Trump Slows Campaign Spending as He Tries to Close Cash Gap With Biden

By Equipo
6 Min Read

Former President Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign committee ended March with $45 million on hand, federal filings showed Saturday, as he tries to close the fund-raising gap with President Biden.

But Mr. Trump’s campaign is spending much less than it was at the start of the year, which has helped it inch closer. In March, it spent just $3.7 million, the new filings show, compared with $11.4 million in January — and much less than the $29.2 million spent by Mr. Biden’s campaign in March. In other words, Mr. Trump’s campaign is guarding resources as it seeks to build a campaign war chest for the general election.

Mr. Biden’s campaign had $85.5 million on hand at the end of March, according to its monthly filing with the Federal Election Commission, a significant increase from the month before: He ended February with $71 million in his campaign account while Mr. Trump ended February with less than half that.

As Mr. Trump and Republicans chase the Democrats’ financial edge, Mr. Biden has also started to narrow the polling gap between himself and Mr. Trump. Since late February, the president has cut a deficit of five percentage points to a single point, a virtual tie, according to a recent survey by The New York Times and Siena College.

The rivals each capitalized on splashy fund-raisers in the past month that brought in tens of millions of dollars for their respective campaigns. But Mr. Trump’s haul from an April 6 event in Palm Beach, Fla., will be reflected on a future filing. His campaign reported that it and the Republican National Committee raked in more than $50.5 million from the dinner, which was held at the home of the billionaire John Paulson.

The total nearly doubled the $26 million that Mr. Biden’s campaign said it raised on March 28 at Radio City Music Hall in New York, a star-studded event headlined by the president and two former presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Those funds were included in Mr. Biden’s March fund-raising numbers.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump are primarily raising money though joint fund-raising agreements with their respective parties, arrangements that legally allow them to pull in hundreds of thousands of dollars from individual donors, some of which flows into their campaigns.

Joint fund-raising committees for both candidates filed reports with the Federal Election Commission this week, providing the first details of 2024 of major donors to both candidates, and the total scale of their fund-raising haul.

But the F.E.C. reports for presidential campaigns, which are filed monthly in election years, offer different insights about candidates’ activities and how the committees backing them are spending money.

For example, federal law guarantees political campaigns bottom-dollar rates for broadcast advertising, so campaign committees are often used to pay for television time. In the first three months of 2024, Mr. Biden’s campaign has spent $45.2 million on media buys and production, filings show — more than half of its total of $74.1 million in spending.

The Biden campaign has spent $6.9 million on payroll and related expenses, and an additional $6.9 million on “text message outreach.” His campaign’s spending shot up in March, after two relatively steady months.

In contrast, Mr. Trump’s campaign spending has slowed sharply since the beginning of the year, when he was still fending off Republican primary challengers.

Since Jan. 1, Mr. Trump’s campaign has spent $23 million — but just $3.7 million of that was in March. His campaign has paid $6 million for placed media this year, all of it before Super Tuesday.

One of Mr. Trump’s committees — a leadership PAC called Save America, which he has used to pay his legal bills — reported on Saturday that it had almost $4.1 million on hand at the end of March, roughly the same amount as it had at the end of February.

The group spent $5 million in March, including $3.7 million in bills to the legal teams defending him. Mr. Trump’s campaign itself also paid about $473,000 in legal expenses.

A super PAC backing Mr. Trump, MAGA Inc., reported raising $9.4 million in March, including a $5 million contribution from the former Trump cabinet official Linda McMahon and $4.2 million from Robert T. Bigelow, an aerospace and real estate mogul.

With national polls consistently suggesting that the rematch between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden could hinge on a few states or a single one, that has magnified the candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is running as an independent.

It has also drawn attention to how the liberal scion is paying for his campaign and what he is spending money on, including for ballot access and security.

His selection of Nicole Shanahan, a wealthy Silicon Valley lawyer and investor, as his running mate already appears to have become a boon for his campaign. Of the $5.4 million that Mr. Kennedy raised in March, $2 million came from Ms. Shanahan, who until last year was married to the Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

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