Swing-state Republicans are bleeding donors and money over Trump’s false campaign claims

By Tim Reid and Nathan Layne

(Reuters) – Real estate mogul Ron Weiser was one of Michigan’s Republican Party’s biggest donors, donating $4.5 million during the recent midterm election cycle. But not more.

Weiser, the party’s former chairman, halted his funding, citing concerns over the running of the organization. He says he disagrees with Republicans promoting lies about election results and insists it’s “ludicrous” to claim that Donald Trump, who lost Michigan by 154,000 voice in 2020, carried the state.

“I wonder if the state party has the expertise to spend the money well,” he said.

The withdrawal of backers like Weiser reflects the high price that Republicans in the battleground states of Michigan and Arizona are paying for their unqualified support for former President Trump and his unsubstantiated claims that the election of 2020 was stolen from him.

Both parties have hemorrhaged money in recent years, undermining Republican efforts to win back ultra-competitive states that could determine who wins the White House and control of the US Congress in next November’s election, according to a review by Reuters financial documents, plus interviews with six major donors and three campaign experts.

The Arizona Republican Party had less than $50,000 in cash reserves in its state and federal bank accounts as of March 31 to cover overhead costs such as rent, payroll and political campaign operations, according to the documents filed. At the same time four years ago, he had nearly $770,000.

The Michigan party’s federal account had about $116,000 as of March 31, down from nearly $867,000 two years ago. It has yet to release updated financial information for its state account this year.

Both parties have “surprisingly low cash reserves,” said Seth Masket, director of the nonpartisan Center on American Politics at the University of Denver, adding that state parties play a key electoral role, helping to promote candidates, fund out-voting efforts, pay for advertisements and recruit volunteers.

“Their ability to help candidates is currently very limited.”

The Arizona party spent more than $300,000 on “legal consultation” fees last year, according to its federal filings, which do not specify the type of legal work paid.

During that period, legal fees were paid to a company that had filed lawsuits seeking to overturn Trump’s defeat in Arizona, according to a separate campaign and legal disclosures. Money was also paid to lawyers who represented Kelli Ward, the former party chairwoman when the Justice Department subpoenaed her for her involvement in a scheme to falsely certify to Congress that Trump, and no Democratic President Joe Biden, had won Arizona, more when a congressman on the committee subpoenaed his phone records.

More than $500,000 was also spent in Arizona on election night and a bus tour for Trump-backed candidates statewide last year, according to financial records. All of those candidates, who backed the former president’s election-stealing claims, lost in last November’s midterm elections.

It’s not just Weiser who’s had enough.

Five other Republican donors to parties in Arizona or Michigan, who have each given tens of thousands of dollars over the past six years, told Reuters they had also stopped giving money, citing the efforts by state leaders to cancel the 2020 election, their support for losing candidates who back Trump’s election plot, and what they see as extreme positions on issues like abortion.

“It’s too bad we let the right wing of our party take over operations,” said Jim Click, whose family has long been a major Republican donor in Arizona. He and other donors said they would donate money directly to candidates or support them through other political fundraising groups.

Michigan State Party Chair Kristina Karamo did not respond to a request for comment on this story. While campaigning for her position, she said she wanted to sever ties with established donors, accusing them of exploiting the party for their own gain, and that she wanted to rely more on grassroots members.

Ward, who stepped down as Arizona party chair in January after four years at the helm, told Reuters she and her team always had income to cover expenses and left to her successor at the helm. minus three months of operating expenses plus a “robust fundraising operation”. .”

Dajana Zlaticanin, spokeswoman for new chairman Jeff DeWit, said that when he took office, “cash reserves were extremely low and previous bills kept coming in.” Contributions are on the rise, she said, with more than $40,000 raised in May.

The Republican National Committee, which oversees Republican political operations nationwide, did not respond to a request for comment on the finances of the two party states.


Arizona and Michigan, both won by Biden in 2020, are among just a handful of swing states likely to decide the presidential race in November 2024.

Not all Republican parties have done as badly financially as Arizona and Michigan. For example, the swing state of North Carolina — where Republican leaders haven’t been as focused on fighting Trump’s election theft — ended 2022 with nearly $800,000 in its federal accounts, according to data. documents.

It is, however, difficult to get a full picture of party finances, given the timelines for disclosure and because not all of their accounts are subject to reporting requirements.

Furthermore, state parties are not only dependent on individual donors, they also receive money from national party organizations, outside groups and political action committees.

Michigan was a hotbed of conspiracy theories after Trump lost the 2020 election, and this month Karamo was fined by a county judge for filing a lawsuit that made unsubstantiated allegations about voting irregularities in Detroit.

Tensions over transparency began to boil over.

Last week, former state party budget chairman Matt Johnson launched a campaign against Karamo, two days after he removed him from office, accusing him of keeping his committee in the dark. party finances.

“As far as we can judge from the sketchy information we have received, the party’s fundraising has been extremely meager and the expenses were so disproportionate to the income that they have put us on the path to bankruptcy,” he said.

Jason Roe, former executive director of the Republican Party of Michigan, said the financial numbers released so far by the party underscore the difficult task of sustaining operations without financial support from major donors.

“They are effectively broke and I don’t see the clouds parting and the sun rising on their fundraising abilities,” he said.


Examination of documents filed by the two Republican state parties shows that a virtual closure of the donor tap contributes to their financial difficulties.

Michigan’s federal party account took in $51,000 in the first three months of this year, lifting less than a quarter of its earnings in the first half of 2019, the same period last cycle. of presidential elections.

In March, Karamo told a gathering of local officials that the party had liabilities of $460,000 after the 2022 midterm elections. While not exceptionally high, the debt would normally be covered by a new Fund raising.

The Arizona party, meanwhile, raised about $139,000 in the first three months of this year, according to state and federal records. During the comparable period in 2019, in the months following the 2018 midterm elections, he raised over $330,000.

New Arizona President DeWit, who was NASA’s chief financial officer in the Trump administration, is working to make the party attractive to donors again by focusing on winning the election, the doorman said. -word Zlaticanin.

Some Michigan donors said they had begun discussing among themselves how best to bypass the state party and support individual Republican candidates. But the state party’s organizational clout will be hard to replicate, said Jeff Timmer, former executive director of the Republican Party of Michigan.

“You have to have boots on the ground and you can’t build that kind of infrastructure fast enough to win the 2024 election,” Timmer said.

Jonathan Lines, who preceded Ward as Arizona party chairman until 2019, said he expected the money from new donors to go primarily to political action committees and d other campaign funders, rather than the state party.

“But the fact that the state party isn’t well funded is detrimental to many Republican campaigns next year,” he added.

(Reporting by Tim Reid and Nathan Layne, editing by Ross Colvin and Pravin Char)

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