Trump campaign spending doubles amid midterms, Russia inquiry

Posted at 2:37 PM, Oct 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-16 16:47:30-04

President Donald Trump has rapidly increased his campaign spending in recent months, pouring big sums into massive rallies and legal bills as he stumps for imperiled congressional Republicans and confronts inquiries about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

Trump’s campaign committee spent $7.7 million between July 1 and September 30, more than double its spending during the previous quarter.

Its legal expenses also soared in that time, accounting for $1.6 million, or about one-fifth of his campaign’s total costs during the three-month period. That’s the most his campaign has spent on legal bills in any quarter.

About $1.3 million of that total went to Jones Day, the firm that handles the campaign’s election matters but also has represented it in connection with the investigations into Russia’s election meddling.

A campaign spokesman did not respond Tuesday to an inquiry about the growing legal expenses.

A separate legal fund established to help current and former Trump campaign and administration officials pay Russia-related legal bills told the IRS this week it has paid out a little more than $130,000 to law firms. But the fund has declined to identify which individuals are benefitting from the spending.

Trump, who filed paperwork for his re-election on the day he was sworn into office, has set a blistering fundraising pace unmatched in modern politics.

His campaign and joint fundraising arms he operates with the Republican National Committee added more than $18 million to their coffers during the third quarter of the year, pushing total fundraising past the $100 million mark for an election that is more than two years away.

No president since Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s has started chasing cash so early, said Brendan Glavin of the Campaign Finance Institute, which tracks political fundraising and spending.

“In recent memory, it’s totally unheard of,” Glavin said.

Trump also has hit the campaign trail early, holding rallies within months of occupying the White House. Those events have intensified in recent weeks as Trump stumps for Republicans scrambling to retain their majorities in the House and Senate.

His campaign’s filings with the Federal Election Commission show more than $1 million went to renting halls and arenas, “event consulting” and other costs associated with staging rallies.

Trump also is sharing some of his largesse with other Republicans. Through Sept. 30, his campaign had donated $214,000 to dozens of candidates, many of them House candidates fighting for their political lives on Nov. 6.

Trump’s campaign committee started October with $35.4 million in available cash.

Glavin said the sum might not be a “game-changer” in the end for Trump, given the staggering sums Democrats already are raising for next month’s midterm elections.

For instance, Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is trying to unseat Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, raised an eye-popping $38.1 million between July 1 and September 30, the most ever by a Senate candidate in a single quarter.

Trump’s current cash stockpile “isn’t something a Democratic challenger wouldn’t be able to overcome once the presidential campaign gets rolling,” Glavin said.