Trump has raised at least $150 million to cover his bogus election challenges — but most of that money will go to financing Trump's future

Ashley Collman
donald trump
President Donald Trump at the East Room of the White House in the early hours of November 4, the day after Election Day. Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
  • In the month since Election Day, President Donald Trump's campaign has ratcheted up fundraising, raising more than $150 million, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

  • The New York Times published a similar report Monday but put the number at $170 million.

  • To put that into context, the amount raised since Election Day is about double the amount that one of Trump's main PACs raised during September, its best month.

  • The Trump campaign sent hundreds of emails in November, asking supporters to donate as the president fought the results of the 2020 election, The Post reported.

  • But the fine print shows that only a fraction of small-dollar donations go to the Trump campaign's legal fund, with most of the money going into a new account designated to seed his political future instead.

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President Donald Trump's campaign has raised at least $150 million after Election Day after sending out hundreds of emails asking for support as part of Trump's hopeless mission to contest President-elect Joe Biden's win, according to Monday reports from The Washington Post and The New York Times.

In reality, only a small fraction of small-dollar donations is being used for Trump's legal challenges, with the vast majority instead being put into an account the president can use to fund his post-White House political career.

The Post and Times reports differ slightly on the total raised by the Trump campaign since Election Day. The Post said that more than $150 million was raised in that time, citing multiple sources, while a source who spoke with The Times put that number at $170 million.

Either total would be a significant amount for the campaign. For comparison, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, one of Trump's main political action committees, raised $125 million in all of the second quarter of 2020 and raised $81 million during September, its best fundraising month, according to The Post.

Business Insider has contacted the Trump campaign for comment.

Joe Biden
Joe Biden has won the 2020 presidential election, but Trump has continued to contest the election results in several states. Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Hundreds of emails

At a time when most losing campaigns start winding down, Trump's campaign took the unusual step and increased its calls for donations, The Post and The Times reported.

The campaign sent out hundreds of emails to donors in November, The Post reported.

The focus of the emails since Election Day has been on riling up supporters about Trump's unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud, giving supporters the impression that they're directly helping the campaign contest the election results in the courts with their donations.

According to The Post, one of these recent emails was a message to donors from Vice President Mike Pence, which said: "Our democracy and freedom is at risk like never before, which is why I'm reaching out to you now with an URGENT request. President Trump and I need our STRONGEST supporters, like YOU, to join the Election Defense Task Force. This group will be responsible for DEFENDING the Election from voter fraud, and we really need you to step up to the front lines of this battle."

Where the money is actually going

The fine print on the donation page tells another story, though.

According to The Times, the email fine print says nearly all small-dollar donations are split between the Save America PAC, a new leadership PAC to fund the president's post-White House political future, and the Republican National Committee.

The emails added that donors had to spend $5,000 for part of their money to start going to Trump's legal fund. Until they hit that number, 75% goes to the new PAC and 25% goes to the RNC, according to The Times.

"Small donors who give to Trump thinking they are financing an 'official election defense fund' are in fact helping pay down the Trump campaign's debt or funding his post-presidential political operation," Brendan Fischer, the director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center — a nonpartisan nonprofit that works to reduce the influence of money in politics — told The Post.

"The average donor who gives in response to Trump's appeal for funds to 'stop the fraud' likely doesn't realize that their money is actually retiring Trump's debt or funding his leadership PAC," he added.

The Times also noted that the Trump campaign was automatically signing donors up for repeated weekly contributions. Donors have to uncheck a box to opt out of the plan, which some critics have called misleading, according to The Times.

As Business Insider previously reported, a leadership PAC like the Save America PAC is typically created by current and former politicians and can be used to fund travel and events.

The Post report pointed out that the money from this kind of PAC could even be used to pay for events at properties owned by Trump. Leadership PACs are "loosely regulated" and do not face the same restrictions as candidate committees do, the newspaper reported.

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