Donald Trump, who has formally announced his third presidential run, will face new funding and spending restrictions ahead of the 2024 election.
But election lawyers and campaign finance experts say loopholes in federal election rules and lax enforcement by federal regulators of existing laws have contributed to the massive funding he and his aides have amassed since their 2020 defeat. It offers the former president several potential avenues for leveraging its procurement efforts, he said.
many. Led by his leadership, his PAC Save America, Trump’s political activism is worth more than $100 million, according to the latest filings with federal regulators.
Save America was central to Trump’s post-presidency fundraising. Leadership PACs are generally established as a way for politicians to endorse other candidates. But they also act as a campaign to wait for presidential candidates. That means it funds trips and polls, and ultimately pays staff members who participate in White House campaigns.
Leadership PACs can also undertake personal expenses.
Save America, for example, has spent more than $8.5 million in legal costs since early 2021. Some of it goes to companies defending Mr. Trump in personal legal matters, such as the lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James in September. , alleging fraud in the Trump organization’s business practices. Mr Trump has denied wrongdoing.
A close ally of the former president also recently established a super PAC. This PAC can raise and spend unlimited funds, but is prohibited from coordinating activities with the candidates it supports.
Last month, Save America transferred $20 million to MAGA Inc., a new super PAC affiliated with Trump, to help Trump-backed candidates in the midterm elections.
Political commentators say the transfer may foreshadow that Save America’s huge war chest could benefit Trump’s candidacy in the coming months.
Shortly before announcing his bid at the waterfront Mar-a-Lago estate on Tuesday, Trump formally established his candidacy against the Federal Election Commission and the 2024 Presidential Campaign Commission’s Donald J. filed documents with Trump.
Campaign finance watchdogs say Trump has evaded campaign finance laws by speaking and acting like a candidate without officially registering as a candidate. (For example, as far back as July 2021, Trump told Fox his news he had made up his mind about running for president in the upcoming election. In the months that followed, he repeatedly hinted at his intentions in public statements. .)
But Tuesday’s formal proclamation requires Trump to adhere to limits on the size and source of his donations.
And currently, an individual can only contribute $2,900 to a federal candidate for primary or general election. (This inflation-linked contribution cap will be raised from 2023 towards his 2024 election cycle. Federal regulators will announce the new contribution cap early next year.)
And as a candidate, the money Trump spends to advance his White House ambitions is not official campaign expenses, whether it’s trips to early primary states or advertising touting his accomplishments. and must come from his campaign funds.
“He can’t use his PAC to fly around the country and give speeches,” said Richard Brifort, a campaign finance regulation expert and professor at Columbia Law School.
Also, in stark contrast to the Leadership PAC, the Campaign Committee cannot incur personal expenses.
Yes, no, experts say.
Trump cannot simply dump all the money raised by his leadership PAC or related super PACs into his campaign accounts. This is because his campaign committee is subject to strict funding restrictions that do not apply to these PACs.
But there are other ways Trump’s fundraising can help boost his candidacy.
Larry Noble, former top attorney for the Federal Election Commission, believes federal law is very clear. Candidates are not allowed to take large pots of so-called soft money (money in excess of the candidate’s contribution limit) and put it into districts. An entity established to help them get elected.
But he said the FEC’s six members often get stuck along partisan lines, which set a high bar for launching investigations into possible violations.
As a result, leadership PACs like Save America are not allowed to transfer funds to third parties, such as super PACs or political “dark money” nonprofits, to operate what appears to be independent. Noble said there would probably be little to stop. Mr Noble said he was trying to help Mr Trump.
Under the standards set by some commissioners, “money is paid at the direction of the candidate, with the idea that it will be used to support the candidate’s campaign and demonstrate his involvement in advertising and the like.” You need to show proof that the money was sent,” he added.
On Monday, the Campaign Legal Center, a bipartisan watchdog, alleges that Trump has already violated campaign finance laws by transferring $20 million from Save America last month to the MAGA Inc. super PAC. said it had lodged a complaint with the FEC. The group argues that Super PAC spending is likely to benefit Trump’s 2024 campaign.
A Trump aide did not respond to CNN’s inquiries about the complaint. rice field.
Whether this complaint will gain momentum within the FEC remains to be seen. In addition to frequent deadlocks, authorities are slow to move and often issue judgments years after complaints are first filed.
In July, the Democratic group American Bridge sued the commission in an attempt to get officials to take action on complaints against Trump. He alleged that he violated federal law by raising large sums of money to promote a presidential run without officially declaring his candidacy.
Given the FEC’s inaction on many enforcement issues, some election attorneys believe Save America will move another big buck to MAGA Inc. or another super PAC that actively supports his candidacy. Even if he did, he said there was little risk of Trump getting into trouble.
“If I were him, I would give the money to the super PAC and let the super PAC use it,” said the Republican election attorney. Given that the Leadership PAC has already sent him $20 million, “What difference would it make if he donated another $50 million?”
“Even if the FEC decides it’s not allowed, I don’t think it’s allowed, but even if they did, they wouldn’t fine him millions of dollars,” the attorney added.
Political commentators also said the tactics Trump has built since leaving the White House could help his 2024 candidacy in other ways.
Doug Heye, Republican strategist and former spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said the former president’s constant fundraising over the past two years had established a small donor list that was “constantly updated.” said.
Under federal law, a campaign must compensate the political committee that owns the list for the right to use it.
“This is the world’s largest list of political donors,” said Heye. “This allows him to raise a lot of money very quickly.”
Trump’s new campaign began soliciting donations before leaving the unveiling stage on Tuesday night, blasting text messages urging supporters to “become a presidential founder in 2024.”