Burning through campaign funds thanks to mounting legal fees, Donald Trump has been forced to recall $60m from a Super Pac, money originally intended for TV advertising in the Republican presidential primary.
In filings with the Federal Election Commission FEC) on Monday, Trump’s political action committee, Save America, said that at the end of June it had less than $4m cash on hand, having paid tens of millions of dollars in legal fees for the former president and associates.
Trump faces 40 criminal charges over his retention of classified documents after leaving office; 34 criminal charges over hush-money payments to a porn star in 2016; the imminent prospect of federal and state charges over his election subversion; ongoing proceedings involving the writer E Jean Carroll, to whom he was ordered to pay $5m after being found liable for sexual abuse and defamation; and assorted investigations of his business affairs.
Denying all wrongdoing and claiming political persecution, Trump leads his nearest challenger, the stalling Ron DeSantis, by more than 30 points in Republican polling.
Given that cushion, the New York Times reported, Trump has recalled $60m from a separate pro-Trump super political action committee, or Super Pac, a refund “believed to be larger than any other refund on record in the history of federal campaigns”.
Super Pacs are not meant to coordinate with campaigns.
And speaking to the Times, the former FEC lawyer Adav Noti – now legal director for the Campaign Legal Center watchdog group – questioned the legality of manoeuvres between Save America and the Super Pac Make America Great Again.
“I don’t know that calling it a refund changes the fundamental illegality,” Noti said. “For the Super Pac and the Trump Pac to be sending tens of millions dollars back and forth depending upon who needs the money more strongly suggests unlawful financial coordination.”
Trump’s spokesperson, Steven Cheung, told the Times: “Everything was done in accordance with the law and upon the advice of counsel. Any disgusting insinuation otherwise, especially by Democrat donors, is nothing more than a feeble attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump is dominating this race – both in the polls and with fundraising – and is the only candidate who will beat crooked Joe Biden.”
Allies of Trump have created the Patriot Legal Defense Fund, which according to an Internal Revenue Service filing is intended to raise money to defray costs for those “defending against legal actions arising from an individual or group’s participation in the political process”. The group is run by two senior Trump advisers, Susie Wiles and Michael Glassner.
In a statement to the Associated Press, Cheung leveled familiar abuse at the federal special counsel who indicted Trump on records charges and is expected to soon file charges regarding election subversion.
“The weaponised Department of Justice and the deranged Jack Smith have targeted innocent Americans associated with President Trump,” Cheung said. “In order to combat these heinous actions by Joe Biden’s cronies and to protect these innocent people from financial ruin and prevent their lives from being completely destroyed, a new legal defense fund will help pay for their legal fees.”
Citing an anonymous source, the AP said Smith’s team “has expressed interest in the payment of legal fees for Trump-aligned witnesses in the investigations and has sought information about it”.
Trump launched Save America after his defeat by Biden in 2020, purporting to raise money for an “election defense fund”, to be used to contest the result.