The video with harsh messages that former President Donald Trump shared on his Truth Social platform this week after the FBI raid on his Florida home had all the makings of a traditional presidential campaign ad.
The video merged Trump’s words about rising inflation and the US’s confused withdrawal from Afghanistan with images of violent crime and war.
“But soon we will have greatness again,” Trump recited.
The piece is just one recent example of the former president widely flirting with the 2024 campaign without formally declaring his intention to return to the White House.
But while Trump’s allies urge you to speed up a campaign ad and thus alleviating his serious legal problems, this move may prevent him from enjoying the large reserve of war capital he has accumulated since leaving the presidency. That’s the opinion of campaign finance experts.
The following are questions regarding Trump’s fundraising operations and some of the regulatory and legal hurdles he may face if he decides to run a presidential campaign for the third time:
How is Trump raising funds today?
The former president controls a well-funded political operation that includes a super PAC (Political Action Committee) that can raise and spend unlimited sums, in addition to several traditional political action committees.
At the heart of Trump’s political operation is Save America, the leadership PAC assembled days after the defeat in the November 2020 presidential election. substantial sums in the last days of his rule.
While Trump’s fundraising pace has declined in 2022Save America ended the month of June with more than 103 million dollars remaining in its cash reserves, according to the latest document filed with the FEC (acronym for Federal Electoral Commission).
This is an unprecedented reserve of political capital for a former president and is equivalent to almost three times the money that the RNC (Comitand Republican National) had in their coffers also at the end of June.
As he did during his presidency, Trump has focused on small-scale donations to fuel his political operation.
He continues to bombard his supporters daily with pleas for more money. One text used the recent FBI search and seizure of his Mar-a-Lago home to urge supporters to “run to make a donation IMMEDIATELY to publicly side with President Trump against this ENDLESS WITCH HUNTING!”
Declaring a third run for the presidency could cause Trump’s fundraising to become overstretched — but at the same time, it could draw attention and money away from other Republicans in the midterm elections this fall.
Ronna McDaniel, the president of the RNC, warned that any presidential bid at that time would derail the November elections.
“I urge any candidate not to ignore what is going to be one of the most important midterms in the history of our country,” McDaniel recently told Fox. “We have to support the House candidates and the Senate candidates and secure our victory in November.”
Why are PACs different from presidential campaign committees?
Super PACS can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, unions and corporations and must operate independently of the candidates they support. Presidential campaigns are barred from accepting union and corporate money and face strict contribution limits.
Leadership PACs also face contribution limits. They are generally established to allow politicians to support other candidates. But over the years, they’ve become a sort of idle campaign hub waiting for presidential candidates, providing a source of contributions to pay staff, approve travel and insure other political expenses.
Spending rules for leadership PACs are much looser than those for campaign committees. For example, the FEC does not prevent politicians from using donor contributions made to leadership PACs to pay personal bills.
How would a campaign affect Trump’s legal expenses payments?
As a presidential candidate, Trump would have his expenses investigated much more thoroughly, because it is “illegal to convert campaign money for the candidate’s personal use,” as Adav Noti, a former FEC attorney, senior vice president and chief legal officer, explained. from the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center.
According to him, the violation of campaign finance laws would happen if Trump used the donations made for the election race to pay legal fees for personal or business matters that are not directly related to his candidacy, such as the civil investigation of the new york district attorney about the finances of the Trump Organization.
But the money raised by Trump’s presidential campaign could pay legal bills related to his conduct as a candidate, explained Richard Briffault, a professor at Columbia Law School and an expert in campaign finance legislation.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) paid some of Trump’s bills related to the New York lawsuit, citing your role of “leader of our party”. However, an RNC source recently told CNN that those payments are expected to end if he becomes a 2024 candidate because of the party’s “neutrality policy.”
Can Trump use PAC money for a traditional presidential campaign?
In principle, no.
Super PAC Save America cannot transfer unlimited sums directly into campaign coffers. As a rule, PACs cannot donate more than $10,000 during a two-year election cycle to any candidate.
“We’ve never had a past president with a leadership PAC before, let alone a PAC with a nine-figure fund,” Neti said. “But the law, at least, is clear that this cannot go into the campaign.”
Can Trump transfer Save America’s millions to a super PAC that supports his candidacy?
Expert Neti argues that shifting the Save America fund to a super PAC would also be prohibited if the super PAC is only focused on furthering Trump’s presidential ambitions.
However, other electoral law experts say that a candidate can pocket the amount.
They use the recent standoff as an example in the FEC (a vote tied at three to three) in the case of Florida Representative Byron Donalds, who broke campaign laws by holding a large amount of money at the state level (money that should have been used by a federal super PAC).
The case can serve as case law for a candidate to move money from a leadership PAC to a super PAC.
Shifting money from a candidate’s leadership PAC to a super PAC that benefits that candidate “clearly violates the intent” of the law, Professor Briffault said, but “it’s not clear that anyone would report this.”
For Fred Wertheimer of the watchdog group Democracy 21, a vote by the six members of the FEC, which often ends in a tie, “has no force of law”.
When will Trump become a candidate?
Donald Trump has neither declared himself a candidate nor submitted any documentation to the FEC, the Federal Election Commission, to register as a presidential candidate in 2024.
But campaign finance agencies argue that Trump has been fighting election finance laws for some time by speaking and acting as a candidate without formally registering as a candidate and complying with federal fundraising and spending limits.
Just consider their public statements. In February, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump said of another presidential campaign: “We did it twice and we will do it again. … Let’s go back to do it a third time”.
As reported by Melanie Zanona, from CNN, Trump told a group of Republican lawmakers attending a dinner party at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey that he had “decided” to run for president in 2024 and it was just a matter of “when” to make the announcement. The statement was confirmed by one of the dinner attendees, Representative Jim Banks of Indiana.
“If you walk like a duck, sound like a duck, you it’s a duck, in other words, you should stand as a candidate,” said Stephen Spaulding, a former Federal Election Commission attorney who is now a senior policy adviser at the watchdog group Common Cause.
Trump went out of his way to get a “very clear hint about his intentions,” Spaulding said.
Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich did not respond to a question from Trump. CNN about the former president’s potential announcement and said he didn’t see “the value of the opinions of left-wing campaign ‘experts’ or Democrat-funded organizations.”
Politicians often delay the announcement of the election race because, as candidates become official, they lose their ability to coordinate activities with super PACs and other organizations.
“What we’ve seen over the last few election cycles is that candidates basically pretend they’re not candidates,” Neti explained, “so they can use their super PACs and outside groups to keep running.”
A Democratic Party super PAC, the American Bridge 21st Century, lobbied – to no avail – the Federal Election Commission to force Trump to officially declare his candidacy.
Last month, the American Bridge filed a federal lawsuit to force the commission into action, but it seems unlikely that the case will be resolved in time to influence the 2024 election.
*Michael Warren and David Wright of CNN contributed to this story
Source: CNN Brasil