Trump's fund raising for presidential bid gets off to modest start

Former US President Donald Trump during a surprise stop at an ice cream and burgers shop in South Carolina last week. PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON - Mr Donald Trump’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 got off to a modest fund raising start, with his campaign ending 2022 with about US$7 million ($9.2 million) on hand while his Save America fund had about $18 million, according to financial disclosures released on Tuesday.

After launching his third consecutive run for the White House on Nov 15, a week after a weaker-than-expected Republican performance in midterm congressional elections, the former US President did little campaigning, not hitting the trail until Saturday.

Tuesday’s filings with the Federal Election Commission suggest that Mr Trump’s fund raising was also sluggish, leaving him with a far smaller war chest than the more than $100 million Save America had on hand through early 2022.

Mr Trump remained a prodigious fund raiser after leaving office in January 2021, holding regular rallies in which he repeated his false claims that his loss to Democratic President Joe Biden was the result of widespread fraud.

But the Save America group that served as his main fund-raising arm was registered to fund other campaigns, not Mr Trump’s own. That poses legal problems if he seeks to use Save America funds on his own campaign.

In 2022, Save America transferred about $60 million to a pro-Trump super PAC (political action committee) which is expected to support his presidential run. The Campaign Legal Centre, a non-partisan watchdog group, has asked election regulators to probe Save America’s money transfers.

Save America’s financial disclosure on Tuesday showed the group spent more than $3 million on lawyer fees in the final weeks of 2022.

Mr Trump remains the Republican party’s most popular figure and is the only major candidate to have declared his intention to challenge Mr Biden, who has not yet formally launched his own re-election campaign. But Mr Trump could face challengers for the nomination, notably Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

He also faces a series of legal risks, including a possible investigation into hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr Trump on Saturday visited two early-voting states and held notably muted events. In contrast to the raucous rallies in front of thousands of devotees that he has held in the past, he spoke to about 200 people in South Carolina’s capitol building.

In its disclosure to election regulators, Mr Trump’s official campaign committee reported raising $3.8 million between Nov 15 and Dec 31, ending 2022 with $3 million in the bank.

Most of that money was raised through another Trump fund-raising group called the Trump Save America Joint Fundraising Committee, which reported having an additional $3.8 million in the bank at the end of 2022. REUTERS

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