When Donald Trump told the audience at CPAC (and the more than 8 million people watching via cable news and livestream) that, “There’s only one way to contribute to our efforts to elect ‘America First’ Republican conservatives and, in turn, to make America great again. And that’s through Save America PAC and donaldjtrump.com,” it sent a strong message to the GOP establishment. That message was that Trump is done – done!- allowing the GOP and its leaders to make bank off of his name while publicly distancing themselves from him.
Since the election was called for Joe Biden, and especially since January 6, numerous GOP elected officials have made negative comments about Trump, and other prominent Republicans have been extremely vocal about their desire to move the party “past” Trump, but know that they need him in order to raise enough money to flip the House and maybe the Senate in the midterms. So, they keep that email fundraising machine going.
For the first month or so after leaving office, Trump said nothing about it publicly while making noise behind the scenes. When it had become clear that nothing was changing, Trump used the opportunity of his first CPAC speech to flex his influence muscle. As the AP wrote:
While some Republicans grapple with how fiercely to embrace the former president, the organizations charged with raising money for the party are going all in. The Republican National Committee and the party’s congressional campaign arms are eager to cash in on Trump’s lure with small donors ahead of next year’s midterm elections, when the GOP hopes to regain control of at least one chamber of Congress.
But there’s a problem: Trump himself. In his first speech since leaving office, the former president encouraged loyalists to give directly to him, essentially bypassing the traditional groups that raise money for GOP candidates.
Without realizing it, the AP really hit the nail on the head (and agreed with me). And, without realizing it, the RNC committee members who spoke to the AP showed everybody what they’re really afraid of. These people who are allegedly big fans of free markets and competition, who believe that school choice is a good thing because it forces public schools to innovate and create, afraid of that same type of free market competition for donor money and grassroots support with Donald Trump – because they know they’ll lose. Having learned nothing from the past six years or so, their solution is to try once again to shame Donald Trump into silence by claiming he’s doing something unorthodox.
Bill Palatucci, a RNC member from New Jersey, called Trump’s comments “unwelcome” and “counterproductive” and voiced concern that the GOP would suffer further losses, like Georgia’ Senate runoff elections in January, if they don’t work together.
“Listen, it’s a free country. Anybody can form a federal PAC or a super PAC and there’s always lots of competition for dollars. But the crossing the line there is then to also tell people to not give to the important committees of the national party,” said Palatucci. “There’s got to be a willingness on the former president to look beyond his own self-interest.”
Well, Palatucci must be part of the Never Trump cabal of RNC members who are working their hardest to minimize Trump’s ability to continue to represent the working class, regular people across the country who are ignored by both parties. The “important committees” of the national party have done nothing to create a strategic plan to beat back the progressive march by prioritizing districts in which they partner with state parties to identify and develop candidates, which is what needs to be done. Instead they identify candidates the establishment prefers and funnel money to them, even directing top donors in places like California to bypass giving to the state party or to local candidates and give to the “important committees” instead. And Palatucci doesn’t even see the irony in his statement – because all he cares about is money going to the committees he has influence over.
Palatucci also blames the Georgia Senate runoff losses on divisions between Trump and the national party. Rebutting that would require a separate column, so we’ll just leave that one alone.
As of the time the AP story was written, Trump hadn’t explicitly asked supporters to not give to the RNC, NRSC, or NRCC. He was (and is) scheduled to attend the RNC Spring donor retreat in Palm Beach, and an “anonymous source” told the AP that Trump recently told RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel that he “wants to continue fundraising for the Republican party.” We now know that that was a strategically-placed alleged quote.
As I covered previously, Trump’s attorneys served the “Big Three” Republican fundraising entities (RNC, NRSC, and NRCC) with cease and desist letters on Friday, telling them to stop using Trump’s name and/or likeness in their fundraising efforts and on merchandise. On Monday the RNC rejected Trump’s request, saying in a letter that the committee:
“…has every right to refer to public figures as it engages in core, First Amendment-protected political speech” and said “it will continue to do so in pursuit of these common goals.”
But [the RNC’s attorney] maintained that Trump had also “reaffirmed” to the chair of the RNC, Ronna McDaniel, over the weekend “that he approves of the RNC’s current use of his name in fundraising and other materials, including for our upcoming donor retreat event at Palm Beach at which we look forward to him participating.”
Whether or not Trump “reaffirmed” that the RNC could continue using his name over the weekend (which seems doubtful), remains to be seen, but Trump’s position as of Monday night was pretty clear. In an email to supporters, Trump said:
“They do nothing but hurt the Republican Party and our great voting base — they will never lead us to Greatness.” He instead again urged his supporters to send their contributions directly to his own Save America PAC by using his personal website, adding, “We will bring it all back stronger than ever before!”
For conservatives who felt that they finally had someone fighting for them – and not for special interests – in the White House, Trump’s actions are welcome. If conservatives en masse buy what the RNC, NRCC, and NRSC are selling, then they have nothing to worry about.
“Trump’s call to give directly to him shows that the normal organs of the party … are going to have to fight for relevance in the 2022 cycle,” said Dan Eberhart, a longtime Republican donor who has given large sums to [the ‘Big Three’] as well as to Trump’s campaign.
But if RNC committee members like Bill Palatucci continue to work to marginalize Trump those PACs are sure to suffer, because Trump will double down on his efforts to keep the PACs from mentioning his name.
Let the best ideas and candidates win.
Because both the GOPe and the Democrats don’t want you to watch it, here is Trump’s CPAC speech.