Trump Moves RNC Finance Department To Palm Beach

On Friday, longtime head of the Republican National Committee Ronna McDaniel stepped down, leaving room for the incoming leadership team backed by Donald Trump. That team consists of Trump ally Michael Whatley as the new RNC chair, and daughter-in-law Lara Trump as the new co-chair. 

Trump’s team officially took over the RNC on Monday, and within hours, the knives came out as the organization fired around 60 existing staff members. As The Guardian reports, this was done to bring the RNC “under the wing of the Trump 2024 presidential campaign.” As both leadership and contractors were sent packing, one Guardian source described the situation as an “absolute bloodbath.”

The Washington Post reported on Monday that Trump campaign adviser Chris LaCivita has now taken over as the RNC’s chief of staff. LaCivita has reportedly been studying the organization for weeks, planning to make changes to align the national party with Trump’s campaign. Some level of turnover was expected, but RNC employees are reportedly “shocked” at the firings.

“Gutting a committee just before the election seems insane,” one former RNC employee told the Post.

As Politico makes clear, this isn’t a matter of just a matter of moving out staff aligned to a previous candidate—Trump was the previous candidate. Trump has essentially been at the top of the Republican Party ticket for around eight years, meaning that the staff at the RNC was already heavily aligned with him. 

Even McDaniel was seen as a Trump loyalist when she was elected RNC chair in 2017—when she was still known as Ronna Romney McDaniel, niece to Sen. Mitt Romney. She took office with Trump’s backing and was reelected in 2021 along with co-chair Tommy Hicks. 

That 2021 RNC election was seen as a proxy fight between pro-Trump forces in the party and those who were trying to build a wall between Trump and the organization. The Trump forces easily won. But two years later, Trump reportedly lost faith in McDaniel when she hosted Republican primary debates—debates that Trump decided to skip.

What appears to be different in this reorganization is not just that Trump has moved to make sure the RNC is even more tightly under the control of his loyalists. With this latest election, the party organization is ceasing to exist as a stand-alone entity. Politico reports that Trump’s campaign intends to “merge” its operations with the RNC and that key departments such as communications and fundraising “will effectively be one and the same.”

According to The New York Times, the Republican Party’s finance and digital media teams are being relocated to Palm Beach, Florida. By no coincidence at all, that’s also the location of Trump’s campaign headquarters.

Lara Trump recently promised to spend “every single penny” of the RNC’s cash on Trump. Having the finances of the RNC merged with the Trump campaign and relocated to a headquarters a few miles from Mar-a-Lago certainly seems to make that easier.

Some Republicans were reportedly angry over the nepotism on display in making Lara Trump the party co-chair, and about the way the party was being turned into another source of cash for Trump. Lara Trump has insisted that Republicans have “a big interest” in paying off her father-in-law’s legal bills. That claim also generated some pushback from Republicans who thought that RNC funds should be going to win elections, not repay attorneys defending Trump in his litany of criminal and civil trials.

Much of the funding for Trump’s legal defense has already been sourced from his campaign organization and his leadership PAC. Now it would seem those organizations are going to have improved access to any money that remains in the national party’s coffers.

What remains to be seen is … how much money is there? The Republican Party has faced significant fundraising issues in the run-up to the 2024 elections. Last month, Forbes reported that the RNC raised $87.2 million in all of 2023 and ended the year with only $8 million in cash on hand, along with $1.8 million in debt. That’s well down from the results in 2022, and with some Republican donors still undecided about their support of Trump, it’s unclear how much cash will be available—especially if those donors see each contribution as being funneled straight to Trump’s attorneys.

There are also concerns that the small donors Trump has tapped again and again to power both his campaign and his legal defense may be tapping out. As The Financial Times reported in February, Trump’s list of active supporters is 224,000 names shorter than it was in 2020, and those that remained are showing signs of “donor fatigue.”

The RNC bloodbath isn’t just a sign of Trump removing anyone not sufficiently loyal. After all, the RNC has already been under Trump’s control for nearly eight years. It was already filled with loyalists. 

This is more about dissolving the remaining walls between the party and Trump. It’s about making clear that there is no difference between being a Republican and being a blind follower of Trump. And there’s certainly no difference between donating to the Republican Party, and donating directly to Trump.

Republished with permission from Daily Kos.

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