Allies of President Donald Trump have been quietly reaching out for help to big donors who had previously limited their financial support of his reelection push.
Those targeted included Steve Wynn, who resigned as CEO of Wynn Casinos after being accused of sexual misconduct, and Robert Mercer, the former co-CEO of hedge fund Renaissance Technologies and investor in the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica, according to people familiar with the effort. These people declined to be named because the outreach was conducted in private.
The pitch to these influential donors started last year, one of the people said. The effort, geared toward helping Trump defeat apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden this fall, appears to have been a success. Wynn has given more than $1 million to Republican-related entities in the 2020 election cycle. Mercer wrote a $360,600 check in February to one of the Trump-GOP joint fundraising committees.
Until the most recent contribution, Mercer had gone mostly dark in financing Trump's reelection. His family foundation, however, was spending millions on conservative causes that closely align with the president's agenda.
In other cases, there was a push to get new donors who were not Trump supporters during his last campaign. Stephen Rosenberg, a New York real estate executive who supported Hillary Clinton's campaign, has previously contributed over $360,000 to Trump Victory, a joint fundraising operation with the president's reelection campaign and the RNC.
The RNC started receiving checks from Wynn in April 2019. That same month, Trump's campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said the effort would cost at least $1 billion. "I definitely think we're looking at a billion-dollar operation, minimum," Parscale told Eric Bolling in an interview at the time.
The campaign is largely focused on expanding the digital infrastructure going into November and is connecting with voters through an all-out virtual campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic. In the first quarter of 2020, the Trump campaign, along with the RNC and their joint fundraising committees, raised $212 million. They have over $240 million on hand.
Still, despite the GOP financial dominance, Democrats are seeing strong support from wealthy donors. Of the top 10 financiers this cycle, including couples who have each given to various groups, six have given to Democrats and four to Republicans, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
The top Republican donors include Richard Uihlein, founder of shipping supply company Uline, and his wife, Elizabeth; Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman; and Jeffrey Yass, a founder of Susquehanna International Group. For Democrats, it's business executives such as Tom Steyer, Mike Bloomberg and Donald Sussman.
A lawyer for Wynn said the former casino CEO is not giving interviews and did not return a request for comment on his recent donations. Representatives for Mercer, the RNC and Trump campaign did not return repeated requests for comment.
Wynn was the Republican National Committee's finance chair before he resigned in 2018, when he was accused of sexual misconduct that he has vehemently denied. Leaders of the RNC, including Chair Ronna McDaniel, have publicly defended Wynn, arguing that he has never been charged with a crime and that his denials stand for themselves.
Wynn did not donate to Republican candidates the year he came under fire. Starting last year, however, the former casino magnate started giving big to the RNC, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and, most recently, to Trump Victory.
Mercer, meanwhile, had previously pumped money into a super PAC, Make America Number 1, that supported Trump's run in 2016.
Mercer was also embroiled in a scandal involving his daughter Rebekah Mercer, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, and the data firm they ran, Cambridge Analyica. The company was accused of improperly harvesting users' personal data from Facebook, which was then used to craft ads that critics say unfairly influenced voters against Clinton.
Before becoming chief executive of the Trump 2016 campaign, Bannon was vice president of Cambridge Analytica. Mercer's daughter was on the board of the data company.
Many in Republican circles explained that they now expect Rebekah Mercer to start writing bigger checks to Trump and other GOP movements after her father's most recent contribution.
A Biden spokesperson did not return a request for comment.