Donald Trump’s political machine slowed its spending in the first quarter of the year compared to 2021, as fundraising ebbed slightly and the former president turned to high-profile endorsements to influence this year’s midterm elections.
According to an FT analysis of federal campaign finance filings submitted ahead of a Friday night deadline, the former president still has a formidable $146mn war chest to deploy in order to bolster Republican candidates who have embraced his political agenda.
However, the pace of individual contributions to Trump-affiliated political action committees has ebbed slightly in recent months. Throughout the second half of 2021, they were raising nearly $10mn per month, but during the first three months of 2022 that figure slowed to $7.8mn per month.
The fundraising filings also revealed a slowdown in spending by Trump-related groups, suggesting the former president and his inner circle have yet to decide precisely where and how to deploy their cash. Whereas Trump-affiliated organisations spent nearly $15mn each month in 2021, that figure fell to just under $10mn per month in the first quarter of 2022.
The former president remains the most influential Republican despite losing the 2020 election and being impeached twice by the US House of Representatives, first for putting pressure on Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and then for his role in fomenting the January 6 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Trump has also been weighing another run for the White House in 2024.
Given his enduring grip on the Republican party and its conservative base, many Republican candidates for office this year have been desperately coveting his support — and Trump has started to make high-profile endorsements in key races.
On Friday night, Trump backed JD Vance, the venture capitalist and author of Hillbilly Elegy, ahead of the Republican primary for an open Senate seat in Ohio on May 3 — after nearly all the candidates in the race to replace Rob Portman, the outgoing Republican senator, coveted his support.
Earlier this month, the former president endorsed Mehmet Oz, the celebrity physician, for the Republican nomination in the contest for an open Senate seat in Pennsylvania, currently held by Republican Pat Toomey. Trump’s backing had been sought by David McCormick, the former hedge fund executive and senior Treasury official under George W Bush, the other leading candidate in the race.
The bulk of Trump’s fundraising and political machine is still concentrated in the Save America Pac, whose available cash has increased from $105mn to $110mn. The rest is spread through a variety of other fundraising vehicles.
This month, Save America Pac made one of its biggest spending moves yet by funnelling $500,000 to another political spending group that is supporting efforts by David Perdue, the former Georgia senator, to unseat Brian Kemp as governor of the state, after he certified Biden’s victory there in the 2020 election, according to Politico.
However, if this move is not followed by other large spending deployments, it could raise tensions between Trump and his favoured candidates who are mostly competing with establishment Republicans backed by traditional donors in business and finance.