Eyeing 2020, Trump fundraisers return to familiar well: Small donors


President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has ramped up its fundraising this year, bringing in $20.2 million, while investing heavily in cultivating a wide base of small donors, according to reports filed Sunday afternoon with the Federal Election Commission. 

Trump’s campaign apparatus spent nearly $8.2 million through the end of last month, with more than 60 percent of that going toward low-dollar fundraising tools such as solicitations delivered via social media, email, direct mail and telemarketing, the reports show. 

The reports were filed by Trump’s campaign and two joint committees it formed with the Republican National Committee: Trump Victory Committee and Trump Make America Great Again Committee. 

The committees also spent $863,000 on legal fees as Trump, his campaign and associates continue to deal with a handful of legal fights, as well as the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. 

But that legal spending paled in comparison with the more than $5.2 million spent on fundraising revealed in the reports. Taken together, they reveal that, even as some major Republican donors have warmed to Trump, his political operation is not abandoning the approach that carried it through much of the 2016 campaign, when it relied primarily on a stream of donations from small donors giving online. 

Trump’s commitment to that approach seemed to be affirmed in February when he announced as his re-election campaign manager Brad Parscale, who championed a social media-driven operation in 2016, when he served as digital director. 

During the first three months of this year, Parscale’s firm was paid $1.7 million for digital consulting and online advertising, according to Sunday’s reports. Much of that was probably passed through to website and social media platforms, though the campaign also paid Facebook $4,700 for ads directly. 

An additional $2.3 million was spent on direct mail, which is typically used to solicit small and medium-size donations, while $210,000 went to a collection of eight fundraising consultants, and $158,000 was spent on telemarketing. 

The committees spent nearly $700,000 on merchandise offered for sale to supporters primarily through Trump’s campaign website, with $204,000 of that going at least partially for hats — presumably including the red “Make America Great Again” hats that became emblematic of Trump’s campaign. 

The investment in low-dollar fundraising is already paying dividends. More than half of the total raised by the three committees this year came from donors who gave $200 or less, the reports show. 

To be sure, the Trump Victory committee, which was created to raise big checks from major donors, did raise $4.9 million from more than 60 donors who gave $20,000 or more each, including $250,000 checks from the Wisconsin industrialist Elizabeth Uihlein, the Alaska investor Robert B. Gillam and the Las Vegas restaurateur Craig Estey and his wife, Patricia. 

A third of the committees’ $863,000 in legal fees went to two firms involved in the legal fight with the adult film star known as Stormy Daniels. Those firms — Harder LLP and Larocca, Hornik, Rosen, Greenberg & Blaha — were paid a combined $280,000. A campaign official said the payments were not related to Daniels. 

An additional $376,000 was paid to Jones Day, the firm representing the campaign on election law and campaign finance compliance, as well as matters related to the investigation of the special counsel, Robert Mueller. 

Trump’s committees also continued to pay his businesses for a variety of functions, including nearly $58,000 in rent and $59,000 in facility rental and catering services to the Trump International Hotel in Washington. 

The three Trump committees ended March with $44.3 million in the bank.


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