Trump leadership PAC spent nearly $3M on legal bills in January

Last updated on February 21, 2024

Former President Donald Trump’s leadership PAC spent another $2.9 million on legal expenses in January, underscoring how his legal woes continue to suck up resources in an election year.

The group, Save America, has been the primary vehicle for paying Trump’s legal fees, to the tune of more than $50 million last year. In a campaign finance filing Tuesday, Save America said it had received another $5 million from MAGA Inc. The pro-Trump super PAC sent $42 million to Save America last year to help cover legal costs.

The latest refund helped fund the $2.9 million in legal spending by Save America. That amount was less than the PAC devoted to legal fees in past months but still accounted for most of its spending. The leadership PAC was left with $6.3 million in the bank at the end of January.

High costs have dogged Trump’s political operation this cycle, driven by the high legal bills paid by Save America. The former president’s web of political committees spent more than they collectively raised last year, and the campaign finance filings submitted to the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday showed the large spending, including on legal fees, continued in January.

Trump has a complex political money machine involving a web of committees, including his campaign, Save America leadership PAC, MAGA Inc. super PAC, and others. Tuesday’s filings don’t represent the full scope of that operation because Trump’s primary fundraising vehicle, the Trump Save America Joint Fundraising Committee, files reports on a quarterly basis.

The former president’s campaign itself spent $11.4 million last month, with advertising accounting for its largest spending category, according to Tuesday’s filings. Media buys accounted for the largest single expense area with $4.6 million in spending, followed by direct mail and SMS advertising, a combined more than $1.3 million.

Trump’s campaign committee said it raised $8.8 million, with most of that amount coming through transfers from his joint fundraising committee. It reported ending the month with $30.5 million on hand — which represents just a portion of Trump’s political war chest, since likely millions more are held by his joint fundraising committee.

The joint fundraising committee will not file new campaign finance reports until April. It typically splits what it raises 90-10 between Trump’s campaign and the Save America leadership PAC after covering the costs of raising the money. In practice, the joint fundraising committee’s fundraising costs are significant: In the second half of 2023, 57 percent of the money raised by the joint fundraising committee ended up going to Trump’s campaign.

MAGA Inc. — which is technically independent of his political operation — reported netting nearly $7.4 million in the first month of the year. The organization’s biggest donor was Timothy Mellon, a longtime GOP megadonor who gave $5 million.

Mellon, notably, is also a significant backer of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s independent bid, having previously bankrolled a pro-Kennedy super PAC with millions.

But much of the super PAC’s money has been drained by the transfers to Save America for legal fees. MAGA Inc’s spending on independent expenditures — generally advertising either boosting Trump or attacking one of his rivals or get-out-the-vote activities — was only about $100,000 more than the amount it refunded back to Save America to fund Trump’s legal defense.