Federal Politics

Published — July 15, 2018 Updated — July 16, 2018 at 12:12 am ET

Donald Trump continues to build 2020 re-election war chest

President Donald Trump reacts to the cheering crowd as he leaves a rally at the Four Seasons Arena at Montana ExpoPark, Thursday, July 5, 2018, in Great Falls, Mont., in support of Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., and GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale. Carolyn Kaster/AP

Recent expenditures include Amazon office supplies and Trump company services

Introduction

No matter that the 2020 presidential election is more than 27 months away. President Donald Trump is steadily building a re-election campaign war chest at a pace unprecedented in U.S. political history.

Trump’s campaign ended June with more than $33 million cash on hand — almost three times the size of its reserve from June 2017, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Most of this money is readily available to Trump for promoting himself or deterring and combatting political foes, including anyone considering challenging him in a Republican presidential primary.

Prior to Trump, sitting presidents have engaged in little or no fundraising for their own re-election campaigns during the first two years of their terms.

But the Trump campaign’s bottom line has grown ever since Trump technically filed for re-election and began raising money for itself on Jan. 20, 2017 — the day of the president’s inauguration. No other U.S. president has ever launched a re-election campaign, technically or ceremonially, so early.

The $8.36 million Trump’s campaign raised from April 1 to June 30 compares with a quarterly low of $6.8 million and quarterly high of $10.2 million since the beginning of 2017, FEC records indicate.

Trump’s campaign spent $3.62 million from April 1 to June 30 — it’s spent as much as $6.37 million and as little as $2.79 million during any quarter since 2017.

“Digital consulting/online advertising” accounted for $1.1 million of the campaign’s second quarter expenditures. The Trump campaign spent and more than $152,000 on services — legal, lodging, rent, meals — from various Trump and Trump family properties and entities, including the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., and Trump Tower Commercial LLC.

Federal records covering April 1 through June 30 also show that Trump’s campaign spent more than $6,000 on office supplies from Amazon, a company Trump has routinely pilloried. Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, is the world’s wealthiest man and also owner of another Trump target, the Washington Post.

Trump’s new campaign finance numbers don’t reflect the tens of millions of dollars a gaggle of pro-Trump super PACs — some more closely connected to Trump than others — has collectively raised since Trump became president. Trump previously shunned super PACs and big-dollar donors, only to embrace them as a weapon against 2016 Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton.

Metal industry interests proved particularly keen on Trump’s re-election this spring — at a time when Trump slapped Canada, Mexico and the European Union with steel and aluminum tariffs and reaffirmed earlier steel tariffs on China.

The political action committees of TimkenSteel Corp., Nucor Corp., the Commercial Metals Company, AK Steel and the American Iron and Steel Institute together contributed $50,000 to Trump’s re-election in May and June, FEC records indicate.

Several dozen individuals identifying themselves as steel or metal company executives or employees also made three- or four-figure contributions.

The Trump campaign noted, however, that most of its most recent contributors were small-dollar donors — those giving $200 or less. Such an amount is far below the federal maximum of $2,700 per election.

“We are thrilled with the continued support of so many Americans who resoundingly approve of Donald Trump’s performance as president,” Lara Trump, Trump’s daughter-in-law and senior adviser to his re-election campaign, said in a statement. “The American people clearly see how hard President Trump is working to reclaim their jobs lost to bad trade deals, increase their take home pay through historic tax cuts and make their communities safer through his immigration enforcement and initial work to build the wall.”

Trump’s campaign also earned $72,319 in April from “list rental revenue” — money made from commoditizing the personal information of campaign supporters. The firm that purchased this information is Parscale Strategy LLC, according to federal records. The firm is owned by Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.

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