WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump is sitting on more than $110 million in campaign money at a time when his party is trying to take control of Congress — and that’s starting to irritate some GOP members.
They watch him raise money through persistent email solicitations from the party’s small-donor base and at VIP receptions tied to a full program of campaign-style rallies. And they see a man hoarding war chest for another presidential race instead of using his prowess to boost the party.
Through his pro-Republican “Save America” super PAC, Trump has handed out just $205,000 to 41 federal candidates through Feb. 28, the last date covered by his latest campaign finance disclosure. The vast majority of that money has gone to Republicans running in safe seats, or against incumbents he hates, rather than competitive races that may help determine which party wins the House and Senate in the November mid-term.
In the weeks since the latest disclosure, Trump has endorsed a handful of additional candidates vying for swing seats. Its endorsement is usually accompanied by a check for $5,000 – the maximum direct contribution the super PAC can make.
Republican campaign veterans and Trump insiders say they are disappointed but not surprised by what they describe as a combination of greed and selfishness on the part of the former president.
A former Trump campaign official said there was no way Trump was “spending money on these people mid-term,” adding that the former president was raising funds for himself.
“He doesn’t share well when it comes to money,” this person said in an interview, speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to face backlash from the former president. and his relatives.
Although current fundamentals show the GOP is poised for significant gains this fall, some Republicans worry the party could leave House and Senate seats on the table if Trump doesn’t dig deeper into his chest. to help battlefield candidates in the months ahead.
“It pisses me off,” said Dan Eberhart, an Arizona-based GOP donor, who noted that Trump was not even making more than a cursory direct contribution to help allies who won his endorsement, let alone the candidates that the party will make. rely on to try to obtain majorities. “It’s quite selfish.”
A representative for Trump did not respond to an NBC News request for comment.
For the most part, Trump has been preoccupied with picking the winners of the Republican primaries, a a tactic that could produce a crop of loyalists in Congress and state offices in November, but may have little bearing on winning GOP governing majorities. In addition to federal candidates, “Save America” handed out $145,500 to 29 state-level hopefuls.
In some cases, candidates blessed by Trump have struggled to fundraise on their own. In Wyoming, where Trump endorsed Harriet Hageman in his GOP primary bid against Rep. Liz Cheney, Hageman has raised less than $750,000 through the end of 2021.
Cheney, who angered Trump by voting to impeach him for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and joining the House panel investigating the riot, raised $7.2 million last year and had $4.7 million in the bank at the end of the reporting period on December 31. .
In South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, Rep. Nancy Mace, RS.C., drew Trump’s ire by criticizing him on Jan. 6 — even though she didn’t vote to impeach him. Mace raised $3 million and had $1.5 million left at the end of last year. She faces two main opponents, one of whom – Katie Arrington – has struggled to gain traction despite a wholehearted endorsement from Trump.
In the 72 battleground districts identified by the Republican National Congressional Committee last week, Trump had donated to only two candidates: Ryan Zinke in Montana and Derrick Van Orden in Wisconsin. In one case, because Florida hasn’t finished redrawing its lines in Congress for midterms, it remains to be seen whether Anna Paulina Luna, a Trump-endorsed and funded nominee, will end up on one of the fields. of the NRCC battlefield.
The next report, due April 20, will likely show that Trump made donations in at least a handful of those districts.
Trump participated in headlining big-dollar fundraising dinners for the House GOP campaign arm — and will do so again in the near future.
“I really appreciate his help with this,” NRCC Chairman Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., said in a conference call with reporters last week. But he hinted at the duality of Trump’s shadow midterm: He’s both the most powerful force in the GOP and a potential foothold for some candidates in swing districts.
“This upcoming election is not about President Trump,” Emmer said. “This next election is going to be a referendum on Joe Biden and the Democrats’ absolute failure on the economy and on crime, on the border, on everything else they’ve touched.”
With Trump sitting on his millions, national Republican fundraising operations have been able to bring in big volumes on their own. This week, the Republican National Senate Committee announced that it raised $43 million in the first quarter and $13.28 million in March alone, the most it has raised for each in its history. And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced he raised $31.5 million in the first quarter and $104 million this cycle. McCarthy has transferred over $37 million to the NRCC.
A national GOP strategist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the subject, said Trump “has an opportunity to do something very positive” by investing in battlegrounds that Republicans plan to compete on, which will help him build “goodwill” among party loyalists.
“And if there are seats left on the table because he is hoarding hundreds of millions of dollars and not spending them on helping candidates,” this person said, “then it will leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. “.
“No one is counting on him to spend this money to help the party,” the person added. “But he was helpful in other ways.”
Calls about where the former president’s money could be put to good use for Republican candidates would be made district by district if Trump intended to part with larger sums of money, the official said. former Trump campaign official.
“You identify races where Republicans can win and Trump polls well,” he said.
“There are neighborhoods where Trump can hurt the Republican nominee,” the source added. “There’s no doubt about it. But there are more districts where he can help them. And so you would target those districts. … I don’t think Trump’s team knows how to do it. I don’t don’t think the Trump team cares much about doing it.”
Beyond direct campaign contributions, which are limited by federal law, a super PAC can independently spend unlimited amounts of money to help candidates.
Trump’s decision to reverse the purpose of a super PAC — spending limited sums on other candidates while hoarding cash that could be used in his own potential 2024 presidential bid — doesn’t fit. to many Republicans.
“All the money he raises for himself is not going to the candidates,” said former Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va, who has long criticized the former president. “I think they [Republicans] see that it’s all about him and he doesn’t care if the Republicans get a majority.”
This is evident, she said, in Trump’s emphasis on backing major challengers for Republican incumbents who have crossed paths with him.
“If you’re a Republican running in a swing seat, are you a little annoyed that a bunch of money is going to be wasted on Liz Cheney in a Republican seat instead of winning those swing seats that will get us a majority in the House ?” Comstock asked rhetorically.
Trump’s constant extraction of cash for his own super PAC – he often sends out multiple solicitations a day – means smaller donors are more likely to have been bled dry and less likely to give to other candidates. Republicans, like a GOP operative who asked to remain anonymous to avoid incurring the former president’s wrath, told NBC News.
“It’s a huge problem,” the agent said.
And there’s no reason to expect Trump to change his approach in order to help fellow Republicans, a second former campaign adviser said on condition of anonymity to avoid angering the former president.
“He didn’t spend any money to win an election” in which he is not a candidate, the former adviser said.