Donald Trump’s new super PAC, ostensibly created to help Republican candidates in the coming midterm elections, in reality can boost only one candidate his existing “Save America” committee cannot: Donald Trump himself.
The former president’s Make America Great Again Inc., registered last week with the Federal Election Commission, is being sold as a cavalry to help Republican Senate and House candidates, many of whom are being outspent by Democrats in races that will determine which party will control Congress for the next two years.
“President Trump is committed to saving America, and Make America Great Again, Inc. will ensure that is achieved at the ballot box in November and beyond,” Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich told Politico.
What Trump’s staff does not point out, though, is that Trump is already able to spend however much he wants to help those candidates out of the $105 million he has available in his Save America “leadership PAC” ― the identical ability the new super PAC will have.
The only thing that Save America, which to date has spent more money on Trump’s legal bills than it has on helping GOP candidates, can’t do that his new super PAC will be allowed to do is boost Trump as a candidate for federal office. That includes running for president in 2024, which Trump appears likely to do despite being under criminal investigation for his attempted coup to remain in office and his removal of top secret documents from the White House.
“Not only can leadership PACs spend all of their money on ads supporting or opposing candidates if they wanted to, some leadership PACs already have spent a considerable amount of money in past elections doing just that. There is no need to set up a separate super PAC just to do it,” said Robert Maguire, a campaign finance expert at the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Budowich did not respond to HuffPost queries. One informal Trump adviser said it was “obvious” why Trump created the entity, which will likely soon have transferred into it much or even most of the money sitting in Save America’s account.
“He needs it for himself,” said the adviser, who has known Trump for years and spoke on condition of anonymity. “I think he’s saving it up for his own campaign.”
So-called leadership PACs are lightly regulated by federal campaign finance laws, letting them be used as slush funds by politicians to promote themselves or even pay for personal expenses. But one of the few things specifically prohibited by law is using leadership PAC money to advance the candidacy of the individual controlling the group.
“This really just seems like a ploy to convert funds in his leadership PAC to funds that can be used to support his campaign while giving him enough plausible deniability to keep the FEC at bay,” Maguire said. “As long as Save America transfers the money before the midterms and before Trump becomes a candidate, then the FEC probably isn’t going to do anything about it. Spending some of the money in the midterms gives him some additional insulation from accusations that he did it specifically to use the money to back his 2024 bid.”
Some Republicans have groused privately that fundraising for candidates has been difficult this year because Trump is sucking up so much GOP donor money for his own Save America PAC.
Members of the crowd raise their index fingers as former President Donald Trump speaks Sept. 17 at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, to support Republican candidates for state and federal offices. Senate candidate J.D. Vance and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) also spoke at the rally. (Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
According to FEC filings, Save America had $92.8 million in the bank at the end of August, the last report available. An associated fundraising committee likely had an additional $13 million, meaning Trump had on hand some $105 million heading into the finals weeks before the midterms. The precise numbers cannot be determined from FEC filings at the moment because the fundraising committee only files quarterly rather than monthly.
Of course, if Trump winds up not spending substantial amounts to help GOP candidates in the coming month, it would not be the first time he has failed to deliver on promised campaign help.
Save America had its strongest fundraising in the first several weeks after its creation following the 2020 election, with Trump claiming the money would be used to wage court battles to undo his loss and to help the Republicans facing runoffs for the two Senate seats in Georgia. In fact, though, Trump wound up spending not even a dime for either purpose from his new committee and instead hoarded the $76 million he raised.
Since then, he has netted an additional $72 million from his list of donors for a total of $148 million since losing the 2020 election.
Of that, he has spent just $5.1 million helping other candidates or committees, with more than 80% of that taking place through a half dozen transfers to super PACs carrying out his “revenge” tour against Republicans who crossed him.
Trump sent $1.5 million to the Get Georgia Right PAC, created to defeat GOP Gov. Brian Kemp in the primary. Kemp had angered Trump by refusing to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in Georgia.
An additional $650,000 was given to Wyoming Values, a committee created to defeat that state’s sole House member, Rep. Liz Cheney, who has become a leader in the fight to punish Trump for his Jan. 6, 2021, coup attempt.
This spring, Trump gave $1 million to American Leadership Action, which at the time was attacking Republican rivals to Mehmet Oz, Trump’s endorsed candidate in the Pennsylvania Senate GOP primary, and another million to Our American Century, which also was attacking opponents of Oz as well as trying to defeat South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace, who criticized Trump’s incitement of the U.S. Capitol riot but in the end did not vote to impeach him.
A total of 150 GOP candidates, meanwhile, received $5,000 each in their campaign accounts, the most that leadership PACs can directly contribute to a candidate.
In contrast, Trump has spent $9.8 million staging rallies for himself around the country over the past year and another $6.6 million paying a host of lawyers to defend him in courtrooms in Atlanta, Florida, New York City and Washington, D.C. That total includes a single $3 million payment on Aug. 30 to the Critton, Luttier and Coleman firm in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The firm declined to say why they got the money, but the timing coincides with the hiring of Chris Kise, a former Florida solicitor general, who, according to a source close to Trump, demanded an upfront payment of $3 million. Kise also did not respond to HuffPost queries.
Trump, despite losing the election by 7 million votes nationally and 306-232 in the Electoral College, became the first president in more than two centuries of elections to refuse to hand over power peacefully. His incitement of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol ― his last-ditch attempt to remain in office ― led to the deaths of five people, including one police officer, the injury of 140 officers and four police suicides.
Nevertheless, Trump remains the dominant figure in the Republican Party and is openly speaking about running for the presidency again in 2024.
In statements on his personal social media platform, Trump has continued to lie about the election and the Jan. 6 House select committee’s work, calling it a “hoax” similar to previous investigations into his 2016 campaign’s acceptance of Russian assistance and his attempted extortion of Ukraine into helping his 2020 campaign.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.