Trump and DeSantis allies ride election spending spree in 2024

By Jason Lange and Nathan Layne

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two groups allied with former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have pumped more than $30 million into the 2024 Republican presidential race, more than five times the spending of all outside groups at the same time of the 2020 campaign, according to a Reuters analysis, a sign of the intense competition between the two leaders.

The Trump-supporting group, known as MAGA Inc, has spent more than $23 million this year, almost entirely on ads attacking DeSantis, according to Reuters analysis of preliminary financial disclosures to the Federal Election Commission.

Never Back Down, the outside group supporting DeSantis, said it spent more than $7 million, but that doesn’t include all of its spending before its official campaign launch in May. Figures compiled by ad-tracking firm AdImpact indicate that Never Back Down spent more than $15 million.

Between them, MAGA Inc and Never Back Down led the more than $40 million in presidential race spending so far reported by outside groups, known as Super PACs, according to Reuters analysis. Groups are due to submit more complete information next month.

Super PACs are a special type of American fundraising group that typically takes a lot of money from the wealthiest Americans to get around contribution limits meant to guard against corruption. Exemption is permitted as long as Super PACs remain independent of the campaign they support.

This year’s record spending by outside groups has been fueled in part by massive transfers by candidate-linked political groups.

Trump’s Save America Group, which he created before launching his 2024 campaign, transferred $60 million remaining from the 2022 mid-terms to MAGA Inc, according to the Save America disclosures.

A group linked to DeSantis’ re-election effort during the 2022 Florida gubernatorial campaign transferred more than $80 million to Never Back Down, according to documents posted on that group’s website.

Campaign finance experts say the transfers helped each side increase up-front expenses while creating important financial ties between the candidates and outside groups.

Trump’s Save America group is a political committee that by law cannot support its own electoral candidacies, according to legal experts.

“It just exposes the lie that Super PACs are independent,” said Stuart McPhail, a campaign finance lawyer with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan watchdog. “Why would the candidates take tens of millions of dollars they control and give it to a group they don’t control? They wouldn’t.”

Another nonpartisan watchdog group, the Campaign Legal Center, filed legal challenges with the Federal Election Commission against MAGA Inc and Never Back Down transfers, arguing that Super PAC funding was partly controlled by candidates.

“We’ve never had anything like this before in campaign finance,” said Saurav Ghosh, an attorney at the Campaign Legal Center.


The Trump and DeSantis campaigns did not respond to requests for comment, but both Super PACs said the transfers were legal.

The Never Back Down transfer came from a group that raised the money as Friends of Ron DeSantis, but changed their name shortly before sending the funds. Never Back Down officials say DeSantis did not order the transfer.

“Ron DeSantis had disassociated himself from it and the new management made the decision of what to do with that money,” a Never Back Down official said.

MAGA Inc called the allegations politically motivated.

“Campaign Legal Center is a left-wing fringe organization that exists to file frivolous complaints,” said MAGA Inc spokesperson Alex Pfeiffer.

The Campaign Legal Center is headed by Trevor Potter, who was the Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission in the 1990s and later the general counsel for former U.S. Senator John McCain’s Republican presidential campaigns.

Many campaign finance experts expect the Federal Election Commission, whose leadership is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, will likely reject the center’s challenge.


Super PACs, which are also used aggressively by Democrats, gobbled up more than $3 billion in the 2020 election along with other independent spending groups, according to OpenSecrets, a Washington nonprofit that tracks money in politics.

In the current election cycle, MAGA Inc ads are hammering DeSantis for votes cast in Congress a decade ago to cut Social Security and Medicare retirement spending for the elderly.

The Never Back Down ads highlight the Florida governor’s opposition to abortion and portray DeSantis, 44, as younger and composed than Trump, 77.

Campaign finance experts say that for groups supporting Trump and DeSantis, transfers send a message that giving to the Super PAC is as good as giving to the campaign.

“If someone comes to the Super PAC and donates a million dollars, it’s like putting a million dollars in a candidate’s pocket,” McPhail said.

(Reporting by Jason Lange in Washington and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, additional reporting by James Oliphant; Editing by Scott Malone and Suzanne Goldenberg)

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