GOP megadonors turn on Trump after Jan. 6 hearings, set sights on DeSantis, Pence and other 2024 hopefuls
- Despite a lack of support from corporate leaders, Donald Trump has maintained a massive campaign war chest thanks largely to small-dollar donors.
- His political action committee, Save America, had over a $100 million on hand going into June.
- Mike Pence spoke to the New York State Conservative Party last week, with tickets going for up to $5,000 per person, according to an invitation reviewed by CNBC.
- The former vice president is set to meet with dozens of donors at a private retreat in Montana in September, according to a person briefed on the matter.
Support from some of the Republican Party's biggest donors for a 2024 White House run by former President Donald Trump is dwindling, especially after damaging new details of his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, were revealed at a hearing Tuesday by the House select committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Republican financiers and their advisors have been privately meeting since the committee started to release the initial findings of its probe in a series of public hearings earlier this month, according to interviews with top GOP fundraisers who have helped the party raise millions of dollars. Most of the people asked not to be named because they didn't want to provoke retribution from Trump or his allies.
The people have been discussing the November midterms and who they're going to support in 2024. One name that doesn't often get brought up as a potential presidential candidate is Trump, these people explained.
"Donors are very concerned that Trump is the one Republican who can lose in 2024," Eric Levine, an attorney and longtime GOP fundraiser, said after the hearing Tuesday featuring testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. "I think donors were already moving away from Trump," he noted. Levine is co-hosting a fundraising event for the Trump-endorsed former TV host and current Pennsylvania Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz in New York in September, according to an invitation reviewed by CNBC.
For Trump, it's a similar theme to his first run for president. At that time, many corporate business leaders backed other Republican candidates like Jeb Bush early on in the race only later to back Trump when it was obvious he was going to capture the nomination.
'The silence is deafening'
A person close to some of the biggest real estate executives in New York who backed Trump during both of his runs for the White House said this time is different. Their view is he's taken "major hits" during the Jan. 6 hearings. None from that group are coming to defend him, at least for now.
"The silence is deafening," this person added.
The lack of interest in Trump by some of the wealthiest Republican donors could boost fundraising efforts for other GOP presidential hopefuls. Multiple Republicans could run in 2024, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. Scott is up for reelection in 2022 but recently headlined an event in Iowa, a key state for candidates running for president. Cotton reportedly has huddled with donors to discuss a possible 2024 run.
The former president has not publicly ruled out running for the White House again in two years after losing to President Joe Biden in 2020. Despite a lack of support from corporate leaders, Trump has maintained a massive campaign war chest thanks largely to small-dollar donors.
His political action committee, Save America, had over a $100 million on hand going into June, according to the latest Federal Election Commission filing. Trump's affiliated super PAC Make America Great Again, Again saw support from a small group of wealthy donors in May, including $150,000 from real estate mogul Geoffrey Palmer and $250,000 from David Frecka, the founder of Next Generation Films. The super PAC raised over $770,000 in May.
Trump's fundraising success
Taylor Budowich, a spokesman for Trump, boasted about the former president's record on endorsing GOP candidates and their fundraising success.
"President Trump's endorsement record stands at 146-10, his Save America political committee continues to raise unprecedented amounts of money and the American people remain hungry for his leadership," Budowich said. "And as another witch hunt is blowing up in the faces of Democrats, President Trump is in a stronger position now than at anytime before."
Still, some potential Republican candidates have already been gathering enough donations that show they can compete against Trump's political juggernaut if they were to run for president.
DeSantis raised just over $10 million in May for his 2022 reelection bid for governor. That brought his total fundraising haul in the current election cycle to over $120 million, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. Meanwhile, Pence has been meeting with political donors as he lays the groundwork for a potential 2024 run. Trump has criticized his former No. 2 for certifying the 2020 election results on Jan. 6, as rioters called for him to be hanged.
Pence spoke to the New York State Conservative Party last week, with tickets going for up to $5,000 per person, according to an invitation reviewed by CNBC. He's also set to meet with dozens of donors at a private retreat in Montana in September, according to a person briefed on the matter. A Pence political advisor confirmed the retreat will take place in support of the former vice president's 501(c)(4), Advancing American Freedom.
"There will be a mix of major donors, conservative thought leaders and elected officials," this advisor said. "The focus will be on the work AAF is doing, plans to impact policy issues important to midterms and a larger discussion on the agenda for the conservative movement."
The group recently launched a video that celebrated the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Similar to a campaign style ad, it also highlighted Pence's positions on abortion and his role in advising Trump on choosing Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The ad notably does not mention Trump by name.
The testimony by Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump's then-chief of staff Mark Meadows, was one of many recent breaking points for Republican megadonors who were waiting to decide whether to help Trump again, according to the people who helped in past campaigns.
Hutchinson delivered some of the Jan. 6 committee's most explosive testimony to date. She said she was told Trump lunged at a Secret Service agent after his security detail refused to take the former president to the U.S. Capitol to meet protestors who later rioted in the halls of Congress. Trump and his allies have tried to discredit her claims. The former president took to Truth Social to distance himself from Hutchinson, saying he barely knew her.
A Republican fundraiser, who actively raised money for Trump and the Republican National Committee in 2020, told CNBC after Tuesday's hearing, "I don't think any major donor with business interests would support a Trump presidential run after today's hearing." That person said they wouldn't feel comfortable, based on these findings, working for Trump's campaign again or raising money for another presidential run.
Some of Trump's business supporters had already disappeared from his corner immediately after the Jan. 6 attack. Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, who openly supported Trump's policies when he was president, said after the riot that he felt "betrayed" by him.
Trump had a bevy of big name GOP backers, including members of the Mercer family, Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman, casino magnates Miriam Adelson and her late husband Sheldon Adelson and Wall Street executive Nelson Peltz. Many of those donors supported Trump in 2016 as the Republican primary came to a close and later his 2020 reelection bid.