Trump’s Truth Social merger skews presidential race
Trump’s Truth Social merger skews presidential race

A merger deal involving former President Trump’s platform Truth Social is the latest financial twist in the race for the White House as he seeks to bridge the fundraising gap with President Biden.

Biden’s campaign is well ahead of Trump’s in the months leading up to 2024, although polls show a tight race nationally, with Trump leading in key states. Trump also faces significant financial hurdles as his criminal cases drain millions of dollars that could be used to support his campaign. Meanwhile, he faces a Monday deadline to post nearly half a billion dollars in bail in the civil lawsuit involving his business.

Trump, for his part, dismissed reports of his financial problems. On Friday, he said he had more than $500 million in cash, in conflict with his lawyers, who said he did not have enough to cover the $454 million bond he had to post. However, he indicated that he had no intention of using it.

“That doesn’t mean I’m going to give money to a crooked and incompetent judge — a puppet of a corrupt attorney general who is failing with serious crimes and crimes against migrants and whose sole purpose in life is to try to catch Trump,” Trump told Fox News Digital in an interview.

The multibillion-dollar merger deal announced Friday raised questions about whether it could generate cash for Trump to catch up with Biden in the money race and help with his legal costs. While it’s unclear exactly how the development will play out, there are provisions that will limit how much the former president’s financial situation will improve in the near future.

The provisions in the merger between Digital World Acquisition Corp. and Truth Social don’t allow major shareholders to sell their shares for at least six months, so the $3.5 billion that Trump — who will be the majority shareholder — stands to gain from the deal likely won’t be available in time when the bond is due. However, Trump could try to get a waiver to allow him to sell his shares if the company’s board, which is largely made up of his allies, agrees.

The merger comes at a time when Trump is facing potentially dire financial straits just as the general election campaign gets under way. The former president has used much of his admission over the past year to deal with his legal battles as he faces four criminal charges in different jurisdictions.

Trump’s fundraising committees have spent almost $30 million on legal fees in the second half of 2023, bringing his total legal fees last year to about $50 million. His lead PAC, Save America, spent nearly $3 million on legal consulting fees in January and another $5.6 million last month, leaving him with just $4 million in cash to start this month.

Civil judgments against him are even more expensive financially. He had to post an estimated $91 million bail this month as he appealed a ruling that he defamed writer E. Jean Carroll by saying she lied about sexually abusing her.

But the biggest financial hurdle is the $454 million he must account for in his civil fraud case. Trump’s lawyers said in a court filing Monday that securing the full bail was a “practical impossibility.”

At the same time, Trump is outpaced by Biden in terms of how much he raises. In the last quarter of 2023, Biden raised $33 million, well above the $19 million Trump did.

This disparity continued into the beginning of this year. Biden’s campaign raised $42 million in January, while Trump’s major committees brought in just $13.8 million. Trump increased fundraising in February by a total of just over $20 million, but Biden’s operation took in $53 million.

Some Republican strategists attributed the significant margin to Trump fresh off an active and hotly contested Republican primary, while Biden faced little opposition to secure the nomination.

“The Republicans should not have nominated Trump. The Democrats should have nominated Biden. If Trump was the sitting president in this scenario, he would beat Biden, no questions asked,” said Republican strategist Zachary Moyle.

“The simple answer … is the fact that the Republicans had a choice and the Democrats didn’t. Nikki Haley hasn’t been out that long and that’s the difference in fundraising,” he continued.

Haley, who has emerged as Trump’s last remaining alternative since January’s New Hampshire primary, has retained significant financial support even as Trump continues to win early primaries and caucuses. She reached out to a number of traditional Republican mega-donors, including billionaire Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone and Charles Koch’s political network.

It was the first time Koch’s American for Prosperity initiative had endorsed a Republican presidential candidate in a primary.

Significant funding also went to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), especially earlier in the race when he was seen as the candidate most likely to beat Trump.

“If you took all that money and threw it back into Trump World, Trump would raise a ton,” Moyle said. “A big question for people who were hoping for a different matchup on the conservative GOP side, are they going to get involved at some point or stay away?”

Democrats have said the financial difficulties Trump faces will give Biden an advantage as the race continues, and say it shows stronger enthusiasm for Biden than polls suggest.

Strategist Clay Middleton, who is a member of the Democratic National Committee, said an observer would not have expected the amount of money raised to be possible based on the polls.

“It’s better to be us than them,” he said, referring to the Republican Party. “They’ll take our poll numbers and our fundraising numbers any day of the week over their fundraising and polling numbers.”

He said the financial advantage would allow the Biden campaign to organize on the ground to establish voter contacts and “deep organizational relationships” earlier, going beyond digital and TV ads.

“We’re peaking at the right time and it’s only going to get better from here,” Middleton said.

Democratic strategist Crimson MacDonald said she believes the polls give a better indication of dissatisfaction among voters. Among Biden’s supporters, they understand the importance of money in politics, but are a quieter group of supporters than former President Obama’s supporters, who were more openly enthusiastic, she said.

“He’s not someone that people are just going to present to the world, which I love [Biden]but … the people who donate, who care enough to know that he should be president or that they should invest in some way, they donate,” McDonald said.

But Republicans said the disparity may not make Trump as vulnerable as it would other political candidates, noting that Trump won in 2016 even though Hillary Clinton beat him.

GOP strategist Justin Safey said Trump doesn’t need to raise more money than his opponent, just enough to win. He added that he is not yet concerned about Biden’s fundraising advantage.

He also singled out the Democratic Senate candidates who beat Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in 2020 and lost.

“Those dollars didn’t translate,” Seifey said.

He said the joint fundraising committee created by Trump and the Republican National Committee should help improve the numbers by providing the campaign with the party’s infrastructure, just as Biden was able to work with the Democratic National Committee.

“I think you’re going to see a consolidation among Republicans, and I think his fundraising numbers are going to go up as a result now that he’s the de facto nominee of the party,” Seifey said.

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