Republicans tap top fundraiser in mad scramble for convention cash

Republicans have tapped a top party fundraiser as they race to lock down money for their convention — a task that's been complicated by a tight timetable and growing concerns about holding a large-scale event during the pandemic.

Jeff Miller, a veteran fundraiser with deep connections to the tight-knit world of Republican donors, will serve as national finance chair for the late-August convention in Jacksonville, Fla., according to three people familiar with the appointment.

Republicans are scrambling to raise millions of dollars after President Donald Trump moved most of the event from Charlotte. They say they've received several millions in commitments toward a fundraising goal of $20 to $25 million, but declined to be more specific.

Convention fundraising typically occurs over a span of two years. But after Trump clashed with North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper over his refusal to allow a full-fledged convention, Republicans launched a new multi-million-dollar drive in order to pull off a separate event in a different state.

The party had raised nearly $37 million for the Charlotte convention, about $7 million of which was unspent. But the Charlotte-based committee charged with organizing the convention refused to allow the remaining funds to be transferred to Jacksonville.

Republicans now find themselves in a squeeze and are reaching out to big donors and corporations. They say they hope to capitalize on Miller’s longstanding relationships with major givers.

Miller, a lobbyist who has bundled millions of dollars for Trump’s reelection campaign, has close ties to the president’s political orbit. In February he was photographed at the Super Bowl with Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale and the president’s sons, Eric and Don Jr.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to help the city of Jacksonville host the 2020 Republican National Convention. Personally, I am looking forward to promoting the president’s home state and showcasing to the world his strong leadership and vision for America for the next four years,” Miller said in a statement.

Katie Walsh and Brian Ballard, two other fundraisers linked to the president, are also helping raise money. Ballard, who has deep experience in Florida politics, is also serving as co-chair of the Jacksonville host committee.

Party officials are sweating to meet the late August deadline, though they insist they're confident they'll get there. There is immediate pressure to brief donors on convention plans and to ensure that fundraising commitments quickly materialize with actual checks.

At the same time, organizers are confronting ongoing questions about the safety surrounding the event. Several Republican senators have said they won't attend, citing concerns over the coronavirus.

“Well, I think the convention is a challenging situation. And a number of my colleagues have announced that they’re not going to attend, and we’ll have to wait and see how things look in late August and determine whether or not you can safely convene that many people,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday.

With coronavirus cases rising in Florida, Republicans say they are still deliberating how the event will unfold and what precautions will be implemented.

During an interview with Gray Television this week, Trump acknowledged that cases were “spiking up a little bit” in the state but predicted they would “go down.”

“Look, we’re very flexible,” he said. “We can do a lot of things, but we’re very flexible.”