The impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump took center stage last week and helped both parties rake in millions of dollars. While the president’s campaign and his political allies countered the inquiry with a rain of anti-impeachment ads, Democrats appear more reserved on the ad front.
House Democrats overwhelmingly supported the inquiry, which came amid growing criticism over Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky. During that call, the Republican president asked for a “favor” from the foreign leader to investigate his potential 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden. Trump is said to have likely pressured Ukraine on the issue by holding back U.S. military aid packages to the country before his phone call with Zelensky.
In response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) launch of the inquiry last Tuesday, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee quickly set up an “Official Impeachment Defense Task Force,” sending out fundraising emails to conservative voters asking them to defend Trump’s presidency.
The campaign sent out the message via all platforms: digital ads, emails and text messages to collect signatures for the Impeachment Defense Team. In three hours after Pelosi’s announcement, the initiative brought in a reported $1 million.
That number rose to $5 million within 24 hours of the impeachment announcement and climbed to $13 million the next day following several fundraising events, adding 50,000 new donors to the Trump campaign, Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale said on Twitter.
Democrats also saw an uptick in their fundraising efforts. ActBlue, an online fundraising platform for Democratic candidates, said it saw $4.6 million of contributions last Tuesday, following $4.2 million the day before, the New York Times reported.
The money Trump and his party raised was soon put to use, as the campaign and the party announced last Friday a $10 million TV ad blitz slamming Biden for pressing Ukraine to fire its former chief prosecutor Viktor Shokin for failure to investigate corruption. The ad, which Trump tweeted out last Friday, accuses Democrats of attempting to use the impeachment inquiry to hijack the election.
In the face of a personal attack from the president, Biden countered with his own digital ad campaign condemning Trump’s behaviors and painting himself as posing “the biggest threat” to Trump’s presidency, spending $106,197 last week. In one of his Facebook ads, Biden said Trump’s “smear campaign” targeted him because he could “beat him like a drum.” Biden’s ads did not mention the term “impeachment.”
Former Biden staffers are planning a super PAC to help counter attacks against the former vice president from Trump and pro-Trump groups. However, Biden’s campaign had said it wouldn’t welcome outside spending to aid him.
Trump’s campaign, along with his joint fundraising committee — the Trump Make America Great Again Committee — spent more than $2.1 million last week running Facebook ads, sending similar messages to appeal to his voters. The ads denounced the impeachment as “baseless and disgusting attacks” and an attempt to take away votes from Trump. Some of the ads also called for voters to join his impeachment defense task force against the Democratic “witch hunt.”
Trump’s effort is joined by a cash-rich Republican Party and some of his political allies. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who on Monday acknowledged a successful House impeachment would leave the Senate no choice but to put Trump on trial, spent $35,547 on Facebook ads last week, calling those who support impeachment “Nancy Pelosi and the left-wing mob.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee bought $17,656 worth of Facebook ads last week asking voters to protect Trump from the “radical left.” The conservative group started running Facebook ads last week to target several Congress members, including Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Elaine Luria (D-Va.), two Democrats facing re-election in Republican-leaning Virginia districts. The two congresswomen co-authored a Washington Post op-ed with five other Democrats last week supporting the impeachment inquiry.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee spent almost $60,000 on Facebook ads, claiming that any donation would be quadruple-matched. Due to campaign finance limits and the lack of accountability oversight, however, it remains unclear how exactly campaigns can deliver the promise of donation-matching.
Outside Washington, D.C., Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced last week the establishment of the “Presidential Protection Fund” to fight impeachment, Local 10 News reported.
One group of conservatives isn’t defending Trump. Republicans for the Rule of Law, a group run by Republicans long critical of the president, said it launched $1 million of TV and digital ads during the past weekend. The ads target multiple Republican members of Congress, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), McClatchy reported. The half-minute ad blasts Trump’s request of Zelensky as an “abuse of power” and calls for Republicans to hold Trump accountable.
Democrats are falling short of a clear and united message, however, with party moderates worrying progressives are too strong-headed on impeaching Trump, Politico reported. Lawmakers are also concerned that the party does not have a fleshed-out strategy moving forward with the inquiry.
While the Republican Party committees are sending out strong anti-impeachment messages, their Democratic counterparts are acting gingerly without mentioning impeachment. Pelosi’s campaign and her leadership PAC — PAC to the Future — spent more than $26,000 on Facebook ads last week, calling for support to “end corruption.”
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential hopefuls focused on raising as much as they could before the end-of-quarter FEC deadline on Monday. Few of them mentioned the term “impeachment” in their online advertising campaigns. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) specifically asked his voters in one of his ads to drop the “obsession” with Trump and impeachment and instead focus on social issues such as expanding the Medicare system.