WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee heads into the 2024 presidential election year with just $7.6 million available, barely a tenth of what it had four years ago, after accounting for inflation.
Even compared to the end of 2015, the last time it was entering a presidential election year with the opposite party controlling the White House, it has just a third of the $21.3 million the party had then in inflation-adjusted dollars.
“There’s significant anxiety,” said Oscar Brock, a committee member from Tennessee.
Party leaders are keenly aware of the financial picture and how it makes the voter-registration and turnout operation it will need next November more difficult. And while members point to a number of factors for the weak fundraising, one name comes up frequently: Donald Trump, the coup-attempting former president under whose leadership the party has had one bad election after another.
Henry Barbour, a longtime member from Mississippi, said the reasons for the poor fundraising are obvious: “2020, and then 2022” — and at the top of the list: “Trump.”
One major donor to the party, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the low cash-on-hand figure right now is not particularly worrisome, and that the RNC anticipates that situation when it does not hold the White House and therefore cannot use the trappings of the presidency to raise money.
He added that RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, handpicked by Trump after his 2016 election win but who subsequently won two more two-year terms after his departure, had relied on Trump’s ability to bring in small-dollar donations, which ended when Trump announced his campaign a year ago.
“Ronna always counted on Trump. And Trump is gone,” the donor said. “They have no small-dollar donor base.”
He said that after the primaries have produced a nominee, the traditional large-dollar donors who write five- and six-figure checks would be back. “The older rich guys don’t want to throw money at the party until they know who the nominee is,” he said.
McDaniel did not respond to a request for comment through an aide.
Others, like Brock, are less optimistic that money will return because many donors are less than thrilled with yet another Trump nomination, particularly with the significant potential of heading into the general election with a convicted felon at the top of the ticket.
He said some donors are worried about the party’s stance on abortion, and how it might continue to energize swing voters to vote Democratic. Others were angry at the ouster of Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from the speakership in October and the drawn-out chaos during his replacement. “Fundraising all but dried up for those three weeks,” he said.
On top of that is Trump, who is leading both national polls as well as those in states that will open the primary season. “They see he’s the likely nominee. He’s the weakest of the potential candidates, and they’re not excited about that,” Brock said.
The RNC reported in its December filing this week to the Federal Election Commission that it has nearly $10 million in the bank but is carrying $2.3 million in debt. At this point in 2015, the party had $18.3 million on hand and $1.8 million debt, for a net of $16.4 million.
When that figure is adjusted for inflation, however, it translates to a net of $21.3 million in today’s dollars — nearly three times as much as the current amount.
And at this point in 2019, when Trump was in the White House, the party had available $63.2 million, which works out to $75.5 million in today’s dollars.
The Democratic National Committee, which now has the advantage of the White House, currently has $20 million on hand and debt of $287,000, leaving $19.8 million available.