Trump’s campaign fundraising — and spending — surged at year’s end

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump’s fundraising neared $130 million during the first two years of his presidency, as he readies for what will be a costly re-election battle in 2020, figures released Thursday by his campaign indicate.

Trump’s campaign, along with the joint fundraising committees he operates with the Republican National Committee, took in a combined $21 million during the last three months of 2018, campaign officials said Thursday night. That’s on top of $106 million these groups had raised through the end of October.

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Trump, who filed for re-election on the day of his inauguration in January 2017, has set an unprecedented fundraising pace. His immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, did not begin collecting campaign funds in earnest until the third year of his first term in office and had raised just $4.1 million at the same point in his presidency.

Campaign officials say contributions of $200 or less are helping to fuel the re-election effort.

“Midway through the first term of his presidency, President Donald Trump continues to deliver on his campaign promises to the American people and they continue to demonstrate their support for him in contributions to his reelection campaign,” the campaign’s chief operating officer, Michael Glassner, said in a news release.

Glassner said the small-dollar donations are a “true testament to President Trump’s fulfillment of his promises made to the forgotten men and women of America.”

Trump’s outside allies also have raised big sums. A super PAC and political nonprofit started by Trump aides took in $75 million during the two-year midterm election cycle, a spokeswoman for the groups said Thursday.

Even as he raises big sums, the President and his campaign aides are burning through cash. Campaign officials say they spent more than $23 million during the final quarter of 2018. That’s three times the $7.7 million they spent during the previous three-month period.

Trump’s campaign attributed the spending surge to expenses associated with rallies the President staged for Republican candidates ahead of November’s midterm elections, spending on campaign ads, and donations to the national Republican Party and individual candidates.

Last fall, Trump crisscrossed the country stumping for Republican candidates ahead of the midterms, and his campaign still owed the US Treasury about $1 million in travel expenses, according to the report it filed Thursday night with the Federal Election Commission.

For security reasons, the President always flies on Air Force One, but when the travel is purely political, the President and his aides must reimburse the government comparable commercial airfares and pick up other costs, such as meals.

The new filing, however, shows advertising was among the biggest ticket items for the Trump campaign in the final stretch of 2018.

About $8 million — around a third of the $23 million the campaign spent during the final three months — went to American Made Media Consultants, a firm established by Trump aides to handle the campaign’s media buys.

More than $830,000 went to legal fees, including about $322,000 to the firm of Marc Kasowitz, who has served as a personal lawyer to Trump. Another $187,000 in campaign funds were spent at Trump properties.

The President has walked away from management of his real-estate and branding empire but retains ownership of his businesses through a trust.

As a result of the heavy spending, the Trump campaign started this year with about $19.2 million remaining in its bank accounts — a sharp decrease from the $35.4 million war chest it had had three months earlier.

Thursday is the deadline for federal candidates, political parties and political action committees to file reports detailing their balance sheets for the final quarter of 2018.

Nine Democrats have declared their plans to seek the presidency. Many others, including two billionaires who can tap their fortunes to fund their campaigns — former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and ex-Starbucks chief Howard Schultz — are weighing 2020 bids.

Many of the Democrats hoping to face off against the President in the 2020 general election lag behind him in campaign cash. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a prolific fundraiser for her Senate races, ended 2018 with nearly $11.1 million remaining in her Senate campaign account, filings Thursday with the Federal Election Commission show. Warren, who announced her presidential exploratory committee on Dec. 31, can transfer those leftover Senate funds to a presidential campaign.

 

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