The 2016 presidential race might be over, but the fundraising battle isn’t.
Donald Trump’s campaign committee is still sending solicitations to supporters, asking them to donate money. One donation page on Trump’s web site states that contributions up to $2,700—the legal maximum for a candidate’s campaign committee, per cycle—will go toward paying down debt accumulated during the race. But additional amounts, up to the next $2,700, “will be designated to the 2020 primary election,” according to the site.
“Trump apparently has self-declared as a candidate for the 2020 election, and is already raising money for his candidacy,” says Brendan Fischer, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center, which monitors campaign-finance activity.
Trump, who will be 74 in 2020, hasn’t said publicly whether he plans to run for reelection—and some people doubt he’ll last even four years. But it goes without saying that millions of people have underestimated Trump up till now. Trump could also donate money raised by his campaign to another candidate if he decides not to run. Trump spokespeople did not respond to Yahoo Finance for this story.
A better question than whether Trump plans to run again is why he’s still raising money for a campaign he continues to promote as “self-funded.” On another fundraising page, Trump says donations are needed “to help us fight back against the attacks and get our message straight to the American people.” That suggests new donations could be handed to other groups engaged in political activity that supports Trump’s agenda.
It’s legal to raise money after an election, as long as the money is used to pay down debt. And the fine print on some of Trump’s fundraising pages says 80% of the money will go to the Trump campaign while 20% will go the Republican National Committee, which is subject to different rules and is allowed to spend contributed funds on ongoing political activities.
Raising money in this way “is not totally abnormal,” says Fischer. “The only thing that sets this apart is that Trump talked a lot about self-funding his campaign. Apparently he wracked up some debt in the final weeks of the election. But Trump is not paying that down out of his own pocket. He’s asking other people to pay for it.”
Campaign records filed with the government show that through late October, Trump gave his campaign about $8.6 million, and loaned it another $47.5 million. Aides say he donated another $10 million to his election effort in the home stretch. That adds up to $66 million of Trump’s own money. He had vowed to spend up to $100 million, a target he apparently fell short of. Overall, Trump’s campaign raised at least $190 million, so Trump’s self-funding amounted to just 35% of the campaign’s total haul. Trump was the only lender to his campaign, so if forthcoming donations help pay back Trump’s $47.5 million loan to himself, the self-funded portion of his campaign cash will decline.
Hillary Clinton’s website is still accepting donations, though Clinton’s email onslaught slowed or stopped after Nov. 8. There’s still a “donate” button at the top of her site, however, and when you click on it, the message says, “We’re counting on our best supporters like you to help us stand up to Trump and the GOP.” And the fine print explains that the money goes not to the defunct Clinton campaign, but to the Democratic National Committee. They’ll need it.
Rick Newman is the author of four books, including Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.