Small donor support helps Trump campaign pull in unprecedented Q1 haul
President Donald Trump’s campaign reported raising $30.3 million in campaign funds in the first quarter of the 2020 presidential race, according to FEC filings.
With the eye-popping fundraising haul, Trump flirts with record-breaking numbers. Only Hillary Clinton collected more in the first quarter of a presidential campaign — $36 million in April 2007 — but $10 million of that came as a transfer from her Senate campaign. Trump’s contributions outpaced former president Barack Obama’s $26 million in 2007 first quarter earnings. Obama didn’t declare for re-election until April 2011.
When combined with funds raised by the Republican National Committee, the president walks into the 2020 contest having raised $168 million since January 2017.
Perhaps most impressive is Trump’s small donor dominance. Trump’s campaign took in $3.3 million from donors giving less than $200 while his Make America Great Again joint fundraising committee received $17.4 million in small dollar contributions. The average donation from Trump supporters totaled little more than $34.26, according to the campaign, which informed the Associated Press.
Trump transferred $22 million from his joint fundraising committees to his campaign. While Make America Great Again (transferred $20 million to the Trump campaign) attracts small donors online, Trump Victory ($2 million) takes in funds from big dollar fundraisers.
Trump burst out of the fundraising starting-block early, launching his re-election campaign fund the night of his inauguration in January 2017. And Trump crisscrossed the country to hold rallies in his strongholds even before the election cycle picked up, leaning into a sizeable fundraising list.
His 2020 strategy isn’t much different than it was four years ago, when Trump attracted large numbers of small donors on social media. The campaign has already unleashed 190,000 advertisements in the past year, a majority of which popped up on Facebook and Google. His campaign spent more than $11 million on over 196,000 Facebook advertisements and $5 million on Google advertisements since May 2018. The ads are geared toward bringing in new donors — Trump made serious gains fundraising off of the wall and the government shutdown, among other issues.
His full campaign finance records reveal an aggressive advertising machine fueling his re-election bid too. Some $2.7 million went toward American Made Media Consultants, a venture headed by Trump’s campaign for “online advertising, research consulting and subscriptions” and more than $720,000 went to Parscale Strategy, owned by the campaign manager and architect of Trump’s 2016 social media strategy, Brad Parscale.
Trump’s campaign, as usual, gave a lot of money to the Trump business empire. The campaign paid $168,333 to Trump businesses. More than $25,000 of that went to the Trump Corporation for “legal and IT consulting” fees.” In total, the Trump campaign spent more than $1.6 million on legal consulting during the first quarter of 2019. The bulk of that went to Jones Day, former White House counsel Don McGahn’s employer and a law firm that represented the campaign in probes by special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional committees. The Trump campaign also continued paying Harder LLP, a firm led by Charles Harder, who made his name as the Trumps’ personal media attorney then was hired to abet the campaign’s fight against former senior White House official Omarosa Manigault Newman in 2018.
Still, despite instances of eyebrow-raising spending, the Trump campaign only spent $8.8 million in the first quarter, leaving it with a massive stockpile of $40.8 million cash on hand.
The financial picture of his opponents reveals a more lackluster picture. The fractured Democratic party of some 20 candidates vying for the primary crown spread the Democratic dollars thin.
The mammoth size of Trump’s campaign coffers equals the combined cash of frontrunner candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). Sanders leads the Democratic pack with $28 million, still short of what Trump managed to haul in by first quarter reporting. Democrats have sought to emphasize small donations to prove their commitment to eschewing super PAC money, but this commitment could come at a cost.
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