Biden, Trump Want Donations for Legal Funds, but Where Is That Money Going?

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Shutterstock (11009306d)Democratic President-elect Joe Biden is seen during his statement on television monitors in the briefing room at the White House in Washington.
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Even in the aftermath of the recent presidential election, both the Biden and Trump campaigns are still coordinating fundraising efforts. Each campaign is appealing to supporters, via email and official website solicitations, to donate to ongoing legal battles, which have resulted from President Donald Trump’s campaign alleging election fraud and President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign denying it.

On Trump’s official website, the campaign’s plea, in part, reads, “We can’t allow the Left-wing MOB to undermine our Election. President Trump needs his fiercest and most loyal defenders, like YOU, to step up and FIGHT BACK!”

Biden’s camp also is asking for donations. “We need to be able to afford the legal battles ahead, and ensure Trump doesn’t win them just because we don’t have the funds to fight back,” a statement on Joe Biden’s official campaign website reads. “Will you donate directly to the Biden Fight Fund right now so that we can pay for the new round of legal resources for our campaign and for Democrats across the country?”

Where Will These Post-Election Donations Go?

“Both President Trump and President-elect Biden have very enthusiastic donor bases, and these are people who have given money over and over again,” said Michael Beckel, research director at Issue One, a bipartisan political reform organization, as reported by NPR. “And so, as both Trump and Biden anticipate additional expenses, they’re trying to get their loyal supporters to open their wallets one more time, give just one last dollar to be able to cover some of these legal expenses.”

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But Beckel said donors should read the fine print to find out where their money would actually go.

At the bottom of the Biden Fight Fund webpage, potential donors will find a statement detailing that donations will largely go to the Democratic National Committee, followed by the Biden Fight Fund.

“There’s nothing obviously misleading about the Biden fundraising appeals because … all of that money can, and presumably would, be used for the post-election legal battles,” said Brendan Fischer, director of the federal reform program at Campaign Legal Center.

However, Fischer said the Trump campaign’s plan for the money is not the same.

“What’s different is that even though the Trump campaign has created a separate recount account and is citing the cost of post-election litigation in its fundraising appeals, for the most part, the money has gone towards paying down the campaign’s outstanding debt and now towards President Trump’s newly created leadership PAC,” Fischer explains.

Regarding Trump’s New PAC

Trump’s new PAC, Save America, will direct 60% of each contribution first to Save America and then to DJTP’s Recount Account. The remaining 40% will go to the Republican National Committee.

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“It’s only if a contributor has reached the $5,000 legal limit in contributions to Save America that any part of their contribution would go to Trump’s recount fund,” Fischer said.

Consequently, anyone who hasn’t reached the $5,000 legal limit in contributions to the PAC won’t actually have their money directed to Trump’s legal defense.

Plus, limitations on leadership PAC spending are not as stringent as the limitations placed on an official campaign committee, which Beckel said could further Trump’s political agenda.

“It is something that he could use to dole out money to like-minded candidates and includes spending money for expenditures that would be prohibited if it was campaign cash, because campaign cash cannot be used for personal use,” Beckel said. 

Beckel’s concern is that Trump’s fundraising language could be misleading to supporters, “This is getting close to scam PAC territory. Typically where you see such misleading fundraising appeals [are] from non-candidate PACs run by shady political operator,” he said.

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“Usually, candidates feel like they have to maintain some level of trust with their supporters and with their donors because they rely on them for support. It’s usually not in a candidate’s interest to significantly mislead their supporters, but that appears to be what’s happening with President Trump right now.”

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About the Author

Cynthia Measom is a personal finance writer and editor with over 12 years of collective experience. Her articles have been featured in MSN, AOL, Yahoo Finance, INSIDER, Houston Chronicle, The Seattle Times and The Network Journal. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.
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