US President Donald Trump raises $120 million, and counting, for re-election campaign

US President Donald Trump raised US$17.7 million (S$24.2 million) during the second quarter, with his main committee collecting US$8.3 million of the total and having US$33 million cash on hand at the end of June 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - United States President Donald Trump has raised more than US$88 million (S$120 million) for his re-election campaign during the past year and a half, giving him a dramatic head-start on prospective Democratic challengers in the 2020 race.

Trump's campaign committee, combined with two joint committees formed with the Republican Party, ended last month with nearly US$53.6 million in the bank - almost US$10 million more than their previous largest balance - according to finance reports filed Sunday evening (July 15) with the Federal Election Commission.

The totals reflect a brisk and continued fundraising effort by Trump's campaign operation that, in a departure from usual presidential practice, started even before he took office.

Most new presidents shift their political operations to their national party committee until launching their re-election campaign after the first midterm election of their tenure.

Trump's campaign and the two joint committees - Trump Victory and Trump Make America Great Again - have continued spending aggressively to cultivate donors through both online list-building targeting small donors and fundraising events for big donors.

The largest donation in the second quarter came from Andrew Beal, a Dallas-based banker who once squared off against Trump in a bankruptcy case. He donated US$339,000 to Trump Victory.

The committee received US$169,500 each from real estate developer Stanley Chera and his wife, Frieda Chera. Stanley Chera partnered with the company owned by the family of Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, on a US$1 billion deal to sell the retail space at 666 Fifth Ave. in Manhattan.

The three Trump committees raised more than US$17.7 million from the beginning of April through the end of June, the period covered in Sunday's reports. That was the second largest quarterly haul since he took office, though it was a drop of nearly US$2.5 million from the preceding quarter.

The committees spent more than US$8.5 million in the second quarter.

Some of the largest payments - totaling more than US$2.4 million - went to the companies owned by Trump's campaign manager, Brad Parscale, which specialise in online and email fundraising.

Trump's campaign appears to be renting out its email list to other committees through Parscale's firm, a not-uncommon revenue-generating technique used by committees that have built files of active supporters. Parscale's firm has paid the campaign more than US$236,000 in list rental income, the filings show.

The Trump campaign and its affiliated committees also spent heavily on merchandise, including the "Make America Great Again" hats that are the most recognisable branding of his campaign.

The reports show nearly US$600,000 worth of payments to an array of companies for hats, T-shirts, stickers, towels and commemorative coins to be given or sold to supporters.

The three committees also continued spending on legal fees, including paying firms that are representing the Trump campaign and its associates in investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The committees spent nearly US$1.2 million on legal fees in the second quarter, bringing their total legal spending to more than US$8.6 million since the beginning of 2017.

The biggest portion - nearly US$208,000 - went to the firm Jones Day, which is representing the Trump campaign in connection with the investigations.

But the firm, which has been paid more than US$3 million since the beginning of 2017 by Trump's committees, also represents the campaign in matters related to election and campaign finance law, and litigation stemming from the campaign.

It is not clear what percentage of the legal payments relates to those matters, as opposed to the Russia investigations.

Trump's campaign also spent nearly US$148,000 at Trump Organisation properties, including the Trump International Hotel in Washington, bringing the total spending at such properties to more than US$856,000 since the beginning of 2017.

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