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Exclusive: Pro-Trump outside groups jointly raise $17.8 million

Trump pointing at the camera.
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The pro-Trump super PAC America First Action and its affiliated 501(c)(4) nonprofit, America First Policies, have jointly raised $17.83 million in the first 6 months of 2019 and will report $21 million cash on hand to the Federal Election Commission, according to an America First Action official.

Where it stands: The conservative organization, which Trump has blessed and which is led by former Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon, reports having jointly brought in 16,649 total donations from 11,655 unique contributors. An America First Action official also told Axios it has $40 million in outstanding donor pledges, and has collected $3.75 million of those pledges since the end of the reporting period on June 30.

Details ... The official listed the following names as the committee's top donors:

  • Real estate developer Geoffrey Palmer: $2 million
  • PAC Chair Linda McMahon: $1 million
  • Cherna Moskowitz: $1 million
  • Uline founders Liz and Dick Uilhein: $1 million
  • Texas oil tycoon Javaid Anwar: $750,000
  • Chicago Cubs co-owner Marlene Ricketts: $500,000
  • Elaine and Keith Wold: $500,000
  • Vital Pharmaceuticals: $250,000

Between the lines: The America First Action official said the two groups' combined total out-raised Priorities USA Action, the primary Democratic super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, during the same period in 2015.

  • FEC reports show that Priorities USA raised $15.7 million with $14.6 million cash on hand during the first 6 months of 2015. Adjusted for inflation, that's $16.8 million in 2019.

Yes, but: This isn't an apples-to-apples comparison. For one, the groups are raising money to support an incumbent president — a luxury Hillary Clinton's allies didn't enjoy in 2015. Secondly, America First is touting the joint fundraising haul of both its super PAC and its 501(c)(4) arm — an entity used to obscure the identities of donors. Each group raised $8.9 million in the first 6 months of 2019. It's unclear if Priorities USA used a 501(c)(4) during the first 6 months of 2015.

  • Priorities USA, which has morphed from a Hillary Clinton vehicle into the best-funded Democratic super-PAC targeting Trump in 2020, now also claims to have raised $23.4 million in the first 6 months of this year, noting in its own press release that the 2019 total dwarfs the 2015 figures from when Clinton was the expected nominee.
  • And the fundraising ability of outside groups doesn't necessarily determine the success of a campaign. In the first 6 months of 2015, the Jeb Bush PAC "Right to Rise" raised $103.2 million, only to have Bush drop out shortly after the South Carolina primary in February 2016.

What they're saying:

"My first order of business as Chair of America First Action is to crush our fundraising goals and ensure we have every dollar we need to fight off each of President Trump’s enemies in 2020. No other group is more dedicated to helping the President advance his agenda and win again,"
— Linda McMahon

What to watch: The official says the pro-Trump outside groups aim to raise $50 million of their $300 million goal by the end of 2019, and that "once the [remaining] pledges come in, we will exceed that objective."

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Geoffrey Palmer is a real estate developer — not an actor.