Trump’s PAC spends over $3.8 million on legal fees in August
Former President Donald Trump spent over $3.8 million on “legal consulting” fees in August, the month the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago home, according to a campaign finance report for his “Save America” political action committee.
A bulk of the legal payments are going to lawyers representing him in the Mar-a-Lago documents case.
The $3,886,999 in legal consulting costs includes a $3 million check written to the law firm Critton, Luttier & Coleman, LLP on Aug. 30. The firm is based out of Palm Beach, Fla., less than three miles from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.
Former Florida solicitor general Chris Kise is not currently listed as one of the firm’s attorneys, but Kise was reportedly paid $3 million up front to represent Trump, according to Politico. Kise was previously a partner at Foley & Lardner, but his ties with the firm were severed upon his hiring by Trump. Kise filed articles of incorporation with the state of Florida on Aug. 24 and entered his first appearance for Trump on Sept. 1.
Neither the firm nor Kise responded to CBS News’ requests for comment regarding the payment. A spokesperson for Trump has also not responded to a request for comment.
Save America also paid $207,827 to “Habba Madaio & Associates, LLP,” the firm of Trump attorney Alina Habba.
Ifrah Law PLLC, the firm of Trump attorney James Trusty, received $242,770. Trump attorney Evan Corcoran’s firm, Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White, LLC, received $68,413.
Christina Bobb, another member of Trump’s legal team, received $12,051 in payroll payments from the PAC.
The Save America PAC also made payments to several attorneys in other legal cases involving Trump, including the Fulton County District Attorney’s investigation into whether Trump and allies illegally tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Atlanta-based criminal defense attorney Drew Findling’s law firm received $91,209 from the PAC. Findling, a former Trump critic, is representing Trump in the Fulton County case.
Timothy Parlatore’s firm received $29,870.54 from the PAC in August. Parlatore is an attorney who represented Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano during his brief appearance before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
While another committee, the Save America Joint Fundraising Committee, is the primary fundraising vehicle for the former president, the Save America PAC still holds a majority of Trump’s cash on hand. The PAC reported $92.7 million cash on hand at the end of August, and more than $6 million spent.
The joint fundraising committee will report what it raised from June through August in its mid-October report.
Trump’s PAC, which is billed as a “leadership PAC” to support other candidates, donated $150,000 to the “Wyoming Values PAC” in August, a group opposing Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, who lost her reelection race to a Trump-backed candidate, Harriett Hageman.
Throughout the year, the PAC has made over $7.2 million in contributions to other federal or state campaigns. By comparison, the PAC has also spent $7,555,168.09 on event fees for the numerous Trump rallies for candidates.
If Trump runs for president
Trump’s large war chest has raised questions about what would happen to it if he announces he’s running for president in 2024. Erin Chlopak, a senior director for campaign finance at the Campaign Legal Center, said if Trump decides to run, he’d have to create a candidate committee. The money from his leadership PAC cannot be directly transferred to this candidate committee, which would have stricter restrictions on how much he can raise compared to a leadership PAC. Save America would remain a leadership PAC.
In practical terms, Trump’s leadership PAC money could not be used for campaigning if he announces a presidential bid. To this point, he’s been able to use Save America PAC funds for the rallies he holds for other candidates, and because he himself is not a candidate right now, FEC rules allow it.
Trump can also likely make the argument that the existing leadership PAC funds he has on hand can still be used for his legal expenses, even if he does become a candidate.
Chlopak said that while leadership PACs shouldn’t be used for “personal expenses” such as personal legal bills, the FEC has not subjected leadership PACs to those rules.
“We routinely see leadership PACs used essentially like slush funds for office holders’ personal piggy banks. And that has been a real concern, obviously, with a Trump leadership PAC that has successfully raised so much money. For the money to be used at his properties or for paying family members or other expenses, that would not be permitted if it were an official campaign fund,” Chlopak said.
But Chlopak said if Trump declares a 2024 run and has to start another candidate committee, the FEC would be more strict about the use of campaign funds for more personal legal fees. She said they’d look at it at a case-by-case basis on whether it counts as “personal.”
Whether he can use the candidate committee funds to pay for expenses like legal fees related to the Mar-a-Lago documents search is up to the FEC’s discretion, Chlopak said.
“The legal standard is if the personal expense would exist, irrespective to the candidate — like a divorce proceeding or a traffic ticket. The answer to if that applies to the [Mar-a-Lago case] is a close call, since it’s intertwined with his status as a president,” she said.
“It’s a remarkable amount of money that has been raised so far, so I think we’re all standing by to see what’s going to happen,” she added.
Melissa Quinn contributed to this report.