Politics

'They have better things to do' – Major Republican donors are staying away from Trump

Key Points
  • Several of the Republican Party's biggest and most influential donors are signaling that they don't plan on helping fund former President Donald Trump's political operation, at least for now.
  • Wealthy financiers have instead opted to spend money on the GOP's efforts to take back Congress or to support other potential 2024 presidential candidates such as Ron DeSantis and Tim Scott.
  • Donors are also concerned about how Trump's organization is spending the money it has raised from smaller donations.
  • "Big money, sophisticated people are just losing interest in this s--- show," said an advisor to longtime Trump allies in Silicon Valley.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference announcing a class action lawsuit against big tech companies at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster on July 07, 2021 in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

Several of the Republican Party's biggest and most influential donors are signaling that they don't plan on helping fund former President Donald Trump's political operation, at least for the moment.

Wealthy financiers such as Stephen Ross and Larry Ellison have instead opted to spend money on the GOP's efforts to take back Congress during next year's midterm elections or have shown support for potential 2024 presidential candidates such as Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Donors are also concerned about how Trump's organization is spending the piles of money it has raised from smaller donations.

"Big money, sophisticated people are just losing interest in this s--- show," said an advisor to longtime Trump allies in Silicon Valley. Many donors are tired of seeing the former president use his resources on rallies during which he often makes false claims including that the election was stolen from him, this person said.

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Trump has not ruled out running for president in 2024, and he has not made any official announcements. His political action committees have raised a great deal of money through email and text message appeals to supporters that often criticize President Joe Biden's performance, including, most recently, his handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal.

The Trump PACs had over $100 million on hand after the first half of 2021. CNBC has previously reported that his PACs spent nearly $8 million on legal fees and over $200,000 on Trump's properties earlier this year.

"Donors don't contribute out of the goodness of their heart. And right now they're being asked to donate to an organization that has no other purpose than pumping cash into someone who doesn't need it and isn't using it," said a Republican strategist who represents financiers on Wall Street. "They have better things to do." 

The donor consultants who spoke to CNBC declined to be identified in this story in order to avoid retribution from Trump and his supporters.

A Trump spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The pro-Trump Make America Great Again Action super PAC, which raised over $1.5 million in July and August, is not without some wealthy donors, according to new Federal Election Commission filings. MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who is an ardent spreader of false claims about the 2020 election, is among its donors, as are businesswoman and former GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Texas banking executive Andrew Beal and casino magnate Phillip Ruffin.

But bigger forces in Republican fundraising are instead focusing on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and GOP leadership's efforts to retake the House and funding pro-GOP redistricting efforts such as the National Republican Redistricting Trust. Others are helping the reelection campaigns of potential 2024 presidential contenders such as Scott, Rubio and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Several people who previously backed Trump held a fundraiser recently for DeSantis' 2022 gubernatorial campaign in the upper-crust Hamptons on Long Island. The invitation to the July event shows that the co-hosts for the event included former Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, along with billionaire investors Stephen Ross, John Paulson and Ken Griffin. 

Paulson was one of the few Wall Street donors who backed Trump's 2020 bid for president during the final stretch of the campaign.

Stephen Ross, who is also the owner of the Miami Dolphins, came under fire in 2019 when he hosted a fundraiser in the Hamptons for Trump. Ross and other principals of Related Cos. are investors in the luxury fitness brand Equinox. SoulCycle and Equinox distanced themselves from the Trump event as customers threatened to boycott.

Wilbur Ross and a representative for Paulson did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for Stephen Ross declined to comment.

Neither Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison nor Oracle CEO Safra Catz have given large sums of money to Trump's PACs post the election. Both helped raise money for Trump's reelection campaign. Ellison's California home was the site of a Trump fundraising event last year. In June of this year, however, Ellison gave $5 million to a super PAC supporting Scott's reelection efforts in South Carolina.

A spokesman for Catz and Ellison did not respond to a request for comment.

The Republican Jewish Coalition, whose PAC endorsed Trump during last year's election, is co-hosting a New York fundraiser for Rubio's 2022 reelection campaign in September, according to an invitation. The RJC's board of directors includes a slew of influential Republicans, including Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus, former Trump advisor Jason Greenblatt and former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

Trump also might not be able to count on financial help from Miriam Adelson, a megadonor and the widow of the late casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who died earlier this year. The couple were among the few business leaders who supported Trump during the last election. They gave millions to a pro-Trump super PAC in the final months of the campaign.

Since her husband's death, Adelson has privately indicated to allies that for now she doesn't have any immediate plans to use much of her money in politics. That could change as the midterms approach. Records show that Adelson contributed $5,000 in June to the Stand for America PAC, a committee founded by potential 2024 contender and former Trump United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley. 

A spokesman for Adelson's company, Las Vegas Sands, declined to comment.

Another key Trump and GOP financier is in legal hot water. Investor Tom Barrack was arrested on charges of illegally lobbying then-President Trump on behalf of the United Arab Emirates. Barrack has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Even if he weren't in trouble with the feds, Barrack had indicated that he might not have ended up supporting Trump, his longtime friend, for a 2024 run.

"Today it looks like it's a campaign of divisiveness, which I'm not interested in," Barrack told Bloomberg News before he was arrested. 

A spokesman for Barrack did not respond to a request for comment.

Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah were big Trump supporters during the 2016 campaign, yet there's no indication they'll throw their backing to him in 2024. CNBC reported in 2018 that the Mercers were planning to scale back their financial support for Trump.

Records show that the Mercers have not written major checks to any of Trump's PACs after his presidency. 

For the time being, they're backing a new face in GOP politics: "Hillbilly Elegy" author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance, who has adopted several Trump-style nationalist policy stances after having criticized the former president in the past.

Robert and Rebekah Mercer donated a combined $150,000 in March to a super PAC backing Vance's candidacy for the Ohio U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated by retiring Republican Rob Portman.

Representatives for the Mercers did not respond to requests for comment.