Those who donated $8,000 or less to Trump’s “official election defense fund” and didn’t read the fine print may be surprised to learn that none of that money went to challenging the election and much of it added lining to Trump’s pockets.
Reuters has the scoop:
The emailed solicitations send supporters to an “Official Election Defense Fund” website that asks them to sign up for recurring donations to “protect the results and keep fighting even after Election Day.”
The fine print makes clear most of the money will go to other priorities.
A large portion of the money goes to “Save America,” a Trump leadership PAC, or political action committee, set up on Monday, and the Republican National Committee (RNC). Under Federal Election Commission rules, both groups have broad leeway in how they can use the funds.
Leadership PACs such as Save America are often set up by prominent political figures to spend money on other candidates, while also paying for personal expenses, such as travel and hotel stays.
Scrolling down the page would take a donor to the fine print, which shows that donations are split between “Save America,” which gets 60% of the money, and the RNC, which gets the other 40%. None of the money flows to Trump’s official “recount” committee fund until Trump’s Save America share reaches the legal contribution limit of $5,000, according to the disclosures.
In other words, while Trump misleads donors into thinking they’re helping him fight to stay in office, they’re really helping him repay his campaign debt and/or “personal expenses.” Reuters reported that Trump’s campaign “burned through $1.4 billion of the $1.6 billion raised over the past two years.”
According to Reuters, the email solicitations originally disclosed that much of the “Official Election Defense Fund” donations would go to paying down campaign debt. But that changed after Trump’s campaign treasurer formed the Save America political action committee on Monday. “Unlike campaign funds, which have tight controls on how they can be spent, leadership PACs such as Save America carry few restrictions,” Reuters noted.
Or to put it another way, once the PAC was formed, the Trump campaign felt free to pull more wool over its donors’ eyes.