A day ahead of his expected 2024 announcement, former President Donald Trump on Monday was hit with a campaign finance complaint that accuses him of unlawfully transferring a “colossal sum” of money from his leadership PAC to a super PAC that spent millions on this year’s midterms — and is positioned to spend millions more on Trump’s presidential bid.
The Campaign Legal Center (CLC), the watchdog organization that filed the complaint, alleges that Trump “directed the transfer” of $20 million last month from the cash-flush leadership PAC Save America to Make America Great Again, Inc., which dumped nearly $12 million into the midterm elections to boost Trump-friendly candidates.
MAGA, Inc., thanks to its status as a super PAC, is legally able to spend unlimited sums to support or oppose political campaigns.
CLC said the $20 million transfer, disclosed in a recent Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing, amounts to a “brazen attempt to circumvent the fundraising restrictions that apply to federal candidates, which are crucial to preventing corruption and its appearance.”
Specifically, CLC’s complaint argues that the move violates Federal Election Campaign Act provisions barring candidates and officeholders from spending unregulated “soft money” on federal elections.
“Because Trump was a federal candidate when his leadership PAC contributed $20 million to a super PAC that was actively spending in the 2022 midterms and is poised to spend again in the 2024 cycle, he and Save America blatantly violated soft money prohibitions,” CLC noted in a press release.
Trevor Potter, CLC’s president, said in a statement that “when federal candidates evade campaign finance laws designed to maintain transparency and combat corruption, they undermine our election system and damage voter trust.”
“Former President Trump made it clear months ago, through his statements and actions, that he was running for president again in 2024 — long before his leadership PAC, Save America, gave $20 million to a super PAC that then spent over $11 million on the 2022 midterms,” said Potter. “By injecting this ‘soft money’ into a federal election, Trump violated the law, and the FEC must act.”
According to OpenSecrets, the Save America PAC has raised more than $107 million and spent more than $68 million since its inception in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.
In a blog post on Monday, CLC’s Saurav Ghosh noted that “recent developments appear to indicate that the remaining $39 million of Save America’s funds will be used as a war chest for Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign.”
“To date, MAGA Inc. has spent over $11.9 million on independent expenditures to help elect Trump-backed candidates around the country,” Ghosh wrote. “The problem is that Save America’s contribution [to MAGA Inc.], along with MAGA Inc. spending the money to influence the 2022 midterms, violated federal law and injected a huge amount of soft money into our federal elections.”
“Trump was already a federal candidate when Save America gave MAGA Inc. the $20 million, far more the $5,000 per year that a leadership PAC like Save America can legally contribute to another committee,” Ghosh added. “Trump’s public statements show that by early 2022, he had decided to run for president and was simply delaying announcing that decision to avoid the campaign finance rules applicable to federal candidates. And he has clearly raised and spent far more than $5,000 through Save America to advance his candidacy.”
CLC is hardly alone in raising alarm about Trump’s campaign finance activity ahead of the official launch of his 2024 White House bid.
Paul S. Ryan, a campaign finance lawyer and deputy executive director of the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation, told The Daily Beast late last month that “the only thing Trump cannot do with the millions and millions of dollars he’s raised into his leadership PAC is support himself.”
Thus, Ryan said, “the only plausible explanation” for the transfer from Save America to MAGA, Inc. “is to convert that money to be spent on his own campaign.”
“Moving the money suggests he wants to spend it on himself,” Ryan added. “It’s illegal, but that seems to be the motivation and he will likely get away with it.”