Details on how Donald Trump's presidential campaign plans to collaborate on fundraising with national and state Republican Party committees are emerging. But the arrangement may leave some battleground states out of the loop.
The presumptive GOP nominee's presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee have inked deals that will allow political donors to contribute an aggregate of $449,400 to the Trump Victory and the Trump Make America Great Again committees.
Trump Victory is an effort between the Trump campaign, the RNC and 11 state parties: Arkansas, Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. The RNC and the Trump campaign are jointly operating the Trump Make America Great Again Committee.
“The RNC is excited to team up with the Trump campaign to expand the robust ground, data, and digital operation we have in place to elect Republicans up and down the ballot,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus in a statement . “Donald Trump knows the importance of keeping our Republican majorities at the local, state, and national level, and these joint fundraising agreements are another vital step in making that happen.”
But just how much of the money raised through the joint fundraising efforts will go toward specific battleground states — such as Ohio, Pennsylvania or New Hampshire with vulnerable incumbents — is unknown.
Campaign finance experts said that joint-fundraising committees, common in recent years, have until later in the election cycle to move money between state party committees. Those funds can then be transferred to states with hotly contested races. Or the money can be directed back to the national party committee.
[Senate Republicans Try Escaping Trump Vortex] “If it’s not the battleground states, then it’s mostly states where the Trump campaign has a good relationship with the state party,” said Chris DeLacy, a partner at the law firm Holland & Knight. “Maybe that money goes to the battleground states.”
The Trump campaign, its finance chair Steven Mnuchin and the campaign’s attorney Donald McGahn II, a partner at Jones Day, did not return calls and emails seeking comment about the joint committees.
Party officials in some battleground states said they were open to the idea of joining the Trump-RNC committees but did not have information about the deals. “We don’t have anything set up with them yet — it depends on how the Trump campaign and the RNC set things up,” said Megan Sweeney, communications director of the Pennsylvania GOP, earlier this week. Incumbent Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, a Republican, has a tough re-election fight in the Keystone State.
Other state party committees, including Ohio where Republican Sen. Rob Portman is in a tight contest , reported a similar lack of information this week.
Joint committees may raise money simultaneously, combining their donation limits and then divvying up the cash.
Such arrangements are increasingly common and can simplify the fundraising process, especially for mega-donors who make one big contribution instead of many smaller ones. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has a joint fundraising committee known as the Hillary Victory Fund with more than 30 state parties, and it can raise about $350,000 per person.
“They’re almost universally a net positive because it allows donors to have a different avenue to support their candidate or cause,” said Brian Walsh, a former communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, now with the public relations firm Rokk Solutions. “The money that goes to the state parties will be used for getting out the vote, which helps down ballot too.”
Even as Trump himself continues to cut a controversial profile as the presumptive GOP nominee, some state parties seem eager for the association. “Particularly when you have a presidential campaign that is obviously not well-organized at the moment on the ground, any cash infusion that can go to the state parties will help everyone,” Walsh noted.
Longtime New Hampshire Republican consultant Tom Rath agreed. “Any assistance we can get from any legal source is probably welcomed,” said Rath, a partner in the Concord firm Rath, Young and Pignatelli. “Especially for our party in New Hampshire, which has not had a governor in a good long time, and that usually is the fountain from which all state party money flows.”
[ K Street Cash Helps Boost Clinton's White House Bid ] New Hampshire's Republican senator, Kelly Ayotte, is another vulnerable incumbent . Some of the party committees in battleground states, such as the Granite State and Florida, did not return calls seeking comment about whether they planned to sign on at some point to the joint-fundraising effort.
DeLacy, a Republican, said he believes the joint committee is coming together in time to have an effect on down-ballot races. The presidential candidate, he added, always gets his or her money first, then the national party committee and then the states.
“Since Trump hasn’t done a whole lot of fundraising, period, and they’re just starting this, I think there will be some appetite, so I do think the states are going to get their money,” DeLacy said.
The first $2,700, the maximum contribution limit to a presidential campaign per election, usually goes to the presidential candidate, said Larry Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center and a former top attorney for the Federal Election Commission. For a contributor who has already maxed out to Trump, for example, the money would be divided up between the national and state party committee, Noble said.
In some cases, though, the state party committees direct the money back to the national party committee, thus helping the presidential contender, sometimes at the expense of the state committees.
That’s a potential concern for Rath, the New Hampshire GOP operative. “The thing I always worry about, when you get money from outside the normal sort of sources, is the ability of the people on the ground, the state people, to control how it’s spent,” said Rath, a former Republican Party national committeeman for New Hampshire from 1996 to 2000 and again from 2002 to 2007.
[Candidates Decry Political Money, but Change Is Unlikely] Noble, a campaign finance reform advocate, said Trump's shift from a self-described opponent of big political money to one with his hand out for that big cash raised an intriguing question.
“I agreed with him when he said contributions buy access,” Noble said. “So a fair question to him now is: Are you saying you’re being bought?”