Former President Donald Trump may be closing in on the Republican presidential nomination. But his campaign is bleeding millions in donor money to cover his mounting legal expenses stemming from multiple lawsuits and four criminal cases.
New campaign finance records filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission revealed that the main super PAC supporting Trump’s campaign spent more than it raised in the last six months of 2023—in large part to pay for his lawyers and other investigation-related expenses. The legal bills are likely to increase President Joe Biden’s cash advantage over Trump in a general election rematch if both candidates secure their party’s nominations.
Meanwhile, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley continued to raise substantial money for her campaign despite early losses to Trump in Iowa and New Hampshire, even as he threatens to blacklist her donors.
Here are five takeaways from the new filings.
Biden‘s cash advantage
The Biden for President committee raised $33 million in the third quarter and had about $46 million in cash on hand at the end of 2023, giving him a slight edge over the Trump campaign’s $33 million in cash on hand, according to the reports.
While Biden’s fundraising advantage is notable, it’s not overwhelming for an incumbent. In 2019, then-President Trump and the Republican National Committee raised a whopping $154 million during the fourth quarter.
Biden has been ramping up his campaign operation in recent months, spending nearly $19.3 million in the final quarter of 2023 after spending roughly $14 million over the previous nine months. Payroll more than doubled as his campaign staff had grown to more than 70, the campaign disclosures showed, while advertising and media production grew to roughly $12 million in the final quarter.
However, Trump has faced more robust primary challengers than Biden, likely contributing to the President’s reelection campaign’s slow spending. Biden only faces opposition from Democratic candidates Rep. Dean Phillips and self-care author Marianne Williamson, both of whom are polling in single digits.
Trump’s fundraising and mounting legal expenses
The Trump campaign raised more than $19 million in the fourth quarter, which is less than Biden’s $33 million raised in the same quarter. Trump had more than $33 million in cash on hand at the end of last year, though his Trump Save America joint fundraising committee brought in a whopping $75 million in the second half of the year, once again showcasing the former President’s strong fundraising ability. His strength continues to be among small-donor donors, who accounted for more than one third of that total.
But at the same time, Trump’s campaign has been burning through cash at an even faster rate. Two of his political committees spent a combined $50 million on legal expenses in 2023—more than he’s spending on advertising, payroll, and other typical campaign expenses. Trump’s legal woes have also required him to take time off the campaign trail and into courtrooms after he became the first former President of the United States to be criminally indicted—and has since broken that record three more times. Trump, who has turned his legal troubles into a fundraising tool, is currently battling four separate criminal cases that carry a total of 91 felony counts, as well as other lawsuits.
Haley’s big donors keep her in the race
Haley’s long-shot bid for the GOP nomination continues to bring in enough money for her to stay in the race against Trump. Her campaign raised more than $17 million in the fourth quarter of 2023, and had $14.5 million in cash on hand at the end of the year. Trump’s available cash was more than double the amount she held.
Haley has also spent conservatively in recent months, spending just $14.3 million in the final quarter of last year. That has likely helped her campaign stay afloat, especially as she faces calls from MAGA Republicans to drop out of the race. Haley has centered herself as the Republican best positioned to unseat Biden in the fall.
Read More: Nikki Haley’s Slow Burn Was No Accident
Her campaign has so far attracted big donors, including billionaire hedge-fund manager Paul Singer and Citadel CEO Ken Griffin, both of whom donated $5 million to her allied super PAC. Haley has also drawn support from prominent Jewish donors given her support for Israel, including WhatsApp Founder Jan Koum, who contributed $5 million last year.
DeSantis’ spending spree
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped out of the Republican primary race in January after he failed to close the gap with Trump’s campaign despite the initial hype surrounding his presidential bid. DeSantis’s failed campaign wound up costing more than $160 million in total, an enormous sum considering he ended his bid before the New Hampshire primary.
According to campaign finance reports, the Never Back Down super PAC amassed $130 million in the first half of 2023 compared to just $14.5 million in the second half of the year.
The Kennedy factor
Robert F. Kennedy, an independent candidate mounting a bid for the presidency, spent more money than his campaign raised last year and had just $5.4 million in the bank at the end of 2023.
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Wednesday’s fundraising reports show that Kennedy’s campaign committee raised an impressive $7 million over the last three months of 2023, more than DeSantis raised over that same period while he was an active candidate. But Kennedy’s cash reserves are sinking as he spent $7.7 million in the final quarter.