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‘Self-Funded’ Trump Now Propped Up by Super PAC Megadonors

Dec. 20, 2018

‘Self-Funded’ Trump Now Propped Up by Super PAC Megadonors

Ultrawealthy Donors Plow Millions Into Trump’s Political Operation, Despite Previous Promises

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Six groups funded by dozens of ultra-wealthy donors have raised nearly $54.4 million to support President Donald Trump and his agenda since his inauguration, a sharp reversal from his three-year-old pledge to be independent from moneyed interests, a Public Citizen analysis has found.

Public Citizen’s analysis of Federal Election Commission data found that since the start of 2017, the six pro-Trump groups had raised $54.4 million from 136 megacontributors who donated at least $100,000 each, with an average contribution of nearly $400,000. The money has been used to promote Trump’s agenda through ads and support Republican candidates.

These six groups, including America First Action and Trump Victory, are fueled with contributions from corporate CEOs, largely from the gambling, finance, real estate and energy sectors, as well as from dark money groups that do not disclose their donors.

“While Trump’s first run for office was famously dysfunctional, his advisers now have put together a sprawling political operation that continually collects money from major donors, many of whom have interests before the Trump administration,” said Alan Zibel, research director of Public Citizen’s Corporate Presidency Project. “With significant contributions from the gambling, finance, real estate and energy sectors, Trump’s claim to be a populist president looking after the common man rings ever hollower.”

In total, the six groups have raised more than $153 million to aid Trump and Republicans, and have spent roughly $145 million to date, according to a tally of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Pro-Trump groups are on track to far exceed what major donors spent to reelect President Barack Obama in 2012. That year, Priorities USA Action, the super PAC endorsed by Obama, raised $79.1 million. Of that money, $73 million came from 125 donors contributing at least $100,000 each.

For the report, Public Citizen analyzed contributions by the six largest groups used by big-money donors to support Trump and Vice President Mike Pence from January 2017 to mid-October 2018. The analysis excludes Trump’s official campaign committee, which is subject to the federal $2,700 cap on individual donations.

As the 2020 election season gets underway, the report highlights the growing influence of Trump’s fundraising operation and provides further evidence that moneyed interests, rather than the working class, are the true beneficiaries of Trump’s presidency.

Public Citizen has long championed a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and supported public financing of campaigns to end the massive influx of corporate and special interest money into our elections.

No president has violated ethical boundaries like Trump,” said Public Citizen President Robert Weissman. “Trump’s presidency has laid bare the need for sweeping ethics reforms in the executive branch and to the nation’s campaign finance laws.”

Next month, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to advance a set of important democracy reforms that include public financing of elections as well as requirements for outside political groups to disclose their donors and for social media platforms to disclose who is paying for political ads.

Read the full report (PDF).