Donald Trump’s Cash Crunch Just Got Much, Much Worse

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
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As Donald Trump’s legal troubles consume more and more of his time, they’re also consuming more of his donors’ money—and there’s a huge hole in the bucket.

On Tuesday, Trump’s “Save America” leadership political action committee reported raising just $8,508 from donors in the entire month of January, while spending about $3.9 million, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Inside Donald Trump’s Incredible Cash Crunch

Nearly $3 million of that overall spending total was used for one purpose: to pay lawyers.

At the same time, the Trump campaign itself reported a net loss of more than $2.6 million for the month of January. It raised about $8.8 million while spending around $11.5 million, according to a separate filing made public on Tuesday.

The filings reveal that Trump is continuing to burn through his donors’ funds as he struggles to feed two massive cash drains—astronomical legal bills stemming from numerous civil cases and four criminal indictments, plus the costs of a national presidential campaign.

After the Trump filings were released on Tuesday evening, his sole primary challenger, Nikki Haley, flashed a sign of strength, with her campaign reporting $11.5 million in receipts last month. It is the first-ever fundraising period where Haley’s campaign outraised Trump.

Despite reporting almost no donations in January, the Save America PAC—a group Trump launched days after the 2020 election, ostensibly to fund legal challenges—actually increased its bottom line by more than $1 million, ending the month with nearly $6.3 million on hand.

However, that increase can’t be chalked up to new donations. It’s entirely due to a $5 million transfer from a different pro-Trump super PAC, which is still in the process of refunding $60 million that the former president demanded back last year, as his legal bills threatened to put Save America, his legal slush fund, into bankruptcy.

The super PAC has been kicking that refund back in $5 million installments beginning late last spring, but that emergency bailout won’t last, either—the full refund is set to be completed by June.

There’s another metric for the depth of Trump’s financial strain: Save America itself had to bail out yet another one of Trump’s PACs, transferring $500,000 to his old campaign committee in the middle of January. That group, called “Make America Great Again PAC,” started the year with only about $570,000 in the bank, so the mid-month injection from the sputtering Save America suggests that MAGA PAC might very well be in danger of bottoming out too.

A Trump spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a comment request.

The Truth About Trump’s RNC Shakeup—and Why the GOP Will Suffer

As he heads into his third consecutive presidential campaign, it’s safe to say Trump’s cash apparatus is complicated.

At this point, the Save America PAC exists almost exclusively to cover the former president’s legal bills, but Trump also has to fund his political campaign. He does that by raising the bulk of his money through a joint fundraising committee, which automatically splits the proceeds—90 percent goes to the campaign, with Save America cleaning up the other 10 percent, according to the terms of online solicitations.

Last month, however, the joint fundraising committee didn’t send any money to Save America, the latest filings show, though it did transfer about $8.5 million to the Trump campaign. This suggests Save America might still have as much as $850,000 headed its way from January fundraising efforts—a drop in the bucket, considering the ferocious burn rate of those legal costs.

Trump’s cash crunch is hitting at a terrible time. Recent weeks have seen two massive legal judgments against the former president. First came the $83.3 million sum for the writer E. Jean Carroll, whom he was found liable for sexually abusing and defaming; that was followed weeks later with a whopping $355 million fine for years of business fraud in New York.

Along with interest and other costs, those two rulings alone could set Trump back as much as $600 million.

While Trump is a billionaire, his choice to pass his legal costs on to his donors is threatening to derail the GOP’s national fundraising efforts. Trump is now attempting a takeover of the Republican National Committee, planting MAGA loyalists and even his own daughter-in-law at the top echelons of party leadership.

Trump’s $50 Million Mystery Debt Looks Like ‘Tax Evasion’

The Daily Beast previously reported that this self-interested maneuvering could severely constrain the RNC as the national party struggles to unify behind its beleaguered standard-bearer during a monumental election cycle.

But Trump can’t raise money with the party until he officially secures the nomination, which could happen as soon as March. And a breakdown of the Trump campaign’s spending last month shows that the primary contest is taking its toll, even as that competition winnowed to just Haley.

The campaign’s biggest January line item was the nearly $4.7 million spent for placed media, which accounts for TV ad spending. Another roughly $820,000 went out the door for audio visual support at events, $602,000 for video production, nearly $550,000 in travel-related expenses, and more than $450,000 for polling services.

The campaign also shelled out about $15,000 for teleprompter services, a sharp increase over recent months, as Trump held rallies to bolster support as primary voting got underway. Outside of those direct political costs, however, the campaign’s biggest expense was the $830,000 it also dropped on lawyers.

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