Donations under $8K to Trump ‘election defense’ instead go to president, RNC

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    AS President Donald Trump seeks to discredit last week’s election with baseless claims of voter fraud, his team has bombarded his supporters with requests for money to help pay for legal challenges to the results: “The Left will try to STEAL this election!” reads one text.

    But any small-dollar donations from Trump’s grassroots donors won’t be going to legal expenses at all, according to a Reuters review of the legal language in the solicitations.

    A donor would have to give more than $8,000 before any money goes to the “recount account” established to finance election challenges, including recounts and lawsuits over alleged improprieties, the fundraising disclosures show.

    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.

    The Trump campaign, the RNC and Trump’s new Save America PAC did not respond to requests for comment.

    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.

    The disclosures would allow Trump and the RNC to channel the donations into other political causes or campaigns, such as the two high-stakes January Senate runoff races in Georgia that could determine control of the Senate and are likely to rank among the most expensive races in US history.

    Trump’s solicitation website carries a banner headline that says “OFFICIAL ELECTION DEFENSE FUND” and “CONTRIBUTE NOW.”

    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.

    That means that, before a dollar goes into the recount fund, Save America would receive $5,000 and the RNC around $3,300. Donations to the recount committee are legally limited to $2,800.

    If a Trump donor gave $500, for instance, $300 would go to Trump’s Save America PAC, $200 would to the RNC – and nothing would go to his election defense fund.

    One Republican political strategist said Trump is misleading supporters who might give small donations to whatever cause he approves.

    “It’s important to be up front with people – especially those who are digging deep into their pockets to come up with $25,” said Michael DuHaime, a former political director at the RNC.

    “If you tell them it’s going for legal fees, well then it should go for legal fees.”

    Darrell Scott, an Ohio pastor who helped found the National Diversity Coalition for Trump and served on the president’s 2016 transition team, says he sees no problems with diverting the money to the leadership PAC or the RNC.

    “I see this as two pockets on the same pair of pants. It doesn’t matter if it goes into the left or the right pocket,” Scott said. “In the end, the money will be used for a legitimate purpose that his supporters will get behind.”

    FLURRY OF LAWSUITS

    The fundraising pitches have channeled Trump’s rage and his refusal to accept the results of an election that major media outlets called on Saturday for his Democratic opponent Joe Biden, the former Vice President. Most of the Republican Party has fallen in line with Trump’s rhetoric, either by staying silent or publicly supporting the election challenges.

    Trump’s campaign has filed a flurry of lawsuits to overturn the results in key states without producing evidence to back his charges of illegal voting. Trump’s lawsuits have instead generally alleged violations of process, such as a lack of access for Republican observers.

    Legal experts said none of the cases were broad enough to invalidate the number of votes required to overturn Biden’s presumed victory.

    Judges have quickly dismissed many of the lawsuits. State election officials, including Republicans, have said there was no widespread fraud.

    As the president fights what Democrats have called his inevitable ouster from the White House, his fundraising campaign seeks to replenish campaign coffers that were depleted during the presidential race, according to Federal Election Commission data.

    Trump’s re-election team kicked off 2020 with an impressive cash advantage, thanks to a massive fundraising operation, including joint efforts with the Republican Party. But the advantage evaporated as Trump’s campaign burned through $1.4 billion of the $1.6 billion raised over the past two years.