Why Donald Trump is pushing millions through a Save America PAC campaign loophole

For all his golden toiletformer President Donald Trump is notoriously miserly—with personal funds as well as the hundreds of millions of dollars he has extracted himself from his supporters over the years. And that’s all the more reason government watchdogs are sounding the alarm over new campaign funding. deposit it shows, a month before the midterm elections, a staggering $20 million political donation from Trump.

The contribution — by far Trump’s largest — has grown from his PAC leading Save America on Oct. 3 to a new Trump-aligned super PAC called Make America Great Again Inc. That same day, a old pro-Trump super PAC threw another $8.9 million behind the new group.

Super PACs can spend unlimited amounts to support candidates, so on the face of it, the donation could be seen as Trump’s generous contribution to the MAGA cause in a critical election. But as a number of campaign finance experts have explained, the details here suggest that Trump is really trying to circumvent laws that would otherwise prevent him from spending his personal reserve on a 2024 presidential race.

Paul S. Ryan, a veteran campaign finance lawyer who currently serves as deputy executive director of the Funders Committee for Civic Participation, said that was “the only plausible explanation.”

“The only thing Trump can’t do with the millions and millions of dollars he’s raised for his PAC leadership is support himself. The only plausible explanation for this move is to convert that money to let it be spent on his own campaign,” Ryan told the Daily Beast.

Jordan Libowitz, director of communications at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, made the same observation.

“Trump can use Save America money for just about anything he wants except to support his own campaign,” Libowitz said. “If he wanted to use it to help Republicans midterm, he would just do it. Trump is always about Trump. It looks like a way for him to move the money around to help his candidacy before he declares himself.

When Trump created Save America after the 2020 election, he established it as PAC leadership, which has its pros and cons. For Trump, the obvious benefits would be lax spending regulations — leadership PACs are notorious as “slush funds” for personal spending. Trump could take the millions he’s raised and spend them on his businesses, his friends and his wife’s favorite luxury designer, for example.

But the big downside for Trump as he prepares for his comeback in 2024 is that he can’t use PAC leadership money to fund his own political activity. That’s a lot of money—a total $138 million raised so far – with approximately $70 million still sitting there in his flagship fundraising account.

However, one thing Trump could do with that money is spend unlimited amounts of it to help his allies. In fact, Save America could act exactly like a super PAC in this regard. Which, according to Documented Deputy Executive Director Brendan Fischer, suggests that the Trump team is trying to “manufacture denial” so they can spend the money later on supporting Trump’s 2024 presidential race.

“Once Trump becomes a candidate, it would clearly be illegal to transfer funds from Save America to a super PAC. But Trump appears to be trying to manufacture denial by making the transfers now and asking MAGA Inc. to spend a certain amount midway through 2022. That way Trump’s team could claim that Save America gave MAGA Inc. to support Trump-endorsed candidates, and the super PAC just happened to be left with leftover money that it independently chose to spend supporting Trump’s 2024 run,” Fischer said. .

Moreover, if Trump’s goal was really to support midterm MAGA candidates, Fischer continued, there’s no reason for Trump to give Save America funds to a super PAC. In fact, the move puts more limits on how Trump could help his friends.

“As a hard-money PAC, Save America actually has MORE flexibility to support other candidates than a super PAC,” Fischer explained. “Save America and MAGA Inc. may spend unlimited amounts on advertising supporting candidates, but only Save America may also make direct contributions to candidates. By transferring funds from Save America to a super PAC, the money can no longer be used for direct contributions.

Ryan agreed. “Moving the money suggests he wants to spend it on himself,” he said. “It’s illegal, but that seems to be the motivation and he’ll probably get away with it.”

Ryan was referring to federal laws that prevent candidates from coordinating with super PACs on fundraising and spending, a notoriously difficult charge to prove.

Aaron Scherb, senior director of legislative affairs at Common Cause, said it looks like Trump will skate, thanks to historically lax federal enforcement on the issue.

“Coordination is still certainly illegal here, although the FEC has shown virtually no appetite for enforcement of coordination rules and laws. There’s no hard evidence here per se, but it looks like the exploitation of a loophole, and three GOP commissioners have shown no willingness to investigate and enforce existing coordination laws,” Scherb said. “Until they do, special interests and black money groups will continue to exploit loopholes at the expense of ordinary voters.”

But with this loophole, Trump has reversed the traditional “dark money” movement. For years, candidates have tried to find loopholes that would allow them to tap into super PAC money, which can be collected from megadonors and corporations in unlimited amounts. Trump’s Save America PAC, however, has a very different donor base.

“What Trump is doing is going after small donors,” Ryan said. “He doesn’t need to go the super PAC mega-donor route because he takes every dollar he can rip off small, often elderly donors and puts it in his campaign coffers. This move seems to somehow serve that purpose – finding a way to put this fraudulent money to political use.

The Justice Department has reportedly opened an investigation into Save America’s fundraising practices, after members of the House Jan. 6 committee exposed what they claim was a wire fraud scheme to defraud donors of hundreds of millions of dollars through election lies.

Fischer said that ultimately the bottom line won’t lie.

According to FEC reports, MAGA Inc’s super PAC has already spent about $11 million on the midterm elections. However, Fischer noted, that doesn’t mean the group used Trump’s money, since the super PAC had also already raised more than $11 million from sources other than Save America.

“That means the $20 million transferred from Save America to MAGA Inc is effectively still available for Trump’s 2024 run,” Fischer said. “And any transfers from Save America to the super PAC in these last few weeks before the election will probably never be spent.”

About Michael S. Montanez

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