WASHINGTON — Since Election Day in 2020, Donald J. Trump and his close allies have raised more than $390 million through aggressive fundraising solicitations promising bold political actions, including fighting to reverse the defeat of his re-election campaign, helping Allied candidates win theirs. campaigns and fights “to save America from Joe Biden and the radical left”.
In reality, however, campaign finance documents show that much of the money spent by political committees affiliated with Mr. Trump went to repay his 2020 campaign expenses and bolster his political operation in anticipation. of a presidential election scheduled for 2024. A few months ago, $144 million remained in the bank.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol suggests there may be criminal exposure in a particular strain of Mr. Trump’s misleading fundraising calls — those that urge his supporters to make a donation to reverse his defeat in the 2020 election.
During a hearing on Monday, the panel pointed to fundraising solicitations sent out by Mr. Trump’s campaign committees in the weeks following the election, soliciting donations for an “official election defense fund” which, according to the Trump team, would be used to fight against what they claimed. without evidence, there was widespread voter fraud in favor of candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr.
“The select committee found that no such fund existed,” a committee investigator said in a video released during the hearing. He presented the fund as a marketing gimmick used to defraud Mr Trump supporters.
It was a particularly cynical undertaking, according to the committee, because Mr. Trump and his allies knew his stolen election claims were false. Yet they continued to use fundraising appeals to spread this lie and to raise funds that the committee said went to Mr. Trump’s company and groups led by his allies.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who led the committee’s presentation on Mr. Trump’s fundraising, suggested his allies were pursuing their futile legal challenges to the election because they needed to justify their fundraising.
Review the themes of the January 6 House committee hearings
After the hearing, she suggested the Justice Department assess whether it was a crime for Mr Trump to have “intentionally misled his donors, asked them to donate to a fund that didn’t exist.” not and used the money raised for something other than what he said.”
Liz Harrington, spokeswoman for Mr. Trump, dismissed the January 6 panel findings, saying in a statement that “no one is more determined to rig our election” than the former president, “and our political spending is totally in sync with it.” objective.”
Campaign finance experts have expressed mixed views on the prospects for potential lawsuits.
While misleading fundraising claims are something of a staple of modern politics, the Department of Justice has in recent years accused a number of operators of so-called PAC-scams – political committees that raise funds primarily to pay the consultants who operate them. These groups were usually not associated with candidates, let alone a former president.
Experts have said any investigation into Trump’s fundraising is likely to target his aides, not the former president himself.
And they pointed out that the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, the campaign committee that sent most of the solicitations for the election defense fund, transferred funds to the Republican National Committee, which spent money on fights. legal issues related to the 2020 elections.
“Unlike some of those other fraudulent PAC lawsuits — where effectively none of the funds raised went to satisfy donor intent — Trump could argue that some of the funds raised in the post-election period were earmarked. to litigation, and an additional portion went to future ‘election integrity’ efforts,” said Brendan Fischer, campaign finance expert at the monitoring group Documented.
“It would certainly be new for the Justice Department to pursue a fraud case against a former president’s PAC, but Trump’s fraudulent post-election fundraising was also new,” Fischer said, adding that the amount that Mr Trump’s team had collected after the election was “totally unprecedented”.
Stephen Spaulding, an official with the good government group Common Cause who advised Ms Lofgren on election law issues in 2020, said the Justice Department should look into whether misleading fundraising “crossed the line into wire fraud “.
The Jan. 6 panel video on the subject claimed that “claims that the election was stolen have been so successful that President Trump and his allies have raised $250 million.”
It was not entirely clear how the committee arrived at the $250 million figure. That roughly matches the amount of money Mr. Trump’s campaign committees and the RNC raised in the more than eight weeks following the Nov. 3 election, according to campaign finance documents from WinRed, the platform -digital form used by Republicans to process online donations.
But Mr. Trump’s campaign committees sent out hundreds of solicitations during this frenetic time, many of which did not refer to the election defense fund. And there is no public data showing how much money a given funding solicitation has raised.
The Jan. 6 panel subpoenaed records from Salesforce.com, a vendor that helped the Trump campaign and the RNC send emails, which could provide some visibility into the amounts raised by individual solicitations from Fund raising.
The New York Times analysis of Mr. Trump’s fundraising in the 19 months since the election draws on data filed with the Federal Election Commission by WinRed and other groups to assess the totals collected by eight committees. They include Mr. Trump’s three campaign committees, one of which was converted into a political action committee, as well as three super PACs run by close allies of Mr. Trump and a PAC that Mr. Trump launched after the elections, called Save America, which became the main focus of its ongoing political operations. The analysis does not include the RNC
On Monday, the Jan. 6 panel noted that instead of funding election-related litigation, “most of the funds raised” after the election were transferred to Save America. The PAC “has made millions of dollars in contributions to pro-Trump organizations,” the committee said, including more than $200,000 to Trump hotel properties and $1 million each to America First Policy Institute and the Conservative Partnership Institute. , nonprofit groups created and run in part by former officials of Mr. Trump’s administration.
Both of these groups include initiatives that support tougher voting rules that generally align with Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election.
America First Policy Institute, which was launched last year to serve as a think tank for Trump adherents, has the appearance of a Trump administration in waiting. He also paid to hold events with Mr. Trump at his private clubs, including Mar-a-Lago in South Florida and Bedminster in New Jersey.
Of the $98 million received by Save America, about $4 million had been donated to allied candidates, PACs and party committees through the end of April.
Ms Lofgren, in an interview with CNN after the hearing, claimed that Trump’s fundraising effort was a “scam”, citing compensation received by Kimberly Guilfoyle, who helped lead the fundraising efforts. funds for Mr. Trump’s campaign and post-election policy. committees, for remarks she made while introducing her fiancé, Donald Trump Jr., at the Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol.
According to an invoice seen by The Times, $60,000 was paid for “keynote speeches by Kimberly Guilfoyle and Donald Trump Jr.” by Turning Point Action, a nonprofit group that has backed Mr. Trump but is not among those run by close associates of Mr. Trump and is not included in The Times’ analysis of his fundraising funds.
A person familiar with Donald Trump Jr.’s testimony to the panel said the former president’s son indicated the money went to Ms Guilfoyle and he received none of it.
Recent solicitations for funds from Mr. Trump’s political operation have often relied on calls to support Mr. Trump, without promising specific spending targets, such as the one sent Tuesday by Donald Trump Jr. asking his supporters to donate to help celebrate his dad’s birthday. .
Luke Broadwater contributed reporting. Andrew Fischer and Bea Malsky contributed research.