Trump allies launch new super PAC to bolster GOP candidates in midterms as former President eyes 2024 campaign
By Gabby Orr, Dan Merica and Fredreka Schouten, CNN
(CNN) -- Several top allies of Donald Trump will launch a new super PAC to buoy Republican candidates who have earned the former President's support in the midterm elections, CNN has learned, following months of minimal spending by Trump-aligned groups that has frustrated party strategists left to fill the void.
Called MAGA, Inc., the new group will meld with an existing Trump-sanctioned super PAC that has been mostly overseen by former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and former US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell. As of last month, that group had spent slightly more than $2 million to boost Trump-backed Senate and House candidates in their primary races earlier this year.
"President Trump is committed to saving America, and Make America Great Again, Inc. will ensure that is achieved at the ballot box in November and beyond," Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said in a statement Friday.
Budowich has been charged with running the new super PAC, along with former Trump campaign aide Steven Cheung, who will serve as its communications director; longtime Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio; veteran GOP operative Chris LaCivita, who will become the group's chief strategist; and Sergio Gor, whose conservative publishing outfit released Trump's first post-presidential book last year (a collection of White House and campaign trail photographs) and will serve as a senior adviser to MAGA, Inc. Alex Pfeiffer, a former producer for Fox News' Tucker Carlson, will also join the operation.
The newest Trump fundraising vehicle was first reported by Politico.
With the November elections fast approaching, Trump has been under pressure to dip into his own mountain of cash to support candidates who he helped prevail in competitive primaries but who are now trailing or running close to their Democratic opponents. The former President, who has complained to allies in recent weeks about the Senate contests in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Arizona, had around $103 million in his coffers at the end of August, according to campaign finance reports from his leadership PAC, Save America, and the Bondi-run group.
People familiar with the matter said most of those funds will be transferred to MAGA, Inc., which is expected to start spending as soon as next week in key midterm races.
"He's very concerned about Pennsylvania," said a person who spoke to Trump recently and requested anonymity for fear of retribution. "We were talking about Pennsylvania and [GOP Senate hopeful Mehmet] Oz had been quoted as saying he would have voted to certify the 2020 election and the President is saying, 'Now, why would he have done that?' "
This same person said Trump has also expressed concern about Senate candidate J.D. Vance, who is facing an unexpectedly competitive challenge from Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan in Ohio. "He really likes J.D. but Ohio is a little too close for comfort."
Until now, Trump has refused to open the spigots much to help his handpicked candidates in their general election contests. While Save America gave $1 million to a pro-Oz PAC just before the Pennsylvania primary, the former President has not contributed financially to the Republican Senate hopeful since then. In Ohio, Save America wrote a $5,000 check to the Vance campaign in June.
Trump aides have long insisted that his spending is supplemented by the campaign rallies and fundraisers he has held to benefit various Republicans -- including recent rallies in both Pennsylvania and Ohio -- along with his coveted endorsement, which helped many of his chosen candidates prevail in contested primaries earlier this year. But others say the lack of financial assistance from the former President shouldn't be discounted.
"Trump never went out of his way to help candidates -- unless he sees a way that it helps him. His camp says, 'Well, he's helping them by doing these events,' which I would say aren't actually that helpful because you never know whether Trump is going to insult the candidate," said Doug Heye, a GOP strategist and former communications director for the Republican National Committee. At his recent rally in Ohio, Trump told the crowd that Vance "is kissing my ass" to maintain his support.
Overall, federal records show that Trump's main fundraising vehicle, Save America, has contributed more than $8.4 million to candidates and committees at the federal, state and local level since January 2021 -- a significant sum, but virtually nothing compared to what other major Republican groups have committed and only about $1.4 million more than what the former President has spent on legal fees this cycle (nearly $7 million). The pro-GOP Senate Leadership Fund is spending about $205 million on advertisements in Senate races this cycle, per a CNN analysis, which includes what the group has already spent and its ad reservations over the next month. Meanwhile, the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is aligned with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, is planning to spend $141 million this fall on ads alone.
A person familiar with the new Trump group said it will spend "heavily" in key Senate, congressional and gubernatorial races this fall. Trump is likely to give preferential treatment to candidates he's previously endorsed, and the group will focus most of its spending on TV advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts, said a person close to Trump.
The group had been in the planning stages for several months and could become part of his campaign apparatus if he launches a third presidential bid, as is widely expected.
"I don't think anyone's expecting Trump to spend every single penny he has but there will be a significant investment moving forward," said the person close to Trump.
After months of eyeing a pre-midterm launch date for a 2024 campaign, Trump is now waiting to see how Republicans perform in November -- hoping to avoid blame if the party's overall gains prove disappointing.
"He's been convinced there's no upside to doing it before the midterms and plenty of potential downsides. Right now, the goal is Q1 of next year but, of course, once the election has passed, he could really do it at any time," a Trump adviser said.
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