Trump fundraising operation under fire after ‘abysmal’ spending in key races

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President Donald Trump speaks at a Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride event in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, April 18, 2019, in Washington. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Trump fundraising operation under fire after ‘abysmal’ spending in key races

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Former President Donald Trump is facing backlash from top donors angered he failed to spend more to help secure Republican majorities in Congress after wading into key races with endorsements and raking in mountains of cash.

Wealthy political donors who helped fuel Trump’s fundraising operation expected the former president to juice the Republican candidates he fielded during the general election. Instead, millions of dollars are still sitting in Trump’s coffers, federal election records show.

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A Republican source said Trump was on the receiving end of “extraordinarily severe” phone calls from donors incensed by how their contributions were handled. Trump’s response has been to apportion blame on those around him, including the aides charged with overseeing the operation.

The former president’s fundraising apparatus amassed mountains of cash ahead of the general election, spending only a fraction of the more than $130 million it collected, according to federal data compiled by OpenSecrets.

Yet in crucial races where Trump’s endorsed candidates were on the ballot, committees affiliated with Republican leaders dwarfed Trump’s own spending.

“When you’re asking all of donors [for money], you’re giving the pitch that it’s going to go towards supporting MAGA candidates to make sure that they get over the finish line,” a Republican source said, referencing the Trump-endorsed candidates. “The disbursements were abysmal.”

“They raised a ton of money for themselves and didn’t spend [enough],” a Republican operative said, adding that while Trump may be looking for someone to blame, any decisions ultimately lie with him.

Advisers to Trump did not respond to requests for comment.

In Pennsylvania, where Dr. Mehmet Oz lost the race to Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Trump’s Make America Great Again Inc. committee spent about $3.4 million, according to the latest available data on OpenSecrets. It spent another $3.4 million in Georgia and nearly $2.4 million in Ohio. It spent almost $2 million in Nevada and $3.7 million in Arizona.

At the same time, a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spent $41 million on advertising alone in Pennsylvania. Together with Wisconsin, spending in the five senate races totaled $1 billion, according to AdImpact.

While Republicans the Washington Examiner talked to did not blame the party’s lackluster results entirely on Trump, most argued that he shouldered part of the blame after injecting himself into the primaries with endorsements for candidates that later struggled and on account of his spending decisions.

Some said Trump’s difficulties with swing voters were another factor, particularly in Pennsylvania, where the former president held a rally for Oz in the run-up to Election Day and where Fetterman triumphed by a four percentage point margin.

In Georgia, the Senate race moved to a runoff after Trump-endorsed Herschel Walker and Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) each failed to secure 50% of the vote. By contrast, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp secured a nearly 10-point margin over Stacey Abrams after resisting Trump’s attacks during the 2020 election.

One Republican operative suggested Trump and some of his advisers were more interested in settling scores and reshaping the party than winning elections against Democrats, charging that the former president “spent more to beat Brian Kemp than to help Walker.”

“It would be wise of them to help alter this narrative,” the person said.

Accordingly, a New York Times report cited the possibility that Trump could act “as an uber-financier” to help boost Walker in the runoff.

Republican campaign consultants have long groused about Trump’s fundraising tactics which siphon up small-dollar donations by the millions.

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Since last week, Trump’s operation has sent out more than a dozen fundraising pitches for Walker. But in one instance that raised eyebrows, the donation page initially defaulted to a 90-10 split, where 90% of the sum went to Trump’s joint fundraising committee and 10% to Walker’s principal campaign committee. The split was 50-50 when the Washington Examiner reviewed it on Monday.

Also looming over the runoff is the impact of Trump’s expected presidential campaign announcement.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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