Category Archives: campaign finance

Trump Campaign Complaint About Harris Using Biden-Harris Campaign Funds Is Unlikely to Get Anywhere at the FEC or In Court, and If It Does It Will Likely Take Years

The New York Times reports that the Trump campaign has filed a complaint at the FEC against Kamala Harris for using the Biden-Harris campaign funds for her own campaign following Biden’s withdrawal from the 2024 race.

Most campaign finance lawyers I know believe that she can use the funds because it was a committee for both Biden and Harris. That’s the position of the nonpartisan watchdog Campaign Legal Center, for example.

Charlie Spies, a Republican election lawyer for for a time worked for the Trump campaign, wrote recently an oped in the Wall Street Journal where he advanced an alternative argument, based on the idea that Harris did not have the right to spend the money as the VP. Brendan Fischer points out that the argument would lead to some ludicrous results and makes no sense given how we think of presidential and vice presidential candidates.

The Times does not link to the complaint, so I’m guessing it’s going to make similar arguments to Spies, but we’ll see. Conservative campaign finance scholar Brad Smith (who was going to testify for Trump at his trial) said on Fox Business before this complaint was filed that the Spies argument was good but that the Harris argument is at least “plausible.” He did not think a judge would get involved, and I can think of no real-time enforcement by a judge of federal campaign finance laws.

Instead, as Smith explained, this will go to the FEC where it would take at least 60 days for anything to happen. And the FEC could well deadlock as it often does. The issue could then eventually get decided and end up in courts years later. We could be looking at the results of the 2028 elections or later before there’s something definitive.

In the meantime, the filing of the complaint gives Trump legal fodder to say that Harris engaged in a greater campaign finance violation than the one that formed the basis for turning his NY business records misdemeanors into felonies. I expect we’ll hear that a lot.

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“Trump’s Conviction and Biden’s Poor Debate Sent Big Money Into the Race”

NYT:

New campaign-finance filings released this week revealed the degree to which Mr. Trump’s conviction on 34 felony counts on May 30 and Mr. Biden’s disastrous debate performance on June 27 became seminal moments in the fund-raising race….

The R.N.C., which had as little as $9 million in cash on hand at end of January, ended June with $102 million in its coffers, nearly double the $54 million it had at the end of May.

The committee’s cash increase is primarily a downstream effect of an enormous spike in small-dollar fund-raising after Mr. Trump’s conviction …. Mr. Trump and allied Republican groups raised roughly $69 million from May 30 — the day of his conviction — to May 31. The $34.5 million or so raised on each of those days more than doubled the record for the best online fund-raising day of the entire campaign by either party….

[Biden’s] best fund-raising days of the race so far came — perhaps surprisingly — after his unsteady debate performance at the end of June. Mr. Biden and his committees raised roughly $28 million over a two-day period between June 27, when the debate took place, and June 28.

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“Democratic donors begin mobilizing to raise money for Harris if she’s the nominee”

Politico:

Allies of Vice President Kamala Harris have begun courting Democratic donors to provide financial support for her if President Joe Biden drops out of the 2024 race.

One Democratic donor adviser has begun collecting pledges from female Democratic donors to support Harris, while a women’s political organization has begun speaking to its donor base in an effort to ensure an initial wave of contributions to a potential Harris campaign, according to people familiar with the efforts….

The donor adviser … said five donors had already committed to potentially contribute six-figure donations to a Democratic ticket with Harris as the principal. But that effort is still nascent, and the status of the campaign funding would be unclear if multiple women are ultimately in the running for the nomination, the person emphasized.

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What Happens to Biden’s Money If He Steps Aside?

WaPo’s answer, amid growing whispers that the President may be coming to terms with reality:

If Biden withdraws from the race, the dollars in his campaign account are considered “excess campaign funds” that can be contributed to the Democratic National Committee or to an independent expenditure committee. But if he withdraws before he is the official nominee of the party, he could face limits in donating to other candidates.

Some Democratic lawyers and operatives, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions, argue that because Kamala Harris’s name is on the paperwork filed with the Federal Election Commission to set up the committee, Biden could hand control of the account to Harris if he were to step aside. But several Republican campaign finance lawyers noted that that legal theory has not been tested. Prominent Republican lawyer Charlie Spies recently argued in the Wall Street Journal that both Biden and Harris would have to be officially nominated by their party before a handoff of the account could occur.

If the Democratic Party chooses a nominee who is someone other than Harris, the Biden campaign could still transfer its funds to the DNC or a super PAC that intends to back the new ticket.

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“Kennedy and West third-party ballot drives are pushed by secretive groups and Republican donors”

AP reports: “With early voting for the November presidential election set to begin in late September in some states, there are signs across the country that groups are trying to affect the outcome by using deceptive means — and in most cases in ways that would benefit Republican Donald Trump. Their aim is to to whittle away President Joe Biden’s standing with the Democratic Party’s base by offering left-leaning, third-party alternatives who could siphon off a few thousand protest votes in close swing state contests.”

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“Mayor Adams’ Reelection Campaign Raked in More Than $1 Million as Opponents Circle”

The City: “[NYC] Mayor Eric Adams’ campaign reported raising more than $1 million from 1,472 donors in the first half of 2024, a show of strength that outperformed his rivals in the 2025 mayoral race.” It also reports that a legal defense fund for Adams raised $379,060 between April and July, as he faces a federal investigation apparently related to his 2021 campaign.

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“The campaign is getting real for political donors”

Politico on April-to-June campaign finance reports, filed with the FEC on Monday: “Donald Trump put up a roaring fundraising quarter, harnessing large and small donors to vanquish President Joe Biden’s cash advantage — and refilling the coffers of the national party, too.” Highlights include $139M raised by Trump National Committee and $28M by Trump Save America, while Biden Victory Fund raised $176M. Politico also reports that: “Democrats massively outraised Republicans in key Senate races — in several of them by a 2:1 margin. That financial dominance remains a lifeline for a Democratic Party staring down a brutal Senate map.”

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“Democrats back off Biden after Trump shooting, but clock still ticking”

The Hill:

[T]he debate around Biden’s age and mental acuity was on hold, according to more than a dozen Democratic sources who requested anonymity to speak openly about a sensitive topic, which no one wanted to touch in the hours following the shooting. 

While the conversation around whether or not Biden should withdraw dominated the headlines and created a seemingly endless news cycle over the past two weeks, Democrats from lawmakers to donors quickly fell silent on the issue. 

“This is not the time,” one Democratic donor, who has expressed reservations about Biden in recent days, said. “That’s not to say it won’t come back in a few days or next week. But it would be incredibly insensitive to have the debate on Biden right now.” 

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“Top Democratic strategist pushed reporters to consider ‘staged’ shooting”

Semafor:

The top political adviser to Democratic mega-donor Reid Hoffman suggested that the attack on Donald Trump could have been “staged,” even as Hoffman was criticized for joking before Saturday’s attack about Trump becoming a “martyr.”

The adviser, Dmitri Mehlhorn, apologized for his remarks after Semafor published this story, and said his email laying out his claims was “drafted without consultation from team members or allies.”

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