Trump raises $170 million as he looks to future

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Donald Trump

President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, after stepping off Marine One. Trump is returning from Camp David. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has raised roughly $170 million since his Election Day defeat, a sum garnered through a nonstop stream of solicitations that have falsely claimed the election was stolen while requesting contributions for an “election defense fund.”

Most of the money was raised in the days after the Nov. 3 election, according to a person familiar with Trump’s effort who requested anonymity on Tuesday to discuss details of the operation.

The amount, which approaches the sums Trump took in at the height of the campaign, offers yet another sign that he does not intend to leave the White House quietly and will remain a powerful force in Republican politics.

As Trump’s chances of reelection dwindled in the hours and days after the election, his campaign began bombarding supporters with hundreds of emails and text messages that made inaccurate claims about voter fraud and election irregularities, while requesting money to fight the outcome.

They haven’t let up since.

“My father was 100% right when he said mail-in ballots would cause problems. YOU deserve a FAIR and TRANSPARENT Election,” Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. said Tuesday in one such email.

But the fine print indicates much of the money has instead paid down campaign debt, replenished the Republican National Committee and, more recently, helped get Save America, a new political action committee Trump founded, off the ground.

Seventy-five percent of each contribution made now goes to Save America, with the remaining 25% going to the RNC’s operating account. It’s only once donors have given the legal maximum to Trump’s political committee and the RNC that money begins spilling over into accounts specifically intended to pay for legal proceedings related to the election.

Save America’s one-year maximum contribution is $5,000, while the RNC can collect $35,000.

The unusual way the Trump campaign is divvying up the contributions has drawn scrutiny from election watchdogs, who say Trump and his family are poised to financially benefit from the arrangement.

Save America is a type of campaign committee that is often referred to as a “leadership PAC,” which has higher contribution limits — $5,000 per year — and faces fewer restrictions on how the money is spent. Unlike candidate campaign accounts, leadership PACs can also be tapped to pay for personal expenses.

The effort is not the only fundraising operation the Trump family is involved in.

Separately, two political advisors to Donald Trump Jr. have launched a super political action committee called “Save the U.S. Senate PAC.” The group is raising money for ads, featuring the younger Trump, that will encourage the president’s supporters to vote in two Senate runoff races that will be held in Georgia on Jan. 5.

The contests will determine whether Republicans retain control of the chamber. But some in the party worry that President Trump’s repeated attacks against the outcome of contests in states President-elect Joe Biden won, including Georgia, will diminish GOP turnout.

Republican Sen. David Perdue is running for reelection against Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff in one of the contests. In the other, appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock are competing to finish out retired Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term.

Trump spokesman Tim Murtaugh declined to comment. Representatives for Save the U.S. Senate PAC did not respond to requests for comment.

But they dropped about $80,000 on radio advertising in the state this week, with another $80,000 of airtime reserved next week, according to data from the ad tracking firm Kantar/CMAG.

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Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware.

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