Dozens of megadonors have contributed $54.4 million to six groups backing President Donald Trump’s agenda, his reelection and Republican candidates for office, an analysis by Public Citizen has found.
Public Citizen analyzed [PDF here] contributions by large donors to six groups supporting Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. The analysis reveals a large political operation backing Trump as well as Republican candidates. These six groups are fueled with contributions from corporate CEOs and other large donors as well as from dark money groups that do not disclose their donors.
The gusher of contributions to pro-Trump groups is a sharp contrast with the early days of Trump’s political career three years ago. Trump, who famously ran his primary campaign with a tiny staff, initially claimed to be self-funding his candidacy and avoiding big-money donors. This assertion, while not entirely accurate, was part of his appeal to voters.
Public Citizen’s analysis of Federal Election Commission data found that since the start of 2017 through mid-October 2018, the six pro-Trump groups have:
- Raised $54.4 million from contributors who donated at least $100,000, with an average contribution of nearly $400,000.
- Received contributions of at least $100,000 from 136 people and organizations.
- Relied upon donations from the gambling, finance, real estate and energy sectors, largely from CEOs, senior executives, retired CEOs and spouses of CEOs.
Under federal law, political groups may participate in U.S. elections as long as they don’t coordinate their efforts with a candidate’s campaign. These groups have proliferated in recent years after the Supreme Court allowed unlimited contributions from corporations and wealthy individuals. Separately, another Supreme Court decision has led to the expansion of “joint fundraising committees” that allow donors to write six-figure checks, which then can be parceled out to other campaigns. Trump and his allies have made use of all of these strategies.
For the report, Public Citizen analyzed contributions by the six largest groups used by big-money donors to support Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. The analysis excludes Trump’s official campaign committee, which is subject to the federal $2,700 cap on individual donations.
The six groups studied by Public Citizen have raised more than $153 million to date, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Most of that money has already been spent, with roughly $145 million in expenditures so far.
Pro-Trump groups are on track to far exceed what major donors spent to reelect President Barack Obama in 2012. That year, Priorities USA Action, the super PAC endorsed by Obama, raised $79.1 million. Of that money, $73 million came from 125 donors contributing at least $100,000. Since then, super PACs and other forms of big-money politics have mushroomed.
The Public Citizen analysis illustrates how giant fundraising committees, many of which have been able to accept unlimited contributions since the 2010 Citizens United decision, are become an essential piece of Trump’s round-the-clock political fundraising operation. Several Trump organizations have parallel “dark money” operations, which are structured as nonprofit “social welfare” organizations under the tax code and are not required to disclose their donors. These dark money groups often turn around and make contributions to super PACs.
|Group||Total contributions over $100K||Total Contributions||Spent||Description|
|AMERICA FIRST ACTION INC.||$31,537,911||$38,801,172||$35,994,963||Pro-Trump super PAC, led by Republican operative Brian Walsh|
|TRUMP VICTORY||$14,512,652||$30,450,763||$27,274,789||Joint Fundraising Committee between Trump campaign, RNC, several state parties|
|FUTURE45||$5,242,555||$6,269,614||$6,233,204||Republican super PAC supported by Charles Schwab, Joe Ricketts and Paul Singer. Associated with the 45Committee, a dark money group.|
|GREAT AMERICA COMMITTEE||$2,142,278||$4,052,421||$3,795,185||Leadership PAC set up by Vice President Mike Pence.|
|GREAT AMERICA PAC||$650,000||$8,082,744||$8,582,778||Pro-Trump hybrid PAC/super PAC led by GOP Strategist Ed Rollins. Affiliated with dark money group Great America Alliance.|
|TRUMP MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN COMMITTEE||$310,553||$65,466,544||$63,162,636||Joint Fundraising Committee between Trump campaign and RNC.|
Source: Federal Election Commission, Center for Responsive Politics
The main super PAC backing Trump, America First Action, has been the leading vehicle for contributions from ultra-wealthy donors, raising a total of nearly $39 million to date, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. America First Action can take unlimited contributions, and has raised about $31.5 million from donors contributing at least $100,000, Public Citizen’s analysis found.