“Trump’s Sleight of Hand: Shouting Fraud, Pocketing Donors’ Cash for Future”


Former President Donald J. Trump and the Republican Party leveraged false claims of voter fraud and promises to overturn the election to raise more than a quarter-billion dollars in November and December as hundreds of thousands of trusting supporters listened and opened their wallets.

But the Trump campaign spent only a tiny fraction of its haul on lawyers and other legal bills related to those claims. Instead, Mr. Trump and the G.O.P. stored away much of the money — $175 million or so — even as they continued to issue breathless, aggressive and often misleading appeals for cash that promised it would help with recounts, the rooting out of election fraud and even the Republican candidates’ chances in the two Senate runoff races in Georgia.

What fraction of the money Mr. Trump did spend after the election was plowed mostly into a public-relations campaign and to keep his perpetual fund-raising machine whirring, with nearly $50 million going toward online advertising, text-message outreach and a small television ad campaign.

Only about $10 million spent by Mr. Trump’s campaign went to actual legal costs, according to an analysis of new Federal Election Commission filings from Nov. 4 through the end of the year.

Far more is now sitting in the coffers of a new political action committee, Save America, that Mr. Trump formed after the election and that provides him a fat war chest he can use to pay advisers, fund travel and maintain a political operation. Mr. Trump’s new PAC had $31 million in the bank at the end of 2020 and an estimated $40 million more sitting in a shared party account waiting to be transferred into it.

Mr. Trump’s extraordinary success raising money came mostly from grass-roots and online contributors drawn to his lie that the election result would soon be somehow wiped away. Only about a dozen donors gave $25,000 or more to one of Mr. Trump’s committees after Nov. 24. (The lone six-figure donation came from Elaine J. Wold, a major Republican donor in Florida.)

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