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Trump’s small-dollar donors fuel $19 million first-quarter haul

April 16, 2022, 1:50 PM UTC

Former President Donald Trump’s fundraising committee that targets small-dollar donors raised $19 million in the first quarter, according to its latest filing, while the Republican Party’s biggest donors are pouring millions into groups tied to the House and Senate leaderships.

The Save America Joint Fundraising Committee, which raises money for Trump’s political operations, took in $9 million from donors who gave less than $200. Donors who gave amounts of $500 or more accounted for $1.8 million of the total, according to the filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Continued financial support by his base has allowed Save America, Trump’s leadership political action committee, to amass $110 million through February—not counting $5 million it received from the joint fundraising committee in March.

Even so, that support dipped as the primary season ahead of the mid-term elections heats up. Over the last six months of 2021, Trump’s joint fundraising committee averaged $25 million a quarter, fueled by daily text messages, emails and other solicitations to his base. 

His first-quarter haul trailed the $27 million raised by the Senate Leadership Fund, a so-called super PAC associated with Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Most of its cash came from a pair of deep-pocketed donors: Blackstone Group’s Steven Schwarzman gave $10 million, while Ken Griffin of Citadel gave $5 million. The super PAC also got $2 million from Fox Corp. co-chairman Rupert Murdoch and $1 million contributions from hedge fund manager Paul Singer and Home Depot co-founder Kenneth Langone. It ended March with $72 million cash on hand.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, which supports GOP House candidates, raised $38 million, powered by a $10 million donation from Schwarzman and $7.5 million from Griffin. Broker Charles Schwab gave $1.5 million, and Bernard Marcus gave $1.2 million. The super PAC had $93 million in the bank at the start of April.

Trump’s war chest, along with his popularity among Republican voters, will make him a force in the mid-terms, but some of the candidates he’s backed could complicate the party’s efforts to regain control of one or both branches of Congress. 

His endorsement of talk-show host Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate caused consternation about whether the former president’s picks can win a statewide general election. Oz has been criticized for comments he made in the past on gun control, reproductive rights and China that run counter to GOP positions.

In the Georgia Senate race, Trump endorsed Herschel Walker, the former Heisman trophy winner who has acknowledged a battle with mental illness and said he played Russian roulette with a loaded gun. On Friday Trump endorsed venture capitalist and “Hillbilly Elegy” author JD Vance in the May 3 Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Ohio.

When picking candidates at the federal, state and local level, Trump has chosen those who support his baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him or are challenging Republican incumbents who opposed him. He has championed more than 130 candidates since leaving the White House, more than half of whom are running for federal office. He also endorsed politicians running for state and local positions as well as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Trump has also backed primary challengers to Republican House members who voted to impeach him after his supporters rioted in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Four of the members, Representatives Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, John Katko of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Fred Upton of Michigan, aren’t seeking re-election.

Yet Trump’s favored candidates have seen little direct financial benefit. Through February, Save America contributed just $350,500 to campaigns. In part that’s due to the $5,000 limit that PACs can give federal candidates per election, while state laws set different maximum contributions. Save America could make unlimited independent expenditures — usually ad buys—on behalf of candidates that Trump supports, but has yet to do so.

Democrats’ Donors

The Democratic counterparts to the Republican congressional super PACs are due to file their reports with the FEC on Wednesday, but other committees supporting the party reported big donations. 

Democracy PAC, one of two super PACs funded by billionaire George Soros, got a $25 million cash infusion in the first quarter from a nonprofit he funds.

Democrats will need the money as November approaches as parties in power usually lose seats in the mid-terms. The House is narrowly divided, with Democrats holding 221 seats compared to 209 for Republicans and five seats vacant. The Senate is split 50-50, with Democratic control resting on Vice President Kamala Harris’s ability to cast a tie-breaking vote.

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