Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump will ask donors to give as much as $449,400 to support his White House bid and down-ballot candidates through a new fundraising agreement with the Republican National Committee announced Tuesday night.
The Trump Victory Fund -- a joint committee between the Trump campaign, the RNC and 11 state parties -- will solicit larger checks than have ever been sought by presidential nominees through such ventures, thanks to legal changes made in 2014 that expanded the fundraising abilities of national parties. Trump follows Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, who set up a joint fundraising committee with the Democratic National Committee last year that can accept up to $356,100 annually per donor.
The real estate mogul also plans to raise funds through the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising committee set up just between his campaign and the RNC. Campaign officials did not immediately respond to questions about why they created two funds.
"We are pleased to have this partnership in place with the national party," Trump said in a statement. "By working together with the RNC to raise support for Republicans everywhere, we are going to defeat Hillary Clinton, keep Republican majorities in Congress and in the states, and Make America Great Again.”
His embrace of fundraising marks a turnabout from Trump's posture throughout the primary contest, in which he maintained he was self-funding his bid. The billionaire developer has said in recent weeks that he will seek donations for the party, not his campaign, telling MSNBC earlier this month, "I really won't be asking for money for myself."
But some of the proceeds raised by the joint Trump-RNC committees will flow to his campaign, which can accept up to $5,400 per donor. The remaining funds will be routed into party coffers to finance national get-out-the-vote operations and bolster state and federal candidates.
The real estate mogul has said he's going to try to raise more than $1 billion in conjunction with the RNC, which would require the committees to pull in a staggering $250 million a month for the next five months. Veteran party fundraisers are skeptical of even hitting lower goals, noting the late start and the reluctance of many longtime party bundlers to participate in the effort. The apprehension about Trump in some circles is so acute that some fundraisers have offered to quietly send over a list of the donors they know, but do not want to be assigned a bundler number to get credit for collecting checks.
Republican officials hope to supercharge the fundraising by tapping current RNC finance chairman Lew Eisenberg, a well-connected fundraising veteran with a national network, to head the victory fund. Eisenberg will work in conjunction with Steven Mnuchin, the hedge fund manager recently tapped as the Trump campaign's national finance chairman.
"Lew Eisenberg is going to do an outstanding job leading this effort,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “Lew has already helped the RNC raise a record $135 million in support this cycle, and I have every confidence his track record of success will continue in this new role.”
Trump has expressed willingness to participate in as many as 50 finance events that the campaign and party are now scrambling to book. His first official campaign fundraiser is set to take place in Los Angeles on May 25, hosted by investor Thomas Barrack Jr., who did real estate business with Trump in the 1980s.
Creating a joint fundraising committee with the national party is one of the most lucrative ways for a presidential candidate to raise big donations for the fall general election battle. In 2012, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney raised nearly $500 million through a joint fundraising agreement with the three national Republican party committees and four state parties, an effort that began in early April 2012. Because of all the committees involved, an individual donor could give nearly $135,000. By the end of June 2012, Romney Victory Fund had already scooped up $140 million.
Now, such joint fundraising efforts can solicit even larger amounts, thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. That did away with an aggregate cap on how much individual donors can give to federal campaigns, parties and PACs in one year, allowing candidates and parties to form jumbo joint fundraising committees. In addition, a measure tucked into a 2014 appropriations bill gave national parties the ability to collect separate checks for new convention, legal and building accounts.
Watchdog groups warned that the expanded fundraising committees and new accounts would lead to a return of the soft money days, when parties were able to take large, unregulated contributions.
Already, Clinton and the DNC have aggressively sought to make the most of the new rules. The Hillary Victory Fund signed on 32 state committees as participants, though much of the money donated for the state parties has passed through them and onto the DNC. Separately, the party set up high-tiered convention packages for wealthy contributors. The top level, Rittenhouse Square, allows an individual to give $467,600 for the cycle in support of the July conclave in Philadelphia, which includes $200,400 to the DNC's new building fund.
Together, the two joint fundraising committees would allow a rich Democratic supporter who wanted to give the maximum to donate more than $1.1 million to Clinton and the party this cycle.