The name of Donald Trump's leadership PAC is intended to capture its purpose: Save America. In other words, the public is supposed to believe that the former president isn't just raising money through his political action committee, the entity is also a vessel through which the Republican is rescuing the United States.
To that end, the group has repeatedly reached out to donors, claiming that Trump is actually working to protect their vote. One recent online ad said, "We need you to join the fight to SECURE OUR ELECTIONS!"
Of course, in political fundraising, "join the fight" is a pleasant euphemism for "send money."
The former president's diehard followers have done exactly that, though as the Washington Post reported, the money Team Trump has received isn't financing any fights related to securing any elections.
Former president Donald Trump's political PAC raised about $75 million in the first half of this year as he trumpeted the false notion that the 2020 election was stolen from him, but the group has not devoted funds to help finance the ongoing ballot review in Arizona or to push for similar endeavors in other states, according to people familiar with the finances.
To be sure, the Republican has taken an intense interest in assorted post-election efforts, including the utterly ridiculous "audit" in Arizona, but he just doesn't want to devote any of the money he's raised to the endeavors.
All of which leads to an obvious question: If Trump's PAC raised roughly $75 million in the first six months of the year, where's all that money going? According to the Post's report, the Save America leadership PAC has paid for "some of the former president's travel, legal costs and staff, along with other expenses."
Much of the money, meanwhile, is just sitting in the bank, presumably to pay for Trump's future travel, legal costs and staff, along with other expenses.
If this sounds vaguely familiar, there's a good reason for that. In December, about a month after Election Day 2020, Politico ran this memorable report:
President Donald Trump has been on a relentless, misleading and highly lucrative fundraising drive since losing reelection, telling supporters that they can help overturn the results if they donate while directing the bulk of the cash to his newest political group instead of the entities fighting in court.
In case anyone needs a refresher, in the month following the 2020 elections, Trump's operation pushed an avalanche of lies about the Republican's defeat, telling unsuspecting donors that their money would go toward challenging the election results that the then-president falsely claimed were illegitimate. The pitches were incredibly successful, at least insofar as they raised an enormous amount of money.
But it was the latest in a series of Trump grifts: contributors' money wasn't going toward pointless recounts, silly audits, and hapless lawsuits. Rather, most of the funds went to the Save America PAC -- derided by campaign-finance experts as "essentially a type of slush fund, with few restrictions on how the money they raise can be spent."
Or put another way, when Team Trump suggested to donors that their contributions would go toward "defending" Republican voting totals, it was effectively a scam, which was exposed to the public.
That was unfolding while Trump was in office. Now that he's out of office, he's doing the same thing, pulling the same trick on his followers twice.
Just as notable is the twisted set of incentives: the moment Trump stops lying about his defeat is the moment this lucrative cash cow disappears. Many have long assumed his election lies are about his ego, but these details suggest they're also about his wallet.
There's a parlor game in some political circles, with observers who wonder whether Trump, in his heart of hearts, realizes he lost. Some argue he's genuinely delusional, having convinced himself that reality has no meaning, while others argue the former president is little more than a con man, peddling nonsense because he sees his followers as fools and suckers.
It's an interesting debate, but this new reporting suggests the resolution of the question isn't altogether relevant: regardless of Trump's true beliefs, his apparent priority is making sure his followers keep sending him their money. The scheme is working -- again.