising money off impeachment. The truth is more complicated

President Donald Trump wants you to know that his 2020 reelection campaign is raking in money as a result of the impeachment hearings. At least, he wants you to think it is. 

While his campaign staff has been quick to point to the President’s record-breaking fourth-quarter fundraising in the face of his potential removal from office for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, Trump has actually brought in less money than relatively controversy-free President Barack Obama during the same period in his own reelection campaign, when adjusted for inflation. 

Trump’s campaign announced this month that it had raised $46 million in Q4, far more than any of his Democratic opponents (Bernie Sanders, with $34.5 million, came closest). The campaign also told Fortune that it had $102.7 million in cash on hand as it headed into 2020.

That boost in funding was directly related to the public’s response to impeachment, Trump’s campaign said. 

A senior staff member told Fortune that the campaign raised $15 million in the 72 hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced her impeachment inquiry. 

“Democrats and the media have been in a sham impeachment frenzy, and the President’s campaign only got bigger and stronger with our best fundraising quarter this cycle,” said Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale in a statement. “The President’s war chest and grass-roots army make his reelection campaign an unstoppable juggernaut.”

Parscale took to Fox News last week to reiterate that talking point, telling viewers that he’s seen a 20% to 30% spike in fundraising “because people are upset.” 

He claimed that supporters have been sending him “an angry emoji over and over again,” and that he was seeing an increase in supporters volunteering to help with the reelection ground game. “People don’t understand, you have to have a reason to get out there and knock doors sometimes in Arizona, and this will make them do it,” he said.  

But for all of the spending and emphasis on impeachment, Trump did not outearn President Barack Obama for the same period of his 2012 reelection campaign. Obama raked in about $40 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, or nearly $47 million when adjusted for inflation using U.S. CPI data. That’s nearly $1 million more than what Trump earned over the same period. 

The 2020 Democratic field as a whole also out-raised Trump by a very large margin. Together, the group brought in three times as much as the sitting President in 2019, breaking records for out-raising an incumbent in the year before a reelection. In contrast, incumbent President George W. Bush out-raised all of his Democratic challengers in 2003. And incumbent President Barack Obama came in just below his Republican challengers in fundraising in 2011.

“The Trump campaign thinks that impeachment plays to their base, and they’re probably right,” said Moe Vela, former senior adviser to Joe Biden and board member of TransparentBusiness. “But from the bigger picture, when you compare it to Obama, that bump isn’t so big. It’s indicative that most people don’t think impeachment is something to be proud of. The numbers speak for themselves.”

The Trump administration is quick to point out, however, that with the Republican National Committee and “related joint committees,” they raised $463 million in 2019—at least $200 million more than the Obama reelection efforts in 2011. They did not adjust for inflation.

Spending Money to Make Money

It can cost a lot to make a lot, and the Trump campaign has also spent more than $30 million on media this cycle, or 35% of his total spending.

By November 2020, it’s projected that the Trump campaign will have spent a record-breaking $1 billion in digital advertising alone. The majority of that money, about $29 million, has been filtered through companies run or formally run by campaign manager Parscale: American Made Media Consultants, Parscale Strategy, and Parscale Digital

When it comes to controversial and potentially harmful events like impeachment, it may be worth it for the Trump campaign to spend a significant amount of resources to raise money off of it. That way they can make perception arguments and back them with real data. 

A Fortune analysis of the Trump campaign’s Facebook ad spending finds that the President has published 32,000 advertisements using the term “impeachment” on the social network platform. About 85 ads mention “health care,” 4,200 ads use the term “economy,” and 20,000 contain the word “border,” by comparison.  

The ads generally include an appeal for money, putting impeachment front and center as a fundraising issue.

“Please contribute RIGHT NOW to the EMERGENCY 2020 Impeachment Defense Fund to defend your President from this Impeachment Scam,” many of them read. The money, of course, goes to the reelection campaign.

In the four-month period after Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally announced an impeachment inquiry in September, Trump’s campaign doubled the money it spent on Facebook ads to $10.9 million, up from the $5.84 million spent over the prior four months. 

There are also spikes on key days associated with the impeachment process: The campaign spent $1.8 million on Facebook advertising in the week that Pelosi formally announced the inquiry, shattering all previous records; the campaign also increased ad spending to a hefty $1.28 million the week the House voted in favor of impeachment, having spent just $705,000 the week before. 

There was a similar surge in Google advertising over that period. The campaign spent just $166,200 on Google ads the week of Sept. 15. By the week of Sept. 22 it had increased that to $483,800. The next week, it once again more than doubled spending to over $1 million.

As the dust of impeachment settled, so too did ad spending. Just more than a month later, the Trump administration spent only $149,100 on Google advertising for the week of Oct. 20. 

More must-read stories from Fortune:

—What is tech doing to protect the whistleblower’s identity? Not much
—5 surprising consequences from a decade of Citizens United
—Understanding the 2020 election as brand marketing
—As the USPS faces privatization, here’s what it can learn from Canada
—Millions have been purged from voter rolls—and may not even realize it

Get up to speed on your morning commute with Fortune’s CEO Daily newsletter.

When adjusted for inflation, Barack Obama actually outraised Trump over the same period.

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

Read More

Biden AdministrationUkraine InvasionInflationEnergyCybersecurity