As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump decried the role of wealthy donors in politics, saying it made candidates “psychologically” beholden to donors and declaring it was “not going to happen with me.”
Yet a new report by the advocacy group Public Citizen found that, starting the month Trump took office, 136 wealthy donors donated nearly $55 million to groups dedicated to promoting his agenda and the administration’s policies, and supporting his reelection and the election of his Republican allies, with an average contribution of nearly $400,000.
The report, released Thursday, detailed major donors to three pro-Trump super PACs, Vice President Pence’s leadership committee, and two committees that raise money in partnership with the Republican Party and Trump’s 2020 campaign, and found that the top business sectors associated with the donors were casino, finance, real estate and energy.
Many of the donors work for or own companies that conduct business with the federal government, according to the analysis.
The group’s findings also provide insight into the big-money apparatus that has formed around the Trump presidency and will become a major influence for Trump’s 2020 reelection bid.
Unlike his predecessors, who waited until after the midterm election of their first term to fundraise for their own reelection campaigns, Trump’s 2020 campaign and affiliated committees already have raised more than $100 million.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment. Representatives for the Republican National Committee and the Trump 2020 campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Erin Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action, said in a statement: “Public Citizen is a radical left-wing anti-Trump group, so their argument is irrelevant, partisan and shallow. President Trump is keeping his promises to the American people, and that’s why people of all backgrounds support our efforts to support him.”
The pro-Trump super PACs that are focused on promoting Trump’s policies and his allies are expected to ramp up their support for the president as he enters the 2020 cycle.
These pro-Trump groups — America First Action, Future45, Great America PAC, Great America Committee, Trump Victory and Trump Make America Great Again Committee — are on track to exceed what major donors spent to reelect President Barack Obama in 2012, according to Public Citizen.
Public Citizen concluded that Trump’s presidency thus far is a “sharp reversal” from his pledge to be independent of moneyed interests, and his campaign promise “rings ever hollower,” said Alan Zibel, research director of Public Citizen’s Corporate Presidency Project.
“While Trump’s first run for office was famously dysfunctional, his advisers now have put together a sprawling political operation that continually collects money from major donors, many of whom have interests before the Trump administration,” Zibel said.