Trump ‘Election Defense Fund’ Grift

He's raising the money for himself.

The loser of the 2020 Presidential election is ostensibly fighting to overturn “fraud.” It appears that he’s really just lining his pockets.

Reuters (“Donations under $8K to Trump ‘election defense’ instead go to president, RNC“):

As President Donald Trump seeks to discredit last week’s election with baseless claims of voter fraud, his team has bombarded his supporters with requests for money to help pay for legal challenges to the results: “The Left will try to STEAL this election!” reads one text.

But any small-dollar donations from Trump’s grassroots donors won’t be going to legal expenses at all, according to a Reuters review of the legal language in the solicitations.

A donor would have to give more than $8,000 before any money goes to the “recount account” established to finance election challenges, including recounts and lawsuits over alleged improprieties, the fundraising disclosures show.

The emailed solicitations send supporters to an “Official Election Defense Fund” website that asks them to sign up for recurring donations to “protect the results and keep fighting even after Election Day.”

The fine print makes clear most of the money will go to other priorities.

A large portion of the money goes to “Save America,” a Trump leadership PAC, or political action committee, set up on Monday, and the Republican National Committee (RNC). Under Federal Election Commission rules, both groups have broad leeway in how they can use the funds.

The Trump campaign, the RNC and Trump’s new Save America PAC did not respond to requests for comment.

Essentially, the first $5000 donated goes to Trump’s PAC, the next $3300 goes to the RNC, and only then does the money start going towards the ostensible “recount.”

So, what would Trump do with the money?

The disclosures would allow Trump and the RNC to channel the donations into other political causes or campaigns, such as the two high-stakes January Senate runoff races in Georgia that could determine control of the Senate and are likely to rank among the most expensive races in U.S. history.

While a despicable grift, this would at least be tangentially aligned with the interests of the contributors. It’s shameful to solicit money on one basis while intending to actually use it for something else, but retaining control of the Senate is at least likely something anyone who would donate would support.

Then again, raising money for a political party he will no longer lead seems downright altruistic by Trump standards.

There are, of course, rumors that he’s telling insiders that he’s gearing up to run again in 2024.

And there’s also this:

Unlike campaign funds, which have tight controls on how they can be spent, leadership PACs such as Save America carry few restrictions. Republicans and Democrats alike have drawn criticism for using them to pay family members and to fund luxury events in exotic locations.

Now that sounds more in accordance with Trump’s behavior while in office.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, US Politics, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. CSK says:

    It’s impossible for me to imagine Trump raising funds for any other candidates, even ones from the party with which he’s currently aligned. On the other hand, I can well envision him using fundraising as a means to line his own pockets.

  2. PJ says:

    I don’t care. The idiots sending him money now had four years to understand who and what they voted for, they failed to, so let them be fleeced.

  3. MarkedMan says:

    The Dems were smart with ActBlue, which gives donors a place to send donations, targeted or general, where the funds will be distributed with very little overhead. Otherwise the odds are good that you are not donating money to who you think you are. “Act America Patriotic Pact”, loyally supporting our Presidents mission, “Blue Wave to Preserve our Nation!!”are probably part of a collection of 100 different fund raising efforts from all political stripes, and 99.9% of the money is going to some guy named Steve, or Sergei.

  4. steve says:

    “and 99.9% of the money is going to some guy named Steve, or Sergei.”

    For the record, I am more than willing to accept your blatant bigotry towards Steves if you will just keep sending the money.


  5. KM says:

    He’s stealing from people who would have a legitimate election overturned and cause constitutional chaos because their cult leader was rejected by the masses. Somehow, I’m not sad they won’t be getting what they want or money they probably desperately need. If you are dumb enough to give Donald Trump your money at this point, *especially* over something like this with no chance in hell of legally happening, you deserve to be fleeced for everything you own.

    I feel bad for the innocent families that will suffer because of this. The idiots dumping money into Donald’s account? Would by beachfront property in NV from him so what do we expect?

  6. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @PJ: In the bigger picture, it’s also so picayune. Imagine a real billionaire like Soros or Bloomberg using a PAC to fleece $5k from a bunch of rubes. It’s downright embarrassing. I’d be ashamed of running a chump change grift like this one. Even Jim Bakker has better scams than this!

    Show some pride, for gosh sakes! Sad. Pathetic. Low energy.

  7. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    There’s a passage in Gone with the Wind in which Scarlett observes to Rhett that “it’s a sight easier to steal from the poor” than it is from the rich.

  8. grumpy realist says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: This is exactly why a lot of us have suspicioned over the years that Trump isn’t even a millionaire–what sort of “rich guy” ends up doing this equivalent of looking for change behind the sofa cushions?

    ….of course, Trump has a lot of evidence that there are sufficient gullibles out there eagerly lining up to get fleeced…

    We can always look at it this way: if the money goes into Trump’s pockets and those of his hanger–ons, chances are high it’s going to get blown on expensive cars, women, and paying off the Russian mafia. And NOT going into paying on ads for elections.

    So grifter grifter grifter all the way. Impossible to protect the marks from being fleeced–let them lose their money.

  9. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:
    Trump has a 400+ million dollar debt to pay off, unless he figures out some way to welsh on it.

  10. Kathy says:

    I find this about as shocking as a headline proclaiming “Man eats cheese,” or “The Sun rose yesterday*,” or “Fire found to be hot.”

    *Outside of the polar regions.

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: I think it’s Forbe’s that has his debt at over $1 billion with a “B”. The $400+ million number is what is coming due in the next 2 years or so.

  12. CSK says:

    Quite so. Thanks for the reminder. In any case, it’s a huge debt for a man who’s been described by one who knows him as “a clown living on credit.”

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: I wonder how many bankruptcies can one man file? I think we are about to find out.

  14. Sleeping Dog says:

    This action by the soon to be x president is, in a word, deplorable. No one should care that the rubes are being fleeced again.

    Trumps mutterings about a 24 run are wonderful. Front page story on the AM’s Times website is how it is complicating Pence’s plans for 24 and that of other R aspirants. Keep it up Donnie, be the gift that keeps on giving.

  15. CSK says:

    I don’t think there’s a limit, but you do have to wait anywhere from 2 to 6 years between filings, depending on what kind of bankruptcy is it.

  16. Scott F. says:

    @CSK and @OzarkHillbilly:
    I realize it is naive to think consequences will be imposed on The Donald, but all my hopes for a moral arc to the universe will be dashed if Trump doesn’t face major comeuppance. Prison time seems unlikely, as Justice isn’t blind in this country and she sees a way to avoid punishing rich people. But, I could be okay with financial ruin and destitution for the whole Trump mob enterprise.

  17. ImProPer says:

    I’d be curious to see how much of it goes into the right wing, miss-information machine. Consulting fees for the brilliant mind’s ” strategies, speaking engagements, and solicitations for more money (easier to get more of, because the marks are in a stupor of outrage). Trump et. al. Know they lost. They also know when the golden goose is particularly furtile.

  18. Jen says:

    Is he worried he won’t get the speaking fees other former Presidents have received?

    I honestly think that being a former president would be right up his alley. Giving grievance speeches in front of adoring crowds for a bunch of money seems like something he’d prefer over all of this messy governing and thinking nonsense.

    On the issue at hand–I have little sympathy for people who continue to fall for this con, they are welcome to keep sending their hard-earned money to this clown if that’s what makes them happy.

  19. Kathy says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Trumps mutterings about a 24 run are wonderful.

    I don’t think El Cheeto will wait until 2023 to run, he’ll start even before he leaves office.

    Sure, he sucks at the job, it gets him crummy press coverage, and he has been repudiated (even if not as soundly as we’d like), but what ele will get him adoring crowds who cheer his every idiocy and praise his every inept action?

    That’s why he won’t flee the country, either.

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: It also depends on how many corporations he has. He could file for 13 different bankruptcies in one month if they were for 13 different corporations. I think. HL ’92 will be along in 5 minutes to correct me. 😉

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Scott F.: You and me both. I would love to see him panhandling at the interstate ramp with a sign that says “Homeless Vet, God Bless”.

    FTR: I always give those guys a few bucks. I don’t care if they are vets or not or if they are really atheists.

  22. Franklin says:

    @steve: And I’ll send the money directly to you, with the assumption that you’ll spend it more wisely than any idiot that contributes to Trump’s fund.

  23. grumpy realist says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Somehow I don’t think the Russian mafia honours bankruptcy filings….

  24. Sleeping Dog says:


    Sooner than that. He’ll likely have a rally in Feb and hint at it and ask the rubes if he should, they’ll cheer, he’ll beam. What a pathetic human being.

  25. Michael P says:

    The grift will be endless.

  26. Mister Bluster says:

    a sign that says “Homeless Vet, God Bless”.

    All he has to get in his separation package is the cardboard. We know he has a Sharpie…
    There’s the Edit function again…
    Congratulations Joe and Kamala!

  27. al Ameda says:

    I nearly gagged up my grapefruit juice when I read the Reuters piece, I couldn’t stop laughing.

    Honestly, I hope he grifts hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars from his supporters, they deserve it.

  28. MarkedMan says:

    Hmmm. Trump fills a stadium of his adoring fans at $50 a pop, $3000 for the skyboxes with a meet and greet, and incites them to riot. What could go wrong?

  29. ImProPer says:

    In for the double dip this morning, the coffee is kicking in.
    I am someone who is very lay to the law, but has had some misadventures, many moons ago, having to argue Pro Per in Federal District Court. As unsophisticated as I am, if I were representing the President, in my initial presentation, the most compelling and powerful evidence would be outlined first and foremost. This would be to grab the attention of the arbitrator(s) and let them know that a, there is a strong case and, b, I’m going to present it in a sincere, expedient manner, and not waste the Courts time with perpetual shenanigans. I find it hard to believe that even the most obtuse of professional layers would, play out a strategy like the one that is unfolding now. If the President were a poor person, representing himself, and fighting for his life, he would of already been considered a vexatious litigant, and would need dam near an act of congress to further address the court. Drain the swamp indeed!

    PS, I hope the edit button returns, typing on a cell phone, it isn’t until I hit submit that, pick up my errors.

    PS PS. It showed up for this post, but not for the one above with the more glaring mistakes. Oh well.

  30. CSK says:

    I’d agree…but wasn’t admission to all the Trump rallies free? Would people be willing to spend a minimum of three figures to see him rant on for 90 minutes or 2 hours?

    I’m guessing ticket prices would start at one or two hundred dollars. I have no idea what the bleacher seats would cost at an event like this. I have no intention of ever going to one.

  31. Jen says:


    Would people be willing to spend a minimum of three figures to see him rant on for 90 minutes or 2 hours?

    Putting my PR hat on, my hunch is that well-funded right-wing organizations looking for fresh membership is the prime target, or bonkers CEOs who have captive audiences by coercing employees to attend. So, CPAC-type organizations, or someone like the MyPillow guy bringing him in to talk to employees. He’d be a draw, especially in some areas (Florida?).

  32. CSK says:

    That’s a good point. Trump would go anywhere he was promised an adoring crowd.

    But he might miss the sheer size of the rallies. That seems to mean a lot to him.

  33. Sleeping Dog says:


    I have no intention of ever going to one.

    I don’t know, it’d be kind of fun to go watch him stumble around the stage, drool, spill water on himself, maybe even pee his pants.

    I wouldn’t say that about anyone else, even Moscow Mitch, but The Loser… Besides think of all the fun it would be laughing at the trumpkins.

  34. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    I’ll catch the highlights on Youtube, thank you. It’s much cheaper, far less contagious, and most of all, I’m not trapped there for hours on end.

  35. MarkedMan says:


    Would people be willing to spend a minimum of three figures to see him rant on for 90 minutes or 2 hours?

    This has all the error flags of a typical Trump misadventure: He would wildly overestimate the worth of his brand and persona, laughably underestimate the amount of work required, farm it off to either a clueless underling who will fail or to knowledgable “partner” who will quickly tire of his BS, and it will end in failure and recriminations and then never be mentioned again. And I’m fine with that! Because right now I think our best chance for getting this bloating fish carcass transitioning out of office is to distract him with the next shiny thing. And for Trump, “shiny” = “money”.

  36. KM says:

    Wouldn’t forcing employees to listen to him be considered forcing political speech? They might try to sell him as a “motivational” or “leadership” speaker but in the end, everyone knows he’s going to talk politics because he can’t stay on topic. At the bare minimum, he’ll whine about his time as POTUS, which is def a political topic and pretty hard to explain away in court. Insisting employees attend a political rally is illegal in nearly all states (some have wishy-washy language) so that’s gonna be some interesting lawsuits if MyPillow Guy tries it.

  37. Jen says:

    @KM: There are options, if the Washington Speakers Bureau wants to represent him.

    But, maybe that’s the rub. He’ll want the fee but probably won’t agree to a middleman to arrange the speeches (and garner a cut of the proceeds).

    $100K a speech, but you have to agree to go to events like the Bowling Proprietors’ Association annual conference.

    That said, I don’t see anything like this in his future:

    For a series of talks done under the tag “Revitalizing America,” Bush and Clinton appeared together, and Clinton got $225,000.

  38. MarkedMan says:

    @KM: It’s an interesting thought. I’ve been to two trade shows that were big enough for the keynote speakers to be from the very top of the A list and I’ve seen two Presidents (HWB and WJC). The companies that organize the trade shows are very careful to balance, so one year if there is a political figure and it’s an R, the next year it will be a D. And there is usual a public policy panel with some B listers and those are mixed. I remember once with Colin Powell and… Susan Rice? on the same panel.

    But could you ever bring Trump to one of these non-political things? People would boycott the trade show, or show up and go to the keynote to shout obscenities. Considering the only point of bringing an ex-president there in the first place is to prove to the attendees that “THIS TRADE SHOW IS IMPORTANT!!” what purpose would it serve to start a controversy?

    BTW, if anyone thinks the purpose of hiring politicians is to influence legislation or enforcement, all I can say is you have no idea how trade shows are organized, or by who.

  39. Kathy says:

    How about if instead of sending trump money, which he’ll just waste, his supporters chip in and get him a diamond-encrusted solid gold trash can for his legacy?

  40. Joe says:

    I would be curious to know what laws prevent employers (other than units of government – state actors) from having their employees listen to political speeches. I can think of plenty of reasons its bad practice and could perhaps violate some collective bargaining agreements, but I don’t know that it’s illegal.

  41. KM says:

    True, I should have been clearer with my terms – only a few states specifically protect your political affiliation as a protected class while others have language that could be interpreted as “protective”. As is, there’s no single law that makes it specifically illegal per se However, things like forcing workers to attend or it affects their pay can trigger labor laws while making individuals attend something against their deeply-held beliefs is a new area of discrimination challenge. Can you force Muslims to have to listen to an anti-Muslim politician? What about minorities having to attend a “training day” with a guest speaker telling them they’ll all be deported? Discrimination and labor lawsuits generally render this as “not-legal” inadvisable actions without it being technically illegal.

  42. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Joe: I live in CA, and so I know the CA labor law. It’s likely to be different in other states. But here, if the workplace is considered a “hostile environment”, the employer is, and individual managers are also vulnerable to lawsuits.

    I could easily imagine many people considering a Trump rally to be a “hostile” environment.

  43. Tony W says:

    @CSK: Not trying to be overly PC here, but I could see people from Wales have a problem with this phraseology.