Trump seeks to make criminal allegations pay with 2024 fundraising drive

By Alexandra Ulmer and Jason Lange

(Reuters) – Less than two hours after news of his indictment broke, former President Donald Trump appealed to supporters to help with his legal defense, hoping their outrage will boost his coffers as he seeks the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

“Please make a contribution – of truly any amount – to defend our movement from the never-ending witch hunts and WIN the WHITE HOUSE in 2024,” said an email sent by a Trump fundraising group called the Trump Save America Joint Fundraising Committee.

A Manhattan grand jury indicted Trump after a probe into hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels. Trump, who has denied making any payment, has claimed the charges are evidence of a left-wing plot – an argument made in the fundraising email to supporters on Thursday.

The indictment will likely encourage his most fervent grassroots supporters to donate, political analysts and donors said, handing Trump a financial bump for the first quarter of the year as a likely 2024 Republican rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, gains favor with deep-pocketed donors.

“Trump’s fundraising will go through the roof,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist in Washington. “More perceived politically motivated indictments could cause a large spike in small-dollar donations for Trump and cut into DeSantis efforts on raising money.”

Even before Thursday’s news of the indictment, the Trump campaign had said that it had raised $2 million in grassroots donations roughly in the week after March 18, when Trump said he was facing arrest in the hush money investigation.

Trump’s online fundraising has shown signs of weakening over the last year, according to financial disclosures made to the Federal Election Commission. 

    His main fundraising groups gathered about $46 million in the second half of 2022, less than the roughly $50 million they raised in the same period of 2021, according to filings by WinRed, the main Republican platform for online fundraising.

    The former president is due to release by April 15 the figures for his presidential campaign’s finances during the first three months of 2023.

At the end of 2022, Trump and an allied super PAC reported having close to $80 million across several fundraising accounts. Recent financial disclosures point to DeSantis, who is expected to declare a presidential run in the next few months, as having nearly the same amount.

While Trump has been able to count on a dedicated core of supporters, many in the donor class are tired of him and eager for a fresh face, with DeSantis a particular favorite, according to interviews with more than a dozen donors.

(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer and Jason Lange, editing by Ross Colvin and Grant McCool)