The Slatest

Trump’s Claims of Election Fraud Are One Last Cynical Push to Raise Money and Maintain Influence

A "official election defense fund" webpage shows Trump seated before an American flag with the text "We Need to Fight Back!"
Trump has an ulterior motive for claiming election fraud. Screenshot/Trump campaign website

Despite losing the election, President Donald Trump is assailing the structural integrity of the U.S. electoral system, filing frivolous lawsuit after frivolous lawsuit, and pecking out ominous tweets that he was robbed. Part of this approach to losing is Trump’s own personal style, which is to push conspiracy theories while obliterating everything within reach. Will a protracted meltdown win Trump the presidency? Almost certainly not. But it’s increasingly clear what it will do is allow Trump to raise money.

Trump’s cries of election shenanigans have been framed and packaged by his campaign in a stream of all-caps fundraising emails to supporters to get them to donate to his “official election defense fund.” But these breathless emails claiming malfeasance of all sorts are just as much a push to bank enough donations to retire the campaign’s debt. The scandalous outrage is one last opportunity for Trump to cash in on his status as GOP party leader, and cement it going forward, before he no longer has access to the greatest tool for getting attention known to man—the presidency.

For the Trump campaign solicitations specifically, the fine print reveals that half of each contribution will be redirected to retire the campaign’s debt, while others will take a 60 percent cut for campaign debt retirement and plow the other 40 percent into the Republican National Committee. So much for the grand principle of “defending the election.” But making supporters think the election result is still up in the air and somehow being subverted is a moneymaker for the Trump campaign and the RNC.

And money will be important to Trump, in particular, as he plots whatever lunatic path he takes next. The New York Times reports that Trump is already planning to set up a leadership political action committee that “will potentially let him retain his hold on the Republican Party even when he is out of office.” That’s a scary thought. But it’s also one that can’t be actualized without significant fundraising to fund his pet candidates and causes, as well as portions of Trump’s post-presidential political activity.