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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Trump Legal, Trump Bucks

 Our next book will look at the 2024 campaign and the impact of Trump's legal problems.

 Michelle L. Price at AP:

Donald Trump’s new joint fundraising agreement with the Republican National Committee directs donations to his campaign and a political action committee that pays the former president’s legal bills before the RNC gets a cut, according to a fundraising invitation obtained by The Associated Press.

The unorthodox diversion of funds to the Save America PAC makes it more likely that Republican donors could see their money go to Trump’s lawyers, who have received at least $76 million over the last two years to defend him against four felony indictments and multiple civil cases. Some Republicans are already troubled that Trump’s takeover of the RNC could shortchange the cash-strapped party.

Trump has invited high-dollar donors to Palm Beach, Florida, for an April 6 fundraiser that comes as his fundraising is well behind President Joe Biden and national Democrats. The invitation’s fine print says donations to the Trump 47 Committee will first be used to give the maximum amount allowed under federal law to Trump’s campaign. Anything left over from the donation next goes toward a maximum contribution to Save America, and then anything left from there goes to the RNC and then to state political parties.

Roger Sollenberger and Reese Gorman at The Daily Beast:

In the month of February, Donald Trump finally neared the start of his general election campaign against Joe Biden—while burning through his political operation’s coffers for even more cash to support his legal defenses.

On Wednesday night, Trump’s “Save America” leadership PAC—the political committee that now functions primarily as his legal slush fund—reported paying lawyers $5.6 million last month, according to Federal Election Commission filings. That’s well above the $5 million total the PAC raised in the same period.

Nikki McCann Ramirez at Rolling Stone:

ONCE UPON A time, long before he set his sights on the White House, Donald Trump leveraged his massive real estate empire into a braggadocious reality TV show called The Apprentice. The show’s bombastic theme song sang “money, money, money, money,” at viewers over shots of Trump’s New York properties, private planes, and helicopters. Now, two decades after the show first premiered, the former president is begging his followers to fork over cash in order to preserve the assets on which he built his throne.

“KEEP YOUR FILTHY HANDS OFF TRUMP TOWER!” Trump’s campaign screamed in a text message sent out Wednesday morning to potential donors. “Insane radical Democrat AG Letitia James wants to SEIZE my properties in New York. THIS INCLUDES THE ICONIC TRUMP TOWER!” Trump added in a memo linked in the text message.

“Before the day is over, I’m calling on ONE MILLION Pro-Trump patriots to chip in and say: STOP THE WITCH HUNT AGAINST PRESIDENT TRUMP!” the donation page read.


 Richard Briffault at The Copnversation:

In several advisory opinions, the FEC has repeatedly allowed campaign funds to pay legal expenses that are connected to an election campaign or officeholder action, such as litigation to get on the ballot or defense against a criminal investigation concerning whether the candidate misused his office.

Many of Trump’s legal cases, and therefore their expenses, do relate to campaign activities – such as his efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 election. Others relate to his role as an officeholder or former officeholder, such as the allegedly criminal retention of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

Even the New York state criminal case about paying hush money to former porn actress Stormy Daniels is election-related: It involves an alleged scheme to prevent potentially damaging stories about Trump’s personal life from becoming public during his 2016 presidential campaign.
However, the civil lawsuits brought by E. Jean Carroll, in which Trump was found to have sexually abused her and then to have repeatedly defamed her, are different. They do not involve either an election or Trump’s use of office. So I would expect that his legal fees for those cases would be considered personal.

Also likely personal is the civil case in New York alleging business fraud, in which he has been ordered to pay more than $350 million in penalties.

But it appears that Save America has been paying legal fees in those cases, too. Those payments may be legal under a different provision of federal campaign law. The prohibition on personal use of campaign funds applies most clearly to the funds in the candidate’s own campaign account. But federal election law also allows a candidate to set up a separate fund, known as a “leadership PAC,” which can be used for election-related activities other than support for their own campaign.


It is less clear whether a leadership PAC can legally help pay the multimillion-dollar fines Trump has been assessed as a result of those trials. The logic of the FEC’s interpretation of the personal use exception would appear to permit the use of leadership PAC funds here too, but this is a truly unprecedented situation, so it is difficult to say for sure.