Harris, Trump Head To California To Court Big-Money Donors | Crooked Media
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June 05, 2024
What A Day
Harris, Trump Head To California To Court Big-Money Donors

In This Episode

  • Former President Donald Trump’s campaign rode his felony conviction to a banner fundraising day last week, raking in more than 50 million dollars within 24 hours of the verdict, according to aides. Trump and Vice President Kamala Harris are in California this week to court big donors to grow their campaign warchests with the November election less than six months away. Meanwhile, both campaigns have reportedly seen a significant decline in small-dollar contributions during this election cycle. Arjun Singh, a podcast producer with the investigative outlet The Lever, explains the state of fundraising in the race so far.
  • And in headlines: The Georgia Court of Appeals said prosecutors cannot move forward with Trump’s election interference trial until it decides whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis can stay on the case, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for a global ban on fossil fuel advertising to combat climate change, and Senate Republicans voted to block a bill that would have protected access to contraception.


Show Notes:



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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, June 6th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What a Day, the show where we’re feeling patriotic about the 20 foot inflatable IUD Americans for contraception erected outside of Washington DC’s Union Station on Wednesday. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, I am going out there to salute the giant IUD. Thank you for your service. [music break]


Juanita Tolliver: On today’s show, Senate Republicans blocked a bill protecting access to contraception. Plus, we look at election results from this week’s primaries. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But first, former President Donald Trump’s whopping 34 felony convictions propelled his campaign to a banner fundraising day. According to Trump aides, the campaign raised $53 million in the first 24 hours after the guilty verdict alone, bringing the total fundraising tally for the month of May up to $141 million. To put that into context, back in April, the month before Trump’s campaign reported that it raised $76 million total. Thus far in the election cycle, Trump has lagged behind President Joe Biden’s campaign in terms of fundraising. But these new numbers, along with returning mega-donors who once distanced themselves from the former president, could end up changing things. According to the nonprofit Open Secrets, in the 2022 election cycle, more than 2000 super PACs reported receipts of over a billion dollars. And that was just the midterms. Though they aren’t technically allowed to coordinate with the campaign. They are allowed to support and there are no limits for what they’re able to raise. 


Juanita Tolliver: I just want to emphasize no limits, because what these super PACs do is they get a lot of their money from massive corporations and ultra wealthy people who, as a result, have an outsized impact on our elections. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. With less than six months to go before the election, this is prime time for fundraising. Both the Biden and Trump campaigns are in California this week in hopes of courting more big donors. On Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris was in San Francisco for two fundraising events, one of which was at a private home and the other was in downtown San Francisco. Her public event cost between $500 and $25,000 a person to attend, and like others in the past, the events were interrupted by anti-war protesters. Trump will also be in San Francisco today for a sold out event hosted by two former Silicon Valley executives turned podcast hosts. That one costs as much as $300,000 per person to attend. Afterwards, he will head south to Beverly Hills and Newport Beach for similarly high dollar events. But according to a report from NOTUS, while these campaigns court big donors, both parties have seen a significant decline in small dollar contributions this election cycle. Those are the donations that come from regular people like you or me. To learn more about the state of fundraising this cycle, as well as the implications of that change and small dollar donations on both sides, I spoke earlier with Arjun Singh. He’s a podcast producer with The Lever, which is an investigative reporting outlet that looks into money in politics. I started by asking him how he’d compare the way Biden and Trump are fundraising for their campaigns this time around. 


Arjun Singh: Biden is clearly leading in terms of an actual fundraising haul, but a lot of that changed recently because of Trump’s guilty verdicts. You would think that getting a guilty verdict 34 times in a court would doom your campaign. But ironically, this might have actually turned some of Trump’s fundraising fortunes around. So what I think remains to be seen is whether Trump continues that momentum and whether or not he can catch up to Biden. But it is important to note that fundraising does not always mean a win in the presidential election. 


Priyanka Aribindi: When we talk about that 24 hours after Trump’s 34 felony convictions, is that money coming from big donors, regular people who get the texts and emails, a mix? Do we know? 


Arjun Singh: Yeah, it’s always a little bit hard to tell, but that’s predominantly coming from these small dollar donations. The website winred, which is the online fundraising platform that the Republicans use. They crashed the day after Trump’s guilty verdicts. There has been a little bit of ribbing on that that says, oh, how good could your platform be if it crashed? The fact of the matter is that to crash any sort of online platform, means that there was a lot of attention given to it. And this is something that the Trump campaign did really well in 2016 and in 2020 was building out this digital infrastructure to be able to really gin up small dollar donations. I think it also shows, again, that Trump has a very loyal and in some ways almost a rabid base of supporters who, when they see him, get quote unquote “attacked” like this or they see a news event like this, they rush in to help them. And that has been substantiated by studies, you know, that show that news events really trigger big waves of small dollar donations. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Who are the mega donors in this election? Who are the players pulling the strings behind the scenes? 


Arjun Singh: So the way that they’re going about it, I would actually say has largely been similar in the key difference being that Trump is making more of an outright push for billionaires and really big, influential donors. That’s not to say that Biden doesn’t have his billionaire backers, but Trump has outright made it a point to go to very wealthy people like himself and really push up against the law and offering them concessions if they donated to them. What you’re seeing now is you’re actually starting to see more wealthy billionaires, particularly regular Republican donors, starting to warm back up to Trump after January 6th. There was kind of this big wave of people who said, we can’t have this again. We’re not going to back him. Now that we’re getting closer to the election, now that they know that he’s the nominee, you’re starting to see these billionaires come back. They’re people like Miriam Adelson. She is the widow of the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. She is reportedly going to spend millions of dollars on a super PAC for Trump. Nelson Peltz, who’s this billionaire who used to be very tight with Trump. He was one of the people who said after January 6th, absolutely not. He is also going to reportedly host a fundraiser for Donald Trump. And then there’s other people, like the billionaire Bill Ackman, who is very angry with Biden over his handling of the war in Gaza, his relationship with Israel. Ackman has also said that he does not think that Biden should be the president. How that translates into dollar amounts will be seen. And then another person is Steven Schwarzman of Blackrock. He has recently said that he is going to come around and donate to Trump as well. On Biden’s side, he is getting a lot of support from Hollywood, particularly, Jeffrey Katzenberg, who is, someone who’s in the entertainment industry. Jeffrey Katzenberg has been helping to whip up donations from people like Steven Spielberg, other celebrities. In Silicon Valley, Biden has been getting support from the venture capitalist Vinod Khosla. I believe he is about to throw a fundraiser with Marissa Mayer, who used to be of Yahoo! Very recently, he got a very surprising donation $929,600. The maximum donation you can give to his victory fund came from someone named David Ellison. That is the son of the founder, Larry Ellison of Oracle. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. So would you say that the focus is primarily on major donors this time around? How are they viewing these big donors in the cycle versus small dollar donations that they tend to get from regular people? 


Arjun Singh: Yeah, I think for the Biden campaign, that’s always been Biden’s style is to really been working inside of traditional Democratic networks and to go through what they call bundlers, wealthy people who throw parties where they get a bunch of their wealthy friends together, and you can raise a bunch of money from people simultaneously. When I look at kind of the small dollar amounts, they’re significant. I don’t think they’re going to be what generates Biden’s momentum in this election. If you look at kind of who has been doing really well with small dollar donations just in the past year, it’s people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib. And then on the Republican side, it’s people like Mike Johnson, people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz. So I think small dollar donations are much more for people who kind of operate a little bit outside of the establishment. Biden is a very establishment facing person. I think you’re going to still see a significant amount of effort to get small dollar donations. But in this campaign, the principles are really going to be focused on these big ticket people, the billionaires, the bundlers. And I think that even tracks, if you look back at how they did with small dollars in 2020, very significant amounts, 48.5% for Trump, 39% for Biden. But neither one was the majority. And I think if you’re talking about how do you best use your time strategically, they’re going to use their time to get the big money and hope that the small donors kind of follow through from the events of the campaign. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I mean, speaking of, there’s reporting from NOTUS that both parties have seen a significant decline, actually, in small dollar donations that they typically get via fundraising texts or emails. You probably get them. I get them all the time. I’m always unsubscribing from them. But what do you make of that and what do you think that’ll mean for this cycle if they’re just going after big dollar people? Do you think that affects their bottom line? And beyond that, do you think that could be indicative of the way people are responding in general to this election cycle? 


Arjun Singh: Some of the reasons that I hear batted around and I think is something that you see with broadly this presidential election is fatigue. You know, people are feeling fatigued by the election. They’re not tuning in as much. Those news events might not be triggering them enough to donate. And this is a smaller thing, but this is something that’s actually come up. Since 2016, people have been spending a lot of money on politics. Inflation has gone up. They don’t have the extra space in their pocketbooks right now to give $30 every month, or even $50 every two months when people are looking at their list of items to cut. There’s the streaming apps, there’s political donations, there’s other things. Unfortunately for Biden and Trump, it sounds like those political donations are going to come before HBO Max and other apps. So I think that that’s probably what you’re seeing right now is a combination of political fatigue, a lack of real enthusiasm around these two candidates. Combined with that, it has just been a little bit of a seasoning of belt tightening. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That was my conversation with Arjun Singh, senior podcast producer with The Lever. We’ll link to more of his work in this episode’s show notes. And we’ll continue to follow this as the election cycle goes on. That is the latest for now. We’ll get to some headlines in just a moment, but if you like our show, please make sure to subscribe and share it with your friends. We’ll be right back after some ads. [music break]




Juanita Tolliver: Let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Juanita Tolliver: And an update on a story we brought you earlier this week, the Georgia Court of Appeals said on Wednesday that prosecutors cannot move forward with Trump’s election interference trial until it decides whether Fulton County DA Fani Willis can stay on the case. Trump and his lawyers have been trying to get Willis disqualified after it was revealed that she was previously in a relationship with Nathan Wade, one of her top prosecutors. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, the judge presiding over the case, said that Willis could stay if Wade stepped down, which he did. Trump appealed. Earlier this week, a tentative hearing date was set for October, and now the appeals court has until March of 2025 to weigh in. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. 


Juanita Tolliver: Wednesday’s decision guarantees that the case will not go to trial before the November election, and it prevents McAfee from moving forward with any pretrial proceedings in the meantime, I’m sure Trump and his legal team is loving this decision. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely. And not great things for everyone else. Two major Senate races that could decide control of the chamber were finalized in Tuesday’s primary elections. In Montana, incumbent Democratic Senator Jon Tester will face Tim Sheehy, an ex Navy Seal backed by former President Donald Trump. Tester is currently the only Democrat in statewide office in Montana, and he faces a tough fight to hold on to his seat. But Tester has won three close races before, so fingers crossed he will make it to four. Get out there, make some calls. Do some fundraising. Keep him in his seat. In New Jersey, Democratic Congressman Andy Kim will face Republican businessman Curtis Bashaw after Bashaw defeated the Trump backed candidate in the state’s primary, local mayor Christine Serrano Glassner. While New Jersey wouldn’t typically be considered a tough seat for Democrats to protect, incumbent Democratic Senator Robert Menendez this week filed paperwork to run as an independent in this race. Menendez is currently weeks into his trial on federal corruption charges. What could go wrong? 


Juanita Tolliver: I feel like he’s got other things to tend to. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right? You’re busy over there. Stay busy. It’s fine. A three way race risks splintering the vote in favor of Republicans. Come on, sir, you got to let it go. 


Juanita Tolliver: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling for a global ban on fossil fuel advertising. Speaking in New York on Wednesday, Guterres called major fossil fuel companies the, quote, “godfathers of climate chaos” and said government should treat them more like tobacco companies and other industries that harm human health. 


[clip of UN Secretary-General Antonion Guterres] We must directly confront those in the fossil fuel industry who have shown relentless zeal for obstructing progress over decades. 


Juanita Tolliver: Guterres also shared alarming new data from the World Meteorological Organization. The agency found there’s now an 80% chance that world temperatures will surpass the warming limit set in the Paris climate agreement at some point within the next five years. Guterres said, the world still has a chance to keep the planet from permanently warming past that limit. But much more needs to be done to cut carbon emissions. Last year was the hottest on record, and researchers warn this year could break the record again. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Senate Republicans voted to block the Right to Contraception Act on Wednesday. The legislation would have enshrined the right to birth control pills, emergency contraception, condoms and other contraceptives into federal law. Democrats knew Republicans would do anything to keep it from advancing, but they pushed the bill anyways to underscore the issue of reproductive rights ahead of the November elections. Before Wednesday’s vote, Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, quote, “Senate Democrats will put reproductive freedoms front and center before this chamber so that the American people can see for themselves who will stand up to defend their fundamental liberties.” And speaking of contraception, researchers said this week that they are finally making progress on a form of birth control for men. The National Institutes of Health, along with the Population Council, have developed a gel that men can apply daily to their shoulders like a lotion to reduce their sperm count. A male contraceptive has been in the works for decades with very little success. But according to the National Institutes, recent clinical trials of this new gel show that it is effective and is easily reversed, unlike a vasectomy. 


Juanita Tolliver: I love the idea of men being responsible for birth control in a more active way. Uh. But would we trust them? But before we dig into that, Priyanka, clearly Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set up Republicans for yet another campaign ad that’s going to–


Priyanka Aribindi: Yup. 


Juanita Tolliver: –run in all of these Senate races, especially in battleground states. Which we know is going to resonate with voters. But now, back to the male contraception. What do you think? Also, WAD listeners who are men, would you use this? Please tell us in the discord. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m curious to hear from the WAD listeners. I’m a skeptic, not because I don’t think that this is a thing. I mean, it’s proven to be effective. I’m a skeptic in that, like, sunscreen is proven to be effective. I don’t know that many guys who use it, and they all know the benefits of it so I’m mmm. 


Juanita Tolliver: Men and decision making. Not strong. Yes, yes. Agreed, agreed. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Like I don’t want to slander all I just I’m curious. I want to hear from you guys. Would you use this? Yes or no? And why? Please let us know. And also um, fuck all these people who voted no. Every single Republican senator who’s up for reelection. 


Juanita Tolliver: [laugh] Yes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Voted no on this. And do with that information what you will. And those are the headlines. 




Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, make some calls for Jon Tester and tell your friends to listen. 


Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just the phrase godfathers of climate chaos over and over again like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Juanita Tolliver. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


[spoken together] And meet us at the giant IUD.


Juanita Tolliver: No. But actually, if y’all set a date and time, I will come out there and like, salute with you and we will post a video online. So just let me know. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I love it. 


Juanita Tolliver: Any time.


Priyanka Aribindi: But a regular IUD that’s pain enough. A giant IUD?


Juanita Tolliver: Yikes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: My salute is a little less crisp at this point. [laughing]


Juanita Tolliver: The commitment is on the decline. [laugh] [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Michell Eloy, Greg Walter,s and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Erica Morrison, and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.