AP

Trump starts 3rd White House bid lagging in campaign cash

Feb 1, 2023, 12:53 PM | Updated: 1:43 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump’s political operation started the year with about $25 million socked away for his recently launched 2024 presidential campaign, a sum that is substantially less than what he had on hand just one year ago, new campaign finance reports show.

The diminished sum, which is spread out across four campaign committees, is far less than the $105 million that Trump reported at the start of 2022. It speaks to the potential challenges for Trump as he mounts his third bid for the presidency facing what is likely to be a crowded field of GOP candidates who will also be vying for campaign cash from the party’s donors.

Across his political committees, including his main campaign account, Trump raised $9.5 million since launching his bid on Nov. 15, according to his campaign, a far cry from the gargantuan sums his campaign boasted of raising in a matter of days — or even hours — back when he was still president.

Although Trump has faced questions about whether he would struggle to raise money, especially as some Republicans openly discuss whether it’s time for the party to move on, his campaign defended the numbers.

“The campaign built out a second-to-none operation both on the national level and in early states since announcing. The President will wage an aggressive and fully-funded campaign to take our country back from Joe Biden and Democrats who seek to destroy our country,” Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement.

Part of why Trump has less money than he previously did is because one of his committees, a leadership PAC called Save America, transferred $60 million to a separate super PAC supporting his bid.

Some campaign finance watchdogs have questioned the legality of that move, arguing that the transfer skirts limits placed on such committees, which were established to raise money for other candidates — not to finance a candidate’s own political ambitions. Super PACs can raise unlimited sums but cannot formally coordinate spending with Trump’s campaign.

That committee, called MAGA Inc., started 2023 with more than $54 million to spend, according to reports filed Tuesday night with the Federal Election Commission. Super PACs can raise unlimited money and spend it freely but are barred from coordinating directly with campaigns.

Trump has also spent at least $8 million on legal fees, while facing numerous investigations as well as a congressional inquiry into his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Trump’s campaign has been off to a slow start, with the former president making his first campaign appearance over the weekend. At stops in New Hampshire and South Carolina, he said he was more committed than ever and promised to hold his signature big rallies soon. He recently opened a headquarters in Palm Beach, Florida, and has been hiring staff.

High-dollar donors have been reconsidering whether they’ll stick with Trump as he’s mired in investigations and legal troubles and has been blamed for Republicans’ disappointing performance in the midterm elections.

But his popularity among the ranks of Republican voters and his prolific fundraising relying on small-dollar donations could allow him to win the nomination without big donors’ help.

He will soon be able to revive a key fundraising source for his campaigns when his Facebook account is restored, allowing him to communicate directly with 34 million followers. The audience is more than seven times what he has on his Truth Social network.

Facebook parent Meta announced it will be restoring Trump’s account in the coming weeks after a two-year suspension imposed after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

At least one Republican challenger is preparing to jump into the race soon. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who was Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, is planning to announce her campaign Feb. 15.

___

Associated Press writer Brian Slodysko in Washington contributed to this report.

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Trump starts 3rd White House bid lagging in campaign cash