When rank-and-file partisans make a political contribution, they probably expect the money to go toward normal political activities: advertising, the creation of campaign materials, opening offices, etc.
But when Donald Trump’s backers offer their financial support, they’re also picking up a non-traditional tab. USA Today reported overnight that the president’s re-election campaign has raised $10.1 million so far in 2018, which is itself interesting given how far away the 2020 race is. But in this case, what’s arguably more interesting than the money going into Trump’s campaign coffers is the money that’s going out.
[M]ore than 20% of the nearly $3.9 million Trump spent this year went to pay legal bills, according to the reports his campaign filed Sunday with the Federal Election Commission. Those bills topped $834,000 during the first three months of this year, as Trump donors picked up the tab at several law firms, including one handling some of the headline-grabbing controversies surrounding the president in recent months.
A Washington Post report added, “The latest figures bring the Trump campaign’s total spending on legal fees to nearly $4 million since the president took office, records show. In the last quarter of 2017, Trump’s campaign committee spent $1.1 million in legal fees.”
Some of the costs are specific to the Trump campaign – which has legal burdens related to the investigation into the Russia scandal, for example –while some of the money is going to cover the president’s legal costs dealing with scandals such as the Stormy Daniels matter.
All of this comes on the heels of revelations from the fall, when we learned the Republican National Committee has also used some of its money to help defray the president’s legal costs. Around the same time, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Republican National Committee has also helped pay for the legal defense of Donald Trump Jr. – but no one else.
I suppose it’s possible that Republican donors won’t mind any of this. Maybe, when GOP contributors grab their checkbooks or pull out their credit cards, they want to help Trump and his team in any way they can. If that means paying for lawyers to oversee the responses to several ongoing scandals, so be it.
But I wonder: won’t a few of these donors wonder why Trump, who enjoys vast independent wealth, can’t pay for his own lawyers?