WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump raised more than $8.9 million in Texas in the weeks after losing the election that he claimed, without evidence, was stolen from him.
It was part of an unprecedented fundraising push by the former president’s campaign in the final weeks of 2020 as it asked supporters for cash to help fund Trump’s legal fight to overturn the results, or “stop the steal” as he branded it.
Campaign finance reports filed Jan. 31 give the first indication of who gave Trump and the Republican National Committee the $287 million they raked in after election day, even as his claims of widespread voter fraud were rejected in dozens of court cases. Just $13 million went toward legal expenses, ABC News reported.
Many of the Texans who made contributions are retired and were giving to Trump multiple times, according to FEC reports showing totals from Nov. 4 through the end of the year. The actual figure is likely much higher than $8.9 million, as the reports only show itemized donations, which accounted for less than half of what Trump raised during that period.
That Trump was able to raise so much in Texas even after losing the election makes sense, given that the vast majority of Republicans in the state still believe the election was stolen from him, said Renée Cross, senior director of the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston.
A recent poll by the Hobby School found that 83 percent of Texas Republicans believe there was widespread fraud.
“So many Republicans feel that he was wronged, not only through the election results, but that he was wronged throughout his tenure,” Cross said. “The fact that they would step up and give to him even at the end isn’t surprising to me.”
Observers say Trump’s fundraising in Texas mirrors a national trend during that period as the president and the Republican Party made repeated appeals to supporters for help Trump’s “Election Defense Fund.”
Much of the money raised actually went toward more fundraising efforts and over $30 million was transferred into a new committee that Trump set up after the election, Save America.
“Big time bait-and-switch by Donald Trump and a bunch of other politicians lower in the food chain capitalizing on that opportunity — to rip their own supporters off, really,” said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause, a government watchdog group in Washington, D.C.
“The donors who were defrauded by and large in November and December by team Trump — these were elderly Republican donors who …it’s just despicable to prey on that donor pool, in my opinion,” Ryan said.
But that big fundraising boost didn’t extend to many of Trump’s biggest backers in Texas, even as they pushed lawsuits to overturn the election results.
U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert may be one exception, raising more than $26,000 in the final weeks of the year — a smaller than average haul for a congressman, but a much more than normal for the Tyler Republican. Gohmert reported raising less than $1,000 during the same period in 2016 and 2018.
Gohmert traveled to Philadelphia in the days after the election, where he claimed without evidence on social media that voter fraud was “rampant” and wondered “where’s @TheJusticeDepartment???” Gohmert also filed his own lawsuit seeking to overturn the election. It failed.
U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess of Denton also saw a fundraising bump, raking in nearly $21,000. He, too, had raised $1,000 or less in that period during the last two election cycles.
Nearly all of the 16 Texas Republicans who voted against certifying Biden’s win in the House of Representatives saw a few-thousand-dollar increase from their 2018 election totals, a bump typical from a midterm to presidential election year. Of the seven lawmakers who were also in office in 2016, four — including Gohmert and Burgess — saw an uptick from that cycle.
Fifteen of the members did not respond to Hearst Newspapers’ requests for comment this week. U.S. Rep. Michael Cloud of Victoria was the only representative to weigh in on the fundraising totals; his campaign raised about $8,500 at the year’s end, about $5,000 more than it had in 2018, the first year he served in office.
“The longer the congressman has served, the stronger his financial support of his campaign is from year to year, as the citizens of District 27 appreciate his hard work and steady representation of their conservative values,” said Cloud campaign manager Bunni Pounds.
She declined to say whether Cloud’s efforts to challenge the election contributed to that number.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who had agreed to argue Trump’s case before the Supreme Court if it had taken it up, also posted strong fundraising figures for the end of the year. Cruz, who reported $2.6 million in donations during the final quarter of the year, raised at least $537,000 after the election, according to itemized receipts.
Nationally, some of Trump’s most outspoken supporters reaped wide financial benefits from their rebuke of the election results. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California netted more than $950,000 in the last weeks of 2020 — about 48 times the amount he raised in 2016. Other fierce supporters saw similar surges, including U.S. Reps. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Devin Nunes of California and Elise Stefanik of New York.
Harris reported from Austin.