Some GOP donors stay away from RNC, Trump


President Obama has strong words for Republicans distancing themselves from Donald Trump after he was caught on tape making lewd comments about women.
USA TODAY NETWORK

WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee collected $39.4 million last month, about $9 million less than it did in September 2012 as the party grapples with the controversy shadowing its nominee, figures released Friday show.

Some top Republican donors say they have cut off checks to the party over the actions of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, while others are directing larger sums to downballot races in the hopes of preserving the party’s majorities in Congress.

Exhibit A: The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., announced Friday that it collected a whopping $31.3 million in the last quarter, nine times what the group raised during the same period during the 2014 midterm elections for Congress.

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam fueled much of the surge, contributing a combined $20 million, PAC officials said. The group is focused on retaining Republican control of the House.

“When donors see Paul Ryan, they see the kind of leader they want the Republican Party to have,” Mike Shields, president of the Congressional Leadership Fund said in a statement about the group’s blockbuster fundraising.

Some top donors say they fear long-lasting damage to the Republican Party as a result of Trump’s rise and the growing allegations of sexual misconduct against the New York businessman. The latest controversy erupted Oct. 7 when The Washington Post published an 11-year-old tape of Trump bragging about groping women.

A string of women have emerged this week to accuse the former reality-television star of touching or kissing them without their consent. Trump and his aides say the allegations are politically motivated “fabrications.”

Chicago executive and longtime GOP donor William Kunkler said he’s banking on figures such as Ryan, the 2012 vice presidential nominee, to help rebuild the Republican Party after Election Day.

He predicts Trump will lose Nov. 8 and worries he will take down Republican incumbents with him, jeopardizing the GOP’s 54-46 advantage in the Senate.

“We’re in a nightmare,” said Kunkler, who backed Jeb Bush’s unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination. “Trump is every bad word in the book. If he’s not actually a bigot, he talks like one.”

Kunkler donated more than $66,000 to the RNC before Trump became the nominee, Federal Election Commission records show, but he said he’s putting the RNC “in the penalty box” and likely will not give to the committee again until the 2020 presidential election. He cited concerns about Trump’s judgment and the decision by party leaders to include Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border in the Republican platform.

Still, Trump has found financial support, through a mix of small, online contributors and deep-pocketed conservatives who remain deeply opposed to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s policies and fear the appointment of liberal Supreme Court justices under her watch.

Foster Friess, a mega-donor known for his conservative Christian views, backs Trump and told USA TODAY earlier this week that the Republican’s policies are more in line with his interests than Clinton’s.

“Those of us who prefer Donald Trump’s policies for the future of America do not defend him,” he said in an email. “We forgive him.”

Friess said he wrote a $100,000 check Oct. 3 to the Trump Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee Trump has established with the Republican National Committee.

Lew Eisenberg, the RNC’s finance chairman who is overseeing fundraising for Trump Victory, said the Republican continues to have the backing of big-dollar donors. “In the last few days, major-donor support has remained strong, including multimillion-dollar swings through Texas and Florida,” Eisenberg said Friday.

Overall, the RNC reports raising $262.3 between Jan. 1, 2015 and Sept. 30 of this year, a roughly $20 million improvement from this point in the 2012 election.

In a statement about the fundraising picture, party chairman Reince Priebus struck an optimistic tone. He said September was one of the best months in party history for “small-dollar fundraising” and said the money would “help deliver Republican victories at every level.”

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