At this point in their first terms, the last five presidents had raised a combined $0 for their own reelection campaigns. But like so many other norms, Donald Trump has smashed that one, raising more than $100 million toward his own bid for a second term in office, Federal Election Commission filings show.
Between his own campaign committee and the two joint fundraising efforts he has with the Republican National Committee, Trump has raised $106 million since taking office. He brought in $18.1 million in the last quarter and had $35 million on hand at the end of September. That’s quite a haul that will likely put Trump at a distinct advantage over whoever emerges from the crowded Democratic field to challenge him in 2020.
In addition to the big deposits, the last quarter also saw the Trump campaign ramp up its spending. From the start of July through the end of September, it spent $7.7 million, more than double the amount spent in the previous three months. American Made Media Consultants, a company created by the campaign, was the biggest recipient of that spending, receiving $1.6 million. The Times explains that the firm was likely set up to save the Trump campaign some cash and to allow it to keep some of its activities secret:
The company, which is controlled by Trump campaign officials, was set up this year in consultation with its law firm, Jones Day. It is not intended to turn a profit, but rather to save the campaign money by acting as a clearinghouse for spending that would otherwise be done by outside vendors who typically take commissions on such purchases.
The model, which is patterned off one pioneered by Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, could also allow the campaign to avoid disclosing to the election commission precise details about its spending, instead just listing line-item expenditures.
The campaign also spent big on legal fees. The bulk of those payments, $1.3 million, were made to Jones Day, the law firm that handles both the campaign’s election compliance and anything related to the Russia investigation. The law firm Mintz Levin, which is representing former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in the Russia probe, billed $173,000 to the campaign. Five-figure sums were also doled out for work on legal matters involving Stormy Daniels and former Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller.
Among the other expenditures were $604,000 paid to Ace Specialties, the company that makes Trump’s bright red MAGA hats.