April 2, 2023

Despite those high expenses, the fundraising committee — which had money in the bank going into December — still distributed significant funds to Trump’s campaign committee, enabling him to pay staff and fund a variety of campaign initiatives over the holidays.

But the high costs of fundraising are an ominous sign, as the early days of campaigns are often a time for candidates to reap easy cash from enthusiastic donors.

Trump has significant fundraising work to do ahead of what could be a grueling election cycle. His campaign reported only $3 million in cash on hand, compared to more than $19 million that his campaign had at the same time in the 2020 election cycle. Four years ago, the then-president also did not have a competitive primary approaching.

The former president’s fundraising numbers would still be enviable for many candidates. December is typically a slow fundraising month, and the fundraising committee raised more than $15 million in October and November, mostly before Trump’s presidential campaign launched. Declining rates of return on digital fundraising is a problem that has plagued many candidates. But Trump was once considered the exception to his party’s digital fundraising woes, as he raised record sums online during the 2020 election cycle and continued raising large amounts of money after he left office in 2021.

“President Trump has raised $21.3 million in the last quarter, proving that he is an unstoppable force that continues to dominate politics,” said Steven Cheung, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign. “The campaign built out a second-to-none operation both on the national level and in early states since announcing. The President will wage an aggressive and fully-funded campaign to take our country back from Joe Biden and Democrats who seek to destroy our country.”

Trump will still benefit from significant outside money. A super PAC backing him, MAGA Inc., reported having $54 million in cash on hand at the end of 2022 and will likely look to target potential GOP primary opponents in advertising — a costly part of any campaign.

Overall, Trump’s fundraising committee spent over $250,000 on top political consultants and staff, while his campaign spent another more than $330,000 on staff and consultants. And the filings give some clues as to who exactly is working with Trump in the early days of his campaign. Aides say Trump’s 2024 operation, headquartered in West Palm Beach, Fla., not far from Trump’s Mar-a-lago club, is expected to be scrappier than the large 2020 campaign based at a high rise in Virginia.

Over $50,000 went towards paying advisers like Boris Epshteyn and Christina Bobb, who have assisted the former president on his numerous legal cases. The fundraising arm also paid longtime Trump aides like Lynne Patton, who has worked closely with the Trump family for years and was with Trump since his first campaign, and Dan Scavino, Trump’s director of social media in the White House who will continue that work on the campaign.

Other aides included in the filing include Margo Martin, who worked for Trump in the White House and has continued to be a press and communications aide for his reelect, Liz (Harrington) Shrew, a spokeswoman for Trump who frequently appears on right-wing media, Justin Caporale, a Melania Trump aide-turned-operations adviser, and Danny Tiso, a press lead for the campaign.

Vincent Haley and Ross Worthington, Trump’s top policy advisers and speechwriters who worked with him in the White House, are on the campaign payroll. And so are two of the people frequently at Trump’s side: Natalie Harp, the young OAN anchor-turned-aide, and Walt Nauta, Trump’s former military aide in the White House who moved down to Florida to continue to work for Trump and found himself at the center of Trump’s Mar-a-lago document drama.

Other major campaign expenses in December included $67,000 spent at Mar-a-Lago and a $5,000 donation to the Republican Party of Iowa.

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