President Trump's team is urging supporters to donate money to the "Official Election Defense Fund." Otherwise, "the Left will try to STEAL this election!” reads one typical text that has gone out to potential donors, reports Reuters. However, a look at the fine print might come as a surprise to those who contribute—the money is unlikely to go toward any recounts or election challenges. Both Reuters and Politico come to that conclusion after an examination. Coverage:
- Steep hill: No money goes to the election defense fund touted in the pitches unless a person gives more than $8,333, according to both sites.
- Instead: Prior to that amount, 60% goes to a new leadership PAC started by Trump and 40% goes to the Republican National Committee. The RNC can spend money on recount efforts but is not obligated to do so; lawyers think the PAC cannot legally use its money on recounts, per Politico. The latter site says the money will instead "set the stage for the president's next act."
- Example: If someone makes a $500 contribution, $300 goes to Trump's Save America PAC and $200 to the RNC, per Reuters. None goes to a recount fund. Both the PAC and the RNC have broad leeway to use the money as they wish. Trump could use the PAC money for personal expenses such as travel, while the RNC could use the money for the upcoming Georgia runoff races in the Senate.
- A critic: "This looks like a good old-fashioned bait and switch," writes Paul S. Ryan of Common Cause in an op-ed at USA Today. He thinks Trump donors are being duped with pitches that strongly suggest all of their money will go to the legal challenges and recounts. He charges that PACs such as the one Trump set up amount to "personal slush funds."
- Another critic: Dana Milbank at the Washington Post has similar harsh words. Trump isn't actually trying to overturn the election, writes Milbank. "He’s simply running one more scam before he leaves office that would enable him to enrich himself."
- A defense: Ohio pastor Darrell Scott tells Reuters that he doesn't think fellow Trump supporters will mind at all. "I see this as two pockets on the same pair of pants," he says. "It doesn’t matter if it goes into the left or the right pocket. In the end, the money will be used for a legitimate purpose that his supporters will get behind."
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