Some 75% of small-dollar donations are actually going into a new committee to fund the president's post-White House future.
President Donald Trump's campaign has raised at least $150 million after Election Day after sending out hundreds of emails asking for support as Trump continues his hopeless mission to contest President-elect Joe Biden's win, according to Monday reports from The Washington Post and The New York Times.
In reality, only a small fraction of small-dollar donations is being used for Trump's legal challenges, with the vast majority instead being put into an account which the president can use to fund his post-White House political career.
The Post and Times reports differ slightly on the total raised by the Trump campaign since Election Day. The Post said that more than $150 million was raised in that time, citing multiple sources, while a source who spoke to The Times put that number at $170 million.
Regardless of the exact total, it's a significant amount for the campaign. For comparison, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, one of Trump's main political action committees, raised $125 million in all of the second quarter of 2020, and raised $81 million during September, its best fundraising month, according to The Post.
Business Insider has contacted the Trump campaign for comment.
At a time when most losing campaigns start winding down, Trump's campaign took the unusual step and increased its calls for donations, The Post and The Times reported.
The campaign sent out hundreds of emails to donors in November, The Post reported.
The focus of the emails since Election Day has been on riling up supporters about Trump's unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud, giving supporters the impression that they're directly helping the campaign contest the election results in the courts with their donations.
According to The Post, one of these recent emails was a message to donors from Vice President Mike Pence, which read: "Our democracy and freedom is at risk like never before, which is why I'm reaching out to you now with an URGENT request. President Trump and I need our STRONGEST supporters, like YOU, to join the Election Defense Task Force. This group will be responsible for DEFENDING the Election from voter fraud, and we really need you to step up to the front lines of this battle."
The fine print on the donation page tells another story, though.
According to The Times, the email fine print says that nearly all small-dollar donations are split between the Save America PAC, new leadership PAC to fund the president's post-White House political future, and the Republican National Committee.
The emails added that donors have to spend $5,000 in order for part of their money to start going to Trump's legal fund. Until they hit that number, 75% goes to the new PAC and 25% goes to the RNC, according to The Times.
"Small donors who give to Trump thinking they are financing an 'official election defense fund' are in fact helping pay down the Trump campaign's debt or funding his post-presidential political operation," Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center — a nonpartisan nonprofit that works to reduce the influence of money in politics — told The Post.
"The average donor who gives in response to Trump's appeal for funds to 'stop the fraud' likely doesn't realize that their money is actually retiring Trump's debt or funding his leadership PAC," he added.
The Times also noted that the Trump campaign is automatically signing donors up for repeated weekly contributions. Donors have to un-tick a box to opt out of the scheme, which some critics have called misleading, according to The Times.
As Business Insider previously reported, a leadership PAC like the Save America PAC is typically created by current and former politicians, and can be used to fund travel and events.
The Post report pointed out that the money from this kind of PAC could even be used to pay for events at Trump's own properties. Leadership PACs are "loosely regulated" and do not face the same restrictions as candidate committees do, the newspaper reported.
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