Former president Donald Trump began 2022 with $122 million in political cash, a massive reserve as he teases another White House run and hints at using the power of a reclaimed presidency to wipe away the legal problems of people implicated in the deadly quest to overturn his defeat more than a year ago.
He is stockpiling money rather than spending it, raising $51 million from July through December of last year while dispensing a fraction of that in the same period, federal filings made public on Monday show.
Despite seeking to influence races nationwide with high-profile endorsements, he doled out less than $1.5 million from his main political action committee to favored causes and candidates in the second half of 2021. That included $1 million to the Conservative Partnership Institute, a nonprofit where Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, serves as a senior partner.
In addition to that grant, Trump’s leadership PAC, called Save America, distributed roughly $350,000 among 69 candidates and committees at the state and federal levels. The modest contributions were spelled out in filings with the Federal Election Commission, which also showed that the former president continued to direct donor money to his own business as well as to former aides.
Save America spent more than $100,000 in the second half of 2021 on rent and catering at Trump properties, according to the filing. Another PAC he controls spent nearly $250,000 on rent and meeting expenses at his properties.
Among those on Save America’s payroll is Lynne Patton, a former Trump family aide turned appointee at the Department of Housing and Urban Development who was fined and temporarily barred from federal employment for violating a law limiting the political activities of federal employees.
Trump’s six-month haul of $51 million, distributed among several committees, represents a slowdown in fundraising from the first half of 2021, when Save America alone reported raking in $62 million.
The sum is nonetheless remarkable for an ex-president not currently running for office and stripped of the social media megaphone that once connected him to his base. It shows how receptive his supporters remain to the barrage of email and text solicitations distributed in his name. His team said more than 98 percent of donations in the second half of last year were under $200, a sign of support from the party’s grass roots that shows why he is a formidable contender for a future nomination.
On Christmas Eve, for example, his political operation sent no fewer than 10 fundraising emails — in his name and that of his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., as well as from “Trump Christmas” and “Trump Christmas Stocking.” All benefited a joint fundraising committee that sends money to his Save America PAC and another committee he controls, Make America Great Again PAC.
Meanwhile, he has become more overt about his political ambitions. During a recent round of golf, he declared himself the “45th and 47th” president, according to a video shared on social media. And at a campaign-style rally over the weekend in Conroe, Tex., he said he would consider pardoning those charged in connection with the deadly riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the day Congress certified his loss to President Biden.
“If I run and if I win, we will treat those people from Jan. 6 fairly. We will treat them fairly,” Trump said. “And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons. Because they are being treated so unfairly.”
Formally announcing a presidential candidacy would trigger legal and campaign finance requirements with the potential to complicate his existing operation. Most notably, money from his leadership PAC, which had more than $105 million stockpiled at the end of 2021, cannot be used to finance a candidacy of his own. Otherwise, he has broad latitude in dispensing the funds, including on travel and political activities. The prolific fundraising also gives him the ability to tap an alternative source of money as his company, long the basis of his personal fortune, endures escalating investigations.
Now Trump’s business is politics. Both he and his wife, Melania, have recently advertised items, from a photography book to a hat worn during a diplomatic event, that derive their value from the couple’s time in the White House.
“There are still a lot of folks out there who appreciate Donald Trump and appreciate what he did,” said Rob Bickhart, a former finance director for the Republican National Committee.
Because many of the former president’s donors are supporters he brought into the fold, Bickhart said, his cash haul isn’t sapping money from the party. “There’s plenty of money to go around,” he said.
Still, Trump has twice as much cash on hand as does the RNC, which has agreed to pay up to $1.6 million of the former president’s legal fees devoted to fighting investigations into his business practices in New York. And he has nearly twice as much as nationally recognizable Republicans thought to be eyeing presidential bids in 2024, including Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas.
Among those contributing major sums to Trump’s committees following his election defeat was Randall Weddle, the owner of a transport company in London, Ky., who before 2016 had given less than $500 to federal candidates, records show. Since Trump’s rise, he has given thousands, including $5,000, the maximum amount possible, to Trump’s leadership PAC last year and thousands more to a joint fundraising committee that directs funds to Trump and to the RNC.
“I believe that he was good for the economy and good for the people, so we gave to his cause,” said Weddle, who is now running for mayor in his hometown.
In a statement, a Trump spokesman, Taylor Budowich, said a wave inspired by the former president is “set to crash across the Midterms and carry forward all the way through 2024.”