Former President Donald Trump’s legal woes are affecting his campaign in more ways than one. On the one hand, they have boosted his popularity among members of the conservative base, who see the wave of politically motivated indictments as a brazen attempt to use the legal system to influence the outcome of the upcoming presidential election. However, new reports show that these issues are making a significant dent in his campaign’s war chest.
So far, the political action committee supporting Trump’s bid for the White House has spent a considerable sum of money on legal fees:
Save America, the political action committee financing former President Trump’s 2024 presidential bid, spent over $40 million on legal fees in the first half of 2023. These expenses reflect the ballooning costs of defending the embattled former president as he faces a growing list of legal challenges.
The expenditures exceed what the campaign has spent elsewhere:
That total is more than any other expense the PAC has incurred during Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign and, according to federal filings from earlier this month, more than Trump’s campaign raised in the second quarter of 2023. It will bring the PAC’s post-presidential legal spending to about $56 million, as Trump faces a federal indictment in Florida, state charges in New York, and the prospect of additional criminal indictments in Washington and Fulton County, Ga.
Trump’s advisers say the costs of providing lawyers for dozens of people are necessary and will continue mushrooming as investigations continue, trials are scheduled and the possibility of more charges looms.
While interviewing potential witnesses associated with Trump, prosecutors have raised pointed questions about who is paying for their lawyers and why, people familiar with the questions said. Trump advisers told The Washington Post that the PAC, which raises most of its money from small-dollar contributions by Trump supporters across the country, is footing the legal bills for almost anyone drawn into the investigations who requests help from the former president and his advisers.
Trump has come under fire from folks on the left and the right. Some have accused his campaign of conning small donors into supporting his legal battles.
“Trump has spent over $60 million this year on two things: falsely attacking Ron DeSantis and paying his own legal fees, not a cent on defeating Joe Biden,” Andrew Romeo, spokesman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign, said in a written statement. “Governor DeSantis’ sole focus, by contrast, has been campaigning for this country’s future, defeating Biden, and reversing the decline of America.”
Trump’s team gave a swift and scathing clapback:
“Ron DeSantis and his campaign are disgustingly siding with Liz Cheney, Adam Schiff, and the January 6th Unselect Committee. They would rather defend Crooked Joe Biden and his weaponized Department of Justice than the innocent people who are being targeted by these political witch-hunts,” said Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump’s campaign. “Only desperate idiots and un-American morons would take the position the DeSantis team has taken.”
Nevertheless, this development raises some questions and concerns about Trump’s campaign. So far, it does not appear he has run afoul of the law with his campaign’s spending. But the legal burden could have a costly effect on his chances to win the GOP nomination and the White House.
The first issue on the list is the strain this is undoubtedly placing on Trump’s campaign. These legal expenses are placing a heavy burden on the former president’s ability to run the race. The funds being allocated for legal battles are not being spent on campaign advertising, holding events, or other activities. As more indictments are imposed on the former president, this could further limit his campaigning if he is not able to raise enough money to cover these expenses.
Moreover, the notion that he is somehow grifting his supporters, whether right or wrong, might leave some folks with a bad taste in their mouths. While most might accept that their donations are going to battle the legal system, some might feel as if they have been deceived and stop donating. This could severely dampen his fundraising efforts.
On the flip side, it is worth noting that Trump still enjoys widespread popularity among the conservative base. The perception – and reality – that Democrats are launching these indictments and investigations because they do not wish to see him occupy the White House might spur people on to donate even more to the campaign. Additionally, he still enjoys a significant lead in the polls that is unlikely to drop anytime soon. It is too early to tell if Trump’s legal issues will cripple his ability to campaign.
To sum it up, Trump’s ongoing favor among conservatives grants him a considerable level of resiliency. But his victory remains far from certain at this point.