President TrumpDonald John TrumpDHS to label white supremacists as the ‘most persistent and lethal threat’ to the US: report Buttigieg slams Trump over comments on fallen soldiers: ‘He must think we’re all suckers’ White House tells federal agencies to cancel ‘divisive’ racial sensitivity training: report MORE and his affiliated political groups have reportedly spent at least $58.4 million in donations they’ve received on legal and compliance work since he first started running for office in 2015.
According to figures from a joint project by The New York Times and the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute, the spending on Trump’s behalf covers legal work that is routine for any president or political candidate but also cases in which he has personal interests at stake, including enforcing nondisclosure agreements.
Among the expenses paid for with campaign donations are costs for lawyers who are seeking over $1 million in damages from a former campaign staffer who claimed she was subjected to sexual discrimination and harassment by another aide. Other expenses include legal costs during the Russia investigation and a lawsuit seeking to block enforcement of a California law requiring the president to release his tax returns.
Many of the bills that are ultimately being footed by donors to Trump and the Republican Party have come from the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) “recount account,” a fund that was created in 2014 that allows for much larger contributions by individuals to political parties with a cap of $106,500 per person, far greater than the normal $2,800 limit. The account was created at the request of campaign finance lawyers as well as both Democratic and Republican party leaders.
While using campaign donations to pay legal expenses is allowed by campaign finance law, The Times noted that Trump has expanded the practice to include payments for his personal and business interests. The expansive accounts for legal expenses have helped usher in a spike in available cash for both parties, but the Federal Election Commission has issued few rules governing how the money can be spent.
Among the chief recipients of campaign funds is the Jones Day law firm, which has garnered nearly $19 million from the Trump campaign, RNC and an affiliated super PAC to wage lawsuits, including those brought by people who claim the president sent out information obtained by Russian hackers and a Missouri man who said he was arrested for laughing at a Trump rally.
The fund has also been tapped to pay for legal defenses during the Russia investigation and to enforce nondisclosure agreements.
Neither the Trump campaign nor the RNC immediately responded to requests for comment from The Hill.
Former President Obama and the Democratic National Committee doled out $10.7 million on legal and compliance expenses covering the equivalent period starting in 2007, while President George W. Bush also spent much less than Trump.