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Trump’s Campaign Finances Are Strained as Legal Peril Mounts

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Despite raising over $53M, millions spent on legal fees have left Donald Trump's political operation with $31.8M cash on hand. (AP/Sue Ogrocki)
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WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s political operation entered the second half of the year in a strained financial position with its bank account drained by tens of millions of dollars that were directed toward defending the former president from mounting legal challenges as he seeks the White House again.

Trump took in over $53 million since the start of 2023, records show, a period in which his two criminal indictments in Florida and New York were turned into a rallying cry that sent his fundraising soaring. Yet the Republican presidential front-runner burned through at least $42.8 million this year, much of it used to cover costs related to the mounting legal peril faced by Trump, his aides and other allies, leaving him with $31.8 million cash on hand. And that was after receiving a lifeline from a pro-Trump super PAC that agreed to refund millions of dollars in contributions that Trump’s operation had previously donated to it.

New campaign finance disclosures made public ahead of Monday night’s filing deadline showed Trump’s network of political committees spent roughly $25 million on legal fees. But according to a person familiar with the situation who insisted on anonymity to discuss the matter, the number is considerably higher: $40 million this year alone.

Trump’s Campaign Finance Disclosures

An analysis of campaign finance reports shows Trump’s political committees have paid out at least $59.2 million to more than 100 lawyers and law firms since January 2021, when a mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol and many of his current legal woes began in earnest.

Trump’s campaign cash woes place him in a familiar position, carrying an echo of the 2020 presidential contest when his massive cash advantage over Joe Biden evaporated amid profligate spending by his campaign. Though Trump currently dominates the Republican primary field, a lack of cash could force his campaign to make difficult spending decisions as he braces for the possibility of two additional indictments, which could come as soon as this week in Georgia and Washington and are related to his efforts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election.

Trump’s Donors Funding Legal Fees

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Paul S. Ryan, a longtime campaign finance attorney in Washington, referring to the sum Trump’s operation spent on legal fees this year. “There’s no legal issue. It’s really just a question for his donors: Do they want to be funding lawyers?”

Trump is not alone in his money struggles. His top rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis raised over $20 million after launching his much-hyped candidacy in May. But DeSantis, who trails Trump in a distant second place, hemorrhaged cash in his first six weeks as a candidate, burning through $8 million in a spending spree that included more than 100 paid staffers, a large security detail and luxury travel.

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