President Trump is raising money toward a bid for a second term earlier than any incumbent president in recent history, pulling in tens of millions of dollars in the months after his election and through his inauguration.
Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Friday showed that Mr. Trump’s campaign brought in $7.1 million during the first three months of 2017, on top of over $23 million raised with the Republican Party. By contrast, President Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee brought in a total of about $15 million during the first three months of his first term in 2009.
A vast majority of Mr. Trump’s donors gave small amounts, and relatively little came in large checks from wealthy Republican benefactors. That suggests that Mr. Trump is relying heavily on the grass-roots donors who provided much of the cash — aside from his own fortune — he used for his campaign.
Mr. Trump’s campaign committee spent $6.3 million from January through March, including $1.2 million on merchandise and “Make America Great Again” hats, sales of which helped his fund-raising.
As it did during the presidential race, Mr. Trump’s campaign also spent significantly on Trump properties. Trump Tower in Manhattan, where the campaign is based, collected $300,000 in rent. At least another $25,000 went to other properties, including Mr. Trump’s hotel in Las Vegas and a golf course he owns in Florida. Such transactions are legal, and required to ensure he pays fair market rate for campaign costs.
The campaign disbursed tens of thousands of dollars to a firm owned by Mr. Trump’s chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon. The bill was for “administrative assistant/secretarial” services.
Meredith McGehee, the policy chief at the government reform policy group Issue One, said that Mr. Trump’s early fund-raising showed there were few downsides to seeking donations so early in his presidency. Mr. Trump lacks the campaign infrastructure of past presidents and needs to build a foundation of support ahead of an expected fund-raising push by Democrats, she said.
“They know the Democrats are already raising a lot of money by people who may not have liked Hillary or were not engaged, but have become engaged because of their reaction to the president,” Ms. McGehee said.
Ms. McGehee also noted that Mr. Trump had more control over rallies run by his re-election campaign, as they allow him to make sure crowds are full of his supporters. The president held his first campaign rally, in an airplane hangar in Florida, about four weeks after taking office.
Mr. Trump filed for the 2020 race the day of his inauguration. Filing quickly allowed him to continue to raise money and tap the small donors whose enthusiasm was critical to his campaign, with a heavy dose of email blasts and requests for help against the proverbial Washington establishment.
The Trump campaign has been hawking the hats and other collectibles to members of its email list, at campaign events and at Trump Tower, where the iconic red version of his hat was sold out on Friday.
“It’s the same story of a president who has chosen not to disentangle himself from his business interests,” Ms. McGehee said.
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