While former President Trump complains that a cabal of Democratic donors, Wall Street investors, and other elites are supporting Nikki Haley in efforts to deny him a third Republican nomination, some of his own wealthy backers roughly fit that same description.
Not unlike the frontrunner before he entered politics, several of Trump’s financial supporters have a long history of writing checks to Democrats or playing both sides, even as they are welcomed into the MAGA fold.
It is not an unusual phenomenon in the Trump era, but contributions to the wrong Republican, Trump made clear last month, will land a donor on his naughty list. “From this moment forth,” he wrote on his website Truth Social, anyone backing Haley “will be permanently barred from the MAGA camp. We don’t want them, and will not accept them.”
Trump still accepts the support of former and current Democratic Party mega-donors, however.
Timothy Mellon, the heir to the Mellon banking fortune, made two donations to the pro-Trump super PAC, Make America Great Again Inc., totaling $10 million in July and August of last year, according to disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission. At the same time, Mellon also cut sizeable checks in support of independent presidential candidate and former Democrat Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He gave $15 million to American Values 2024, a super PAC backing Kennedy.
Trump will need as many independent voters and donors as he can get in a general election, especially as his legal troubles mount and billable hours from an army of lawyers accumulate. The former president’s Save America PAC spent $47 million on legal services last year, according to public disclosures. In a Newsmax interview Friday, Donald Trump Jr. slammed RFK as “a radical liberal who happens to be anti-vax.”
While RFK could potentially eat away at Trump’s support in the margins in a general election, Haley is the only one standing in the way of another GOP nomination. The Trump campaign attacked the former South Carolina governor last Friday in a press release, writing that she was “funded by Democrats, Wall Street, and Globalists.”
Exhibit A: Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and a longtime Democratic donor, who gave $250,000 to the pro-Haley super PAC, SFA Fund Inc.
Trump isn’t the first one to attack Haley over her donors. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tried with limited success, arguing on the debate stage in December that “Nikki will cave to those big donors when it counts.” He dropped out the next month after a poor second-place showing in Iowa and long after Haley had dismissed the criticism. She said DeSantis was “just jealous.”
Despite Trump’s blacklist, Haley has still managed to put up impressive fundraising numbers. Her campaign announced a $16.5 million haul in January, nearly triple the amount she raised in the three months prior.
Though his legal bills are an unwelcome expense, Trump remains a fundraising juggernaut. Running as both a former president and the leader of a grassroots movement, he raised $188 million last year across his campaign and various political groups, per a Wall Street Journal analysis.
Some donors are like longtime friend Steve Witkoff, a New York real estate investor who donated $250,000 to Make America Great Again Inc. and testified on Trump’s behalf in a Manhattan fraud case last year. Before Trump entered politics, Witkoff had been a longtime Democratic Party donor. According to FEC disclosures, he donated the maximum to then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2007. He also backed other New York Democrats, such as Rep. Jerry Nadler and Sen. Chuck Schumer, around that time and cut a $28,500 check to the Democratic Senatorial Committee.
Since Trump became the GOP nominee, Witkoff has given almost exclusively to Republicans. Other Trump supporters, meanwhile, continue to donate to Democrats.
Trump raised more than $5 million at a 2019 fundraiser hosted by Howard Lutnick in his New York triplex penthouse, and five years later, the CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald LP continues to support the former president. He donated $250,000 to Make America Great Inc. last December. The investor hasn’t sworn off Democrats, according to a review of public FEC filings.
Lutnick supported Hillary Clinton ahead of the 2016 presidential election and cut a $32,000 check to Sen. Chuck Schumer’s leadership PAC that same year. His support of Trump has not tempered his spending on behalf of the New York Democrat who led the charge to impeach the former president. Lutnick has donated more than $20,000 to Schumer, including two donations to his primary and general campaigns for a total of $5,800.
When asked about criticism of her Democratic donors, Haley campaign manager Betsy Anknney told RealClearPolitics that “any of those hits from Trump are pretty rich considering his history.”
Trump campaign officials declined to address questions about their own Democratic mega-donors; instead, they lashed out at their last remaining GOP rival. “Nikki Haley reeks of desperation as it’s clear she knows she has no shot, and is now auditioning for a cable news contract when her 15 minutes are over,” spokesman Steven Cheung told RCP. “But not before she can squeeze every last dollar out of her Democrat benefactors.”
One of those benefactors could have easily been Daniel Newlin, a personal injury lawyer from Florida, who donated to Clinton ahead of the 2016 election. He has also given tens of thousands of dollars to Florida Democrats, such as Rep. Darren Soto, as recently as 2022.
But Newlin is backing Trump in 2024 “because Donald Trump is the right man to become the next leader of the free world and do it in a way where the world looks at us like a champion.” Newlin donated $100,000 to Make America Great Again Inc. last December, in large part, he told RCP, because he feels Democrats “specifically over the last decade, have become very, very far left.”
Though an ardent supporter of Trump now, Newlin said he “absolutely, 100% does not” begrudge Democrats for supporting Haley, a candidate he described as “an amazing woman” and “a champion.”
“Democrats that are supporting Nikki Haley, they’re doing it because they feel like she can lead America,” the Trump supporter said before adding that political support, at the end of the day, is a personal decision. “We as Americans have to make our own decision,” Newlin said, “and the decision should really be based on this: Who’s going to take the country back to global leadership.”
This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.
Philip Wegmann is White House Correspondent for Real Clear Politics. He previously wrote for The Washington Examiner and has done investigative reporting on congressional corruption and institutional malfeasance.
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