Trump's flat fundraising and Haley's big donors: Takeaways from the 2024 money chase

Former President Donald Trump hit the same fundraising pace in the first three months of 2023 as in the relatively sleepy post-midterm weeks after his 2022 campaign launch.

That’s the main takeaway from new reports detailing campaigns’ fundraising and spending from January through March, which were due to the Federal Election Commission on Saturday. The line-item fundraising and spending details provide new clues about the state of the presidential race and the battle for Congress, including a GOP 2024 field rolling in early money.

Trump’s campaign reported raising more than $14.4 million from January through March. His joint fundraising committee, which does not file a fundraising report until July, raked in approximately $4.4 million more for $18.8 million in total, according to a person familiar with the figures, which were first reported by Politico. 

Taken together, that amounts to an average haul of nearly $1.6 million per week for Trump’s political apparatus. In the first six and a half weeks of his campaign, Trump raised nearly $1.5 million per week — totals that saw his campaign looking for a boost, NBC News reported in January.

Trump’s campaign touted that boost after he was indicted last month on charges related to allegedly paying hush money to two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump. That indictment came on March 30, one day before the first fundraising period ended, and his campaign says the fundraising boom stretched into April. Depending on how long it lasts, it might have completely altered the trajectory of Trump’s campaign fundraising power.

Here are more takeaways from NBC News’ analysis of the filings:

Trump spent six figures on legal-related fees

In his first quarter filing, Trump reported having 25 employees on payroll, including longtime political advisor Jason Miller. He also reported spending almost $162,000 on expense categories that include the word “legal,” according to the campaign finance filing.

That spending comes as Trump has faced multiple investigations, including the hush money probe. He is also facing three separate investigations — one in Georgia and two federal investigations in Washington — for his alleged role in seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia, his alleged involvement in organizing the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol and his handling of classified documents.

Trump’s rivals are raising money for the long haul

Trump’s campaign had $13.9 million left in its account as of March 31, but some of his rivals for the GOP nomination are also looking well funded, meaning Republicans can prepare for a long primary battle. Candidates more often drop out of presidential races because they run out of money, rather than because of poor polling numbers.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who launched an exploratory committee this week, actually had even more money in his Senate campaign account — $21.9 million — all of which he could transfer to a presidential run if he decides to jump in officially. 

And former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley’s campaign had $4.6 million on hand after the first fundraising period of her campaign. Her campaign reported raising $5.1 million in the first quarter (although her team has said her political apparatus as a whole raised $11 million during the first six weeks of her campaign).

Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley at a rally in Gilbert, S.C., on April 6, 2023.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley at a rally in Gilbert, S.C., on April 6.Meg Kinnard / AP file

Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has not yet filed his first quarter fundraising report. 

One thing to keep an eye out for: Trump’s campaign is practically swimming in small-dollar donations from his email list, the closest thing to a renewable resource in campaign fundraising. Some of his rivals, meanwhile, may have to lean on bigger donors to keep up in 2023 — but donors who give the maximum primary contribution of $3,300 won’t be able to give more help to their chosen campaign unless that candidate wins the nomination.

According to a NBC News analysis, Haley’s first filing includes more than $3 million in donations from contributors who gave $3,300 or even $6,600 — a maximum primary and general election gift. So not only is some of that money locked up for the primary, those core supporters also can’t give more funds to aid Haley’s primary campaign directly.

Questions marks remain as Senate battlefield takes shape

Further down the ballot, a handful of senators who haven’t yet announced if they’ll seek re-election in 2024 sent different signals with their fundraising.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the Arizona independent who left the Democratic party last year, raised over $2.1 million in the first quarter of this year, fueled by maximum donors from the world of big-money investing — and some donors from the world of big-money Republican fundraising. 

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., has already announced that he’ll run for the Democratic Senate nomination next year. He raised $3.7 million in the same time frame, significantly outpacing Sinema, though Sinema has millions more socked away in her campaign account.

On the flip side of the fundraising ledger, Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat who has served in the Senate since 2007, raised just $15,000 in the first quarter of this year, fueling rumors that he may be retiring.

Several names have been floated as possible contenders to replace him in the heavily Democratic state, including Democratic Reps. Jamie Raskin and David Trone. In the first quarter of this year, Raskin raised almost $510,000, and Trone raised $185,000.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is also still weighing his options, not ruling out another run for Senate or even for president. His campaign raised just $371,000 in the first fundraising quarter, but he ended March with $9.7 million in his campaign account. His first quarter haul is lower than the same quarter in the 2018 election cycle, when he raised $556,000. 

House members gear up for tough races

In the battle for the House, every race is going to matter, with Democrats needing a net gain of just five seats to take control of the chamber. That has some members — including one who faced a surprisingly close race last year — already gearing up for a fight in a big way. 

Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., a two-decade House veteran, got pulled into a surprisingly tough race in 2022 and won by just 5 points. His latest filing shows that he’s stepped up his fundraising after last year’s scare. Calvert raised over $1 million in the first quarter of 2023, compared to just $227,000 in the first quarter of 2021, at the beginning of the last election cycle.

Another California Republican, Rep. John Duarte, raised almost $600,000 in the first quarter of this year. In the first quarter of 2022, he raised $467,000. He won his 2022 race by just 0.4%.