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Jan. 6 Panel Puts Trump Fund-Raising Tactics Under Scrutiny

WASHINGTON — Since Election Day in 2020, Donald J. Trump and his closest allies have raised more than $390 million through aggressive fundraising solicitations promising bold political actions, including fighting to overturn his reelection campaign, and helping allied candidates launch their own campaign. to win. campaigns and fighting “to save America from Joe Biden and the radical left.”

In reality, however, the campaign finance filings show that much of the money spent by political committees affiliated with Mr. Trump went toward paying his 2020 campaign costs and bolstering his political operation in anticipation of an expected presidential run in 2024. As of a few months ago, there was still $144 million in the bank.

The House Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol suggests there may be criminal exposure in some form of Mr. Trump’s deceptive fundraising appeals — those urging his supporters to donate to efforts to undo his loss in the 2020 elections.

At a hearing on Monday, the panel highlighted fund-raising requests sent by Mr. Trump’s campaign committees in the weeks following the election, seeking donations for an “official election defense fund” that the Trump team claimed would used to fight what they claimed without evidence was rampant voter fraud in favor of candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“The select committee found that no such fund existed,” said one committee investigator in a video shown during the hearing. It threw off the fund as a marketing gimmick used to hurt Mr Trump’s supporters.

It was a particularly cynical undertaking, the committee said, as Mr Trump and his allies knew his claims about stolen elections were false. Still, they continued to use fundraising appeals to spread that lie, and to raise money that the commission suggested was paid to Mr. Trump’s business and to groups run by his allies.

Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who led the commission’s presentation on Mr. Trump’s fundraising, suggested that his allies continue their futile legal challenges ahead of the election as they need to justify their fundraising.

After the hearing, she suggested that the Department of Justice should assess whether it was a crime that Mr Trump “deliberately misled his donors, asking them to donate to a fund that did not exist, and using the money raised for something other than what he said.”

Campaign finance experts were mixed about the prospects of possible prosecution.

While misleading claims about fundraising are a staple of modern politics, the Department of Justice has in recent years… charged a number of operators from so-called scam PACs — political committees that raise money primarily to pay the advisers they serve. Those groups were not typically associated with candidates, let alone a former president.

The experts said any investigation into Mr Trump’s fundraising would likely focus on his aides, not the former president himself.

And they pointed out that the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, the campaign committee that made the most requests for the election defense fund, transferred money to the Republican National Committee, which spent money on legal battles related to the 2020 election.

“Unlike some of these other scam PAC prosecutions — where, in fact, none of the money raised went toward satisfying the donor’s intent — Trump could argue that some of the money raised in the post-election period collected, went to lawsuits, and an extra portion to the future. “election integrity” efforts,” said Brendan Fischer, campaign finance expert at the watchdog group Documented.

“It would certainly be new for the Justice Department to file a fraud case against a former president’s PAC, but Trump’s fraudulent post-election fundraising was also new,” Fischer said, adding that the amount the team from Trump after the election. the election was “completely unprecedented”.

Stephen Spaulding, an official with the good government group Common Cause who advised Ms Lofgren on election law issues in 2020, said the Justice Department should investigate whether the misguided fundraising “crossed the line in wire fraud”.

The panel’s Jan. 6 video on the topic claimed that “election-stealing claims were so successful that President Trump and his allies raised $250 million.”

It was not entirely clear how the commission arrived at the $250 million figure. It roughly equates to the amount raised by the Trump and RNC campaign committees in the more than eight weeks following the November 3 election, according to campaign finance filings from WinRed, the digital platform Republicans use to process online donations.

But Mr. Trump’s campaign committees sent out hundreds of requests during that frenzied period, many of which made no reference to the election defense fund. And there’s no public record of how much money a particular fundraiser made.

The Jan. 6 panel subpoenaed records from Salesforce.com, a vendor that helped the Trump campaign and the RNC send emails, which could provide some insight into the amounts raised from individual fundraising requests.

The New York Times’ analysis of Mr. Trump’s fundraising in the 19 months since the election is based on data submitted by WinRed and other groups to the Federal Election Commission to assess the totals collected by eight committees. They include Mr. Trump’s three campaign committees, one of which was transformed into a political action committee, as well as three super PACs run by close allies of Mr. Trump and a PAC that Mr. Trump created after the election called Save America. , which has become the main hub of his ongoing political operations. The analysis does not include the RNC

On Monday, the Jan. 6 panel noted that, instead of funding election-related lawsuits, “most of the money raised” was turned over to Save America after the election. The PAC “has made millions of dollars in contributions to pro-Trump organizations,” the committee said, including more than $200,000 in Trump hotel properties and $1 million each to America First Policy Institute and the Conservative Partnership Institute, nonprofit groups that were founded and run in part by former officials in Mr. Trump’s administration.

Both groups include initiatives that: support stricter voting rules which are generally consistent with Mr Trump’s baseless claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election.

The Conservative Partnership Institute is home to the Election Integrity Network, which is led by Cleta Mitchell, the attorney who spent an hour in conversation with Georgia officials and Mr. Trump when the then-president pressured them to “find” enough votes to the result to rotate.

America First Policy Institute, which was founded last year to serve as a think tank for Trump supporters, has the appearance of a waiting Trump administration. It has also paid to hold events with Mr. Trump at his private clubs, including Mar-a-Lago, in South Florida, and Bedminster, in New Jersey.

Mrs Lofgren, in a interview with CNN claimed after the hearing that Trump’s fundraiser was a “grift,” citing compensation received by Kimberly Guilfoyle, who helped lead the fundraising efforts for Mr. Trump’s campaign and the post-election political committees, for comments which she made when introducing her fiancé, Donald Trump Jr., at the Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the Capitol attack.

According to a bill viewed by The Times, $60,000 was paid for “Keynote speeches by Kimberly Guilfoyle and Donald Trump Jr.” by Turning Point Action, a nonprofit group that has supported Mr. Trump, but is not among the group led by Mr. Trump’s closest associates and is not included in the Times’ analysis of his fundraising.

A person familiar with Donald Trump Jr.’s statement. told the panel that the former president’s son indicated that the money had gone to Ms. Guilfoyle and that he had not received any of it.

Recent requests to raise money from Mr. Trump’s political operation have often been based on calls to support Mr. Trump, without promising a specific spending target, such as a request sent Tuesday by Donald Trump Jr. to supporters to donate to help celebrate his father’s birthday.

Luke Broadwater contributed to the reporting. Andrew Fischer and Bea Malsky contributed to research.

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