Donald Trump
Donald Trump must keep attracting his Maga base, but also needs to court more traditional Republican megadonors © Michael M Santiago/Getty Images

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Good morning and welcome to US Election Countdown — it’s great to be back with you. Today we’ll be talking about:

  • Donald Trump’s mad dash for campaign cash

  • Stephen Bannon on Trump’s cabinet considerations

  • Why money matters in US politics

Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency is unlike any other: while cash flows in to put him back in the White House, some are simultaneously siphoned off to keep him out of prison.

With his hefty legal bills, Trump needs to thread the donor needle very carefully [Free to read]. He must keep attracting his Maga base, but also needs to court more traditional Republican megadonors — particularly those on Wall Street.

These two camps have very different ideas about what a second Trump administration should look like, and finance types are not keen on funding Trump’s legal battles — not to mention his plan for a 10 per cent import tariff.

A big question is whether he can bring donors who supported his primary rivals into the fold. Billionaires Ken Griffin, Stanley Druckenmiller, Paul Singer and Warren Stephens threw a combined $13mn behind Nikki Haley, while Jeff Yass spent about $5mn on Vivek Ramaswamy and Stephen Schwarzman gave $2mn to a pro-Chris Christie group.

With their respective horses out of the race, most of these donors are weighing what to do with their wallets. Will they turn to Trump, back Joe Biden or a third-party group, or sit this one out? Trump is already betting on funds from casino magnate Miriam Adelson, the widow of Sheldon Adelson and Oklahoma oil tycoon Harold Hamm.

The former president has drawn in new billionaires including Tim Mellon of the Mellon banking family, Texas oil titans Kelcy Warren and Tim Dunn, Phil Ruffin, owner of the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino, Trish Duggan, ex-wife of venture capitalist Bob Duggan, and World Wrestling Entertainment co-founder Linda McMahon.

Trump is also leaning on hedge fund investor John Paulson. But Paulson wants a second Trump term to feature old-school Republican tenets such as lowering the trade deficit, making US manufacturing more competitive and supporting the energy industry. Those are not necessarily Maga crowd-pleasers.

Campaign clips: the latest election headlines

Joe Biden and Donald Trump
© FT montage/AFP/Getty Images
  • Donald Trump has posted a $175mn bond to postpone his near half-billion dollar fraud judgment, ending a stand-off that could have resulted in parts of his property empire being seized.

  • Shares in Trump’s newly listed social media group sank more than 21 per cent after disclosing widening losses. [Free to read]

  • Florida’s top court will allow a referendum to codify abortion rights in the state’s constitution, which could boost Democratic turnout.

  • Companies are rushing to issue bonds to head off any market volatility in the final stages of the election.

  • Former Democratic presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have defended Joe Biden’s support for Israel’s war in Gaza.

  • After a big fundraiser in New York last week, Biden held a daylong retreat for 175 of his biggest backers. (NYT)

Read, watch, listen and enjoy innovative digital journalism with the FT app.

Behind the scenes

Scott Bessent
Scott Bessent is viewed as a potential pick for Treasury secretary, or to succeed Federal Reserve chair Jay Powell in 2026 © Drew Angerer/Getty Images

When the FT’s James Politi recently interviewed Stephen Bannon, Donald Trump’s former political strategist repeatedly mentioned how close the ex-president was to Scott Bessent, founder of Key Square Group and former Soros Fund Management executive.

Bessent has been saying a Trump win would be good for markets. He is also viewed as a potential pick for Treasury secretary, or to succeed Federal Reserve chair Jay Powell in 2026.

Bannon said cabinet speculation was premature since Trump had a “pretty full plate right now” and was “superstitious” about the election. However, Bannon added that “he’s meeting a lot of people . . . he’s having dinners every night, he’s thinking about it”.


It’s more expensive than ever to be competitive in US politics. Federal election spending totalled $14.4bn in 2020, including $5.7bn for the presidential race, according to non-profit OpenSecrets. That’s more than double the cost of the 2016 race, and the 2024 race could cost even more.

As these figures balloon, one US Election Countdown subscriber recently asked why our elections are some of the most expensive in the world.

The simple answer is that money in politics matters: the candidate who raises the most funds in a presidential or congressional race typically wins.

At the end of February, the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee had more than twice as much cash on hand as Trump and the Republican National Committee. Democrats have been tapping their war chest to open offices in swing states as their affiliated groups are pouring money into ad buys. Meanwhile the RNC has fired staffers as the Trump campaign has taken the reins.

But shale baron and Trump supporter Harold Hamm thinks Biden’s money advantage won’t help. “We’ve seen all the money in the world not do some candidates any good,” Hamm told the FT’s Jamie Smyth. “People don’t believe in him.”

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