President Joe Biden entered the election year with an early financial edge over Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, new filings show – a bright spot for an incumbent with low approval ratings who is girding for a bruising general election rematch with his 2020 foe.
The video is from a previous report.
Biden had nearly $46 million in cash on hand in his main campaign committee, compared with $33 million amassed by Trump, who is still working to dispatch his lone, remaining major rival for the GOP nomination, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
But the reports underscore the challenges ahead for the president: Despite facing no real threats to his nomination, Biden has not built the cash reserves that would allow him to swamp Trump’s campaign, even as the former president faces mounting legal woes and Haley’s staying power in the race.
Trump’s available cash was more than double the $14.6 million in reserves held by Haley, according to Wednesday night filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Haley’s consistently strong fundraising has helped sustain her long-shot bid, despite placing far behind Trump in the Iowa and New Hampshire nominating contests. She has ignored demands by Trump and his allies to exit the race, insisting she’s the Republican best positioned to unseat Biden in the fall.
Haley is currently in the midst of a multistate fundraising swing to build up the campaign dollars needed to prolong the fight until her home state primary on February 24 or possibly beyond to Super Tuesday on March 5.
Here are some takeaways from the new filings:
Trump is spending – a lot
Although his main campaign committee entered 2024 with a cash surplus, Trump’s political operation is spending heavily – as he uses campaign donations to help underwrite his mounting legal bills.
Two of the former president’s political action committees spent nearly $29 million combined on legal fees during the last six months of 2023. In all, Save America PAC and Make America Great Again PAC spent more than $50 million of contributors’ money on legal expenses last year, according to FEC records.
The former president faces four separate criminal indictments, along with high-profile civil litigation.
Trump has consistently diverted 10% of the money his campaign collects from political donors through a joint fundraising committee into Save America, the primary vehicle he has used to underwrite legal bills.
Save America was once so flush with cash that Trump’s political operation used its money to seed a super PAC, MAGA Inc., that advertises in support of his presidential campaign.
But as Trump’s legal bills have grown and its cash dwindled, Save America clawed back more than $42 million in refunds from the super PAC last year.
Haley keeps it frugal
The new reports underscore how much Haley has kept her campaign expenses in check; she spent about $14.3 million during the final three months of 2023, but took in $17.3 million.
The super PAC supporting her candidacy, SFA Fund, spent more freely.
Its year-end report shows that the group raised $50.2 million and spent $63.7 million between July and December. The substantial burn rate left the super PAC with just $3.5 million in cash on hand entering 2024.
In an email to CNN on Wednesday night, an SFA Fund spokesperson said: “We continue to benefit from strong fundraising, which is why we are currently spending millions in South Carolina to support Nikki’s efforts.”
The group recently launched a new ad in the Palmetto State, casting Haley as the best alternative to both Trump and Biden.
The new filings show that some of the GOP’s biggest donors gave to the pro-Haley super PAC in the second half of last year – as establishment figures within the party sought a Trump alternative. They included Ken Griffin, CEO of the hedge fund Citadel, who gave $5 million; Jan Koum, the co-founder of the WhatsApp mobile messaging device, who gave $5 million and has given $10 million to the group in total; Paul Singer, another prominent hedge fund manager, who gave $5 million; and Jim Davis, the New Balance chairman, who gave $2.5 million.
Griffin and Singer are among the founders of the American Opportunity Alliance, a group of Republican donors who earlier this week entertained pitches from both Haley and Trump aides about the candidates’ paths forward – a sign that some donors are weighing future support for Trump as he moves closer to clinching his party’s nod.
Biden builds an operation
As an incumbent, Biden has the benefits of a bigger fundraising apparatus. Earlier in January, his campaign announced it had brought in $97.1 million for his reelection and the Democratic Party across several committees, including the Democratic National Committee. Together, those groups ended 2023 with more than $117 million cash on hand, the campaign said.
The latest filings for Biden’s main campaign account show he has begun to ramp up his campaign operation, spending nearly $19.3 million in the fourth quarter ended December 31 – more than he had at any point in 2023 after launching his reelection bid last April.
His staff had grown to more than 70 by year’s end, according to the filings, up from 38 during the third quarter of the year, and the campaign put some $12 million into advertising in the final three months of 2023.
As CNN has reported, some leading Democrats have raised concerns that the president’s campaign was not gearing up quickly enough for the fight ahead, which is shaping up to become one of the earliest general election battles in the modern era if Trump continues to steamroll through the early-voting states.
“While Donald Trump lights money on fire paying the tab on his various expenses, Team Biden Harris, powered by grassroots donors, is hard at work talking to the voters who will decide this election and building the campaign infrastructure to win in November,” TJ Ducklo, a Biden campaign spokesman, said in a statement.
Big-dollar contributors to Biden’s joint fundraising committee during the final three months of the year included financier George Soros, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Hollywood show runner Shonda Rhimes.