Major DeSantis donor now bankrolling Donald Trump’s election campaign
03/24/2024 // Ramon Tomey // Views

A major donor who formerly gave huge amounts to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' aborted presidential campaign is now bankrolling the reelection bid of former President Donald Trump.

The Epoch Times divulged the name of this donor as businessman Robert Bigelow, who owns the now-defunct Bigelow Aerospace and extant budget hotel chain Budget Suites of America. According to records recently filed by Trump-connected political action committees (PACs) with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), Bigelow reportedly sent a $5 million donation to the super-PAC Make America Great Again (MAGA) Inc. on Feb. 9.

Before this, Bigelow reportedly gave $20 million to the Never Back Down (NBD) Inc. super-PAC that backed DeSantis in 2023. The year before, he also sent $10 million to a Florida-based political account supporting the Florida governor. As per records maintained by watchdog group OpenSecrets, Bigelow's biggest political gifts have gone to Republicans, though he did support several Democratic causes between 2007 and 2011.

In 2023, he indicated he would be switching his support to Trump after becoming disillusioned with DeSantis' candidacy. This would prove to be a good decision, as DeSantis withdrew from the race in January following Trump's victory at the Iowa caucuses. Representatives for Bigelow did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent by the Epoch Times. (Related: Reeks of desperation: DeSantis super-PAC "secretly" asks for $50M in donations to beat Trump in Republican primary.)

Another donor who formerly bankrolled DeSantis also gave a huge donation to MAGA Inc. in February, in the person of Alan Fair. The CEO of Denver-based real estate company Alden Torch Financials sent $1 million to MAGA Inc. in February as per FEC records.

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Per OpenSecrets, Fair previously supported DeSantis' presidential run with a $100,000 gift to NBD. "Before his $1 million gift to MAGA Inc., it was his most significant political contribution today," the Epoch Times noted. "In his political giving career, … Fair has given to both Republicans and Democrats."

Other bigwigs also donated to MAGA Inc.

The Epoch Times also mentioned several parties who donated seven-figure amounts to the MAGA Inc. super-PAC. These include Egyptian-American businessman Emil Michael and his company M8 Enterprises LLC, which both sent $1 million to MAGA Inc. in February.

Per his website, Michael served as a former chief business officer at Uber Technologies. While he is not a major donor and has never given a gift above $10,000 before, the businessman has backed both Democrats and Republicans in the past.

James J. Liautaud, the founder of sandwich chain Jimmy John's, also sent $1 million to MAGA Inc. in February. The businessman, who is worth an estimated $2.4 billion as per Forbes, often gives to Republican candidates and causes despite not being a large political donor. His donation to MAGA Inc. is his largest ever.

RAI Services Co., a division of tobacco firm Reynolds American Inc., also sent $1 million to MAGA Inc. in February as per FEC records. Reynolds American, RAI Services' parent, is owned by the bigger British America Tobacco PLC. OpenSecrets records state that RAI Services is a consistent donor to GOP causes, sending $1 million to the GOP-backed Senate Leadership Fund in 2020.

These records from MAGA Inc. were published on March 20 as part of a monthly report with the FEC, alongside figures from the principal campaign committee Donald J. Trump for President 2024 (DJTFP 2024) Inc. and the qualified leadership PAC Save America.

Collectively, the three PACs had about $63.1 million in cash on hand at the end of February. The three groups as a whole raised about $28.7 million in total receipts and sent out about $22 million in total disbursements.

MAGA Inc. led the way in fundraising for Trump, bringing in about $12.8 million in February and raising about $20.1 million in 2024 so far. DJTFP 2024 Inc. followed in second place, raising about $10.1 million and spending about $7.8 million. According to the principal campaign committee's filing to the FEC, it had about $33.5 million on hand at the end of February.

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