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Big GOP Donors Come Off the Sidelines to Fight Trump Cash Crunch

Bill Allison
·4-min read

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump faces a cash deficit in his race against Democratic nominee Joe Biden, and big GOP donors are coming off the sidelines to help.

Texas billionaire Kelcy Warren of Energy Transfer Partners LP donated $10 million in August to America First Action, Trump’s preferred super-PAC. Diane Hendricks, a Wisconsin billionaire, gave $2 million, according to the group’s latest filing with the Federal Election Commission.

The donations, the first for both to America First Action, were part of a $23 million haul that allowed the group to outraise three pro-Biden super-PACs combined. Though the total is dwarfed by the record-setting $364.5 million Biden and the Democratic National Committee raised, the millions pouring into Republican super-PACs could keep Trump from being swamped by Biden on television.

Biden’s deep pockets -- his combined war chest stood at $466 million at the end of August compared to $325 million for Trump -- have allowed his campaign to pour money into advertising. He booked $125.2 million of ads in September compared to $65.1 million for Trump, according to Advertising Analytics. But super-PACs backing Trump are helping him close the gap, spending $59.3 million compared to $18.4 million for groups backing Biden.

Trump, who was opposed to super-PACs when he ran in the 2016 primaries but has welcomed their support since, boasted Monday he could close his financial gap with Biden by phoning some of his wealthy friends. “Give me one day and a telephone, I could get all these rich people that I know very much to all put up millions of dollars apiece,” Trump said in a phone interview with Fox News.

GOP donors have already been writing big checks to outside groups that can accept unlimited contributions. The biggest spender is Preserve America PAC, a group that launched in late August and is the third-biggest spender on advertising after Trump and Biden in September, at $42.7 million. The group, which isn’t due to report to the FEC until Oct. 15, has yet to disclose its donors.Priorities USA Action, the biggest spender among Democratic super-PACs, has booked $12.9 million in ads. It raised $8.5 million in August. On Friday, the group said its total haul for the month, including donations to two affiliated nonprofit groups, was $15.7 million. Hedge-fund billionaire David Shaw gave the super-PAC $1 million.

Even groups that once opposed Trump are now backing him.

The Club for Growth, which favors free trade, lower taxes and other conservative economic positions, spent $9.8 million to keep Trump from winning the nomination in 2016, saying his positions on many issues were indistinguishable from those of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.But in August, the group spent $9.3 million to attack Biden, FEC records show. David McIntosh, the Club for Growth’s president, said Biden has moved to the left, adopting many of Sanders’ positions. “The choice for us is very clear,” he said.

Club for Growth Action, the group’s super-PAC, raised $21.8 million in August, spent $13.7 million and ended the month with $19.6 million in the bank. Republican mega-donor Richard Uihlein gave $10 million, as did Jeff Yass, co-founder of quant fund Susquehanna International Group LLP.America First Action has nearly matched its August haul, raising $21.5 million through Thursday, according to Kelly Sadler, the group’s spokeswoman. A related nonprofit, America First Policies, has taken in $5.1 million in September and $35.2 million this year.

That money will come in handy when another political battle is likely to begin, probably before the end of the week. That’s when Trump says he will announce his pick to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday.“We will be engaging in the Supreme Court fight,” Sadler said, adding that money from the nonprofit arm and not the PAC would be used to support Trump’s nominee.

(Adds comment from Sadler in final paragraph)

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