Donald Trump’s political operation spent millions more than it took in over the past year due, in part, to massive legal costs incurred by the former president.
Two of Donald Trump’s political action committees spent an astonishing $29 million in legal consulting and legal fees in the second half of last year, leaving only $5 million in his leadership PAC’s coffers.
The expenditures provide a stark illustration of how Trump’s courtroom issues have not just defined his campaign but begun to overwhelm it. In total, the former president spent roughly $50 million in donor funds on legal expenses over the course of 2023.
All told his web of committees, in aggregate, spent roughly $210 million during the 2023 calendar year while raising a bit shy of $200 million over the same period, a POLITICO analysis of campaign finance filings found. The political operation still entered 2024 with a surplus due to strong fundraising in prior years. But spending at a higher rate than they have been able to take in so far is nonetheless a red flag heading into the general election year.
Trump’s political operation consists of five committees — his campaign, Save America, Make America Great Again PAC, his joint fundraising committee, and MAGA Inc. — that, on occasion, transfer large sums of money between one another, making it hard to say with precision precisely how much he has raised and spent.
Clearer is that legal costs are taking up a large chunk of his political operation’s disbursements.
Save America, Trump’s leadership PAC which is funded in part by donations split with his campaign, spent more than $25 million on legal consulting and fees over the last six months of the year, according to campaign finance filings submitted Wednesday evening. A second political committee, Make America Great Again PAC, which received most of its funding from Save America, put forward another more than $4 million on legal bills over the same period. Those totals were in addition to $21 million that Save America spent on legal bills in the first half of 2023.
Save America paid for the legal expenses in part via more than $42 million in refunds it received in 2023 from a third group, Make America Great Again Inc., a super PAC to which Save America had given money during the 2022 election cycle. The super PAC raised just shy of $48 million in the second half of the year, and spent more than $20 million on ads supporting Trump in addition to the refunds to Save America.
As Trump barrels towards the Republican presidential nomination, he faces 91 felony counts across four criminal cases that have put his political and legal calendars on a collision course and siphoned off a significant amount of resources from his 2024 efforts. Among those resources is his time. Trump spent several days in the lead up to the votes in Iowa and New Hampshire in courthouses rather than on the campaign trail.
Trump’s joint fundraising committee, which serves as the primary fundraising vehicle for both Trump’s campaign committee and Save America, took in more than $75 million during the second half of the year, up from $54 million in the first six months. But the committee also reported significant fundraising expenses, including $8.8 million on digital consulting, ads and list rentals, as well as $7 million on direct mail, $4.1 million on merchant merchandise fees and $1 million on text message advertising.
Over 47 law firms and attorneys are reflected in the Save America filing, including The Binnall Law Group, Dhillon Law Group, Habba Madaio and Associates, John Lauro, Steven Sadow, Blanche Law, Brand Woodward Law, and Chris Kise and Associates. John Lauro, Steven Sadow, and Chris Kise are among the attorneys representing Trump in his civil and criminal cases. Brand Woodward Law is currently representing Trump valet Walt Nauta, a co-defendant with Trump in the classified documents case. Both Trump and Nauta pleaded not guilty.
Save America continued to make monthly payments of $18,000 to Hervé Pierre Braillard, a French-American fashion designer based in New York for “strategy consulting.” The designer is close with former first lady Melania Trump, and designed her inauguration ball gown.
Trump has also attracted the support of major donors who have filled the coffers of MAGA Inc. The super PAC’s largest contribution came from Timothy Mellon, a transportation company executive and heir to the Mellon family banking fortune, who gave $10 million. WWE founder Linda McMahon, who served as Small Business Administration head during the Trump administration, was the second-biggest donor at $5.25 million.
Alex Isenstadt contributed to this report.
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