President Donald Trump and his party raised $207.5 million in a less than three-week stretch after the US election, fueled by outrage-filled solicitations to donors as he waged an unsuccessful challenge of the results.
Money flooded into Trump’s coffers at a much higher rate after he began to seek contributions to fight widespread voter fraud and election rigging, despite no evidence of either, after his loss to President-elect Joe Biden, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
The bulk of the cash — $121.7 million — came to the Trump Make America Great Again (TMAGA) Committee via WinRed, the Republican platform for gathering smaller donations online. In the 20 days leading up to and including Election Day, those donors gave $44.8 million.
The TMAGA fundraising was spurred in part by an endless stream of text messages and emails insisting that the vote was marred and asking for help contesting the results of elections in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin among other states.
“I trust you know that I’m fighting every second of every day to Make America Great Again and DEFEND the integrity of this Election,” began one recent pitch from the president to his supporters, despite a dismal record in the courts for his lawsuits.
The fine print in those solicitations says that 75% of money given to TMAGA will go to Save America, a political action committee (PAC) Trump set up that allows him to spend the money on political activity, including holding rallies, advertising, fundraising, travel, and supporting other candidates. The balance goes to the Republican National Committee (RNC).
The PAC is an alternative to raising money for the campaign directly, which is limited in what it can do with the cash in its coffers. Unless he officially files as a candidate running for president in 2024, Trump’s campaign can only raise money to pay down debts, fund his legal challenges or pay for modest wind-down expenses, said Larry Noble, a former general counsel at the FEC.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump’s campaign reported owing $11.3 million to vendors, but had $18.4 million cash on hand, more than enough to pay its bills.
Very little of the money raised by TMAGA will cover Trump’s legal expenses. Trump is funding those through the campaign, which attributed $4.3 million of the $37.5 million it raised after Election Day to its recount fund. The campaign also listed $8.8 million of recount expenses, with the biggest line item the $3 million paid for a partial recount in Wisconsin.
“They have a limited number of things they can do with the surplus,” Noble said of the campaign, including donating the money to charity or the RNC, or continuing litigation over the 2020 election.
The post-election pitches have not only raised more money than Trump’s closing argument for a second term, they’ve been far more cost effective. TMAGA spent $22.4 million on fundraising expenses after the election, compared to $43.5 million in the weeks leading up to and including Election Day.