Lagging Biden’s cash haul, Trump races to catch up with Atlanta event

Donald Trump’s campaign is racing to catch up to the massive financial machine that President Joe Biden and Democrats have built by holding a high-dollar fundraiser in Atlanta this week that features some of the South’s wealthiest GOP mega-donors.

Biden is leveraging his financial edge over the former president by pouring resources into Georgia, where the Democrat’s campaign plans to open seven new offices this month and just unveiled a fresh team of veteran strategists to press his reelection bid.

Long neglected on the campaign trail as little more than an “ATM machine” for marauding candidates, Georgia has transformed over the past eight years into one of the nation’s most competitive political battlegrounds — and a top target this November for both Biden and Trump.

But Trump’s noon event Wednesday in Atlanta offers a reminder that the state also remains one of the nation’s most important fundraising sites, with a built-in base of donors who have grown used to writing big checks after a series of campaigns that set Georgia records.

“Nominees always come here for big fundraisers. Atlanta has plenty of donors with deep pockets, and that’s hugely important for Republicans nationally,” GOP strategist Brian Robinson said. “The roles have reversed: Republicans used to have an automatic edge with fundraising, but Democrats have more than caught up.”

Trump has work ahead to close the financial gap with Biden. The former president and the GOP said last week that they raised more than $65.6 million in March, ending the month with $93.1 million. Biden and Democrats took in more than $90 million in March and had $192 million in the bank.

In Georgia, however, Trump far outpaces Biden. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of financial disclosures this election cycle shows Georgians have contributed more than $2.4 million to Trump, compared with $1.1 million to the Biden campaign. Officials say his event in Atlanta is set to collect at least $5 million.

While Democratic President Joe Biden holds a big edge over former President Donald Trump in fundraising, he has pulled in fewer dollars from Georgia than Trump. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of financial disclosures this election cycle shows Georgians have contributed more than $2.4 million to Trump, compared with $1.1 million to the Biden campaign. (Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC

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Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC

Both have turned to mega-events to fuel their campaigns. In March, Biden’s campaign held a star-studded fundraiser at Radio City Music Hall in New York featuring former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama that brought in more than $26 million.

It set a single-event fundraising record that didn’t last long. Trump’s campaign said it raised $50.5 million on Saturday at the Palm Beach, Florida, home of billionaire John Paulson that would set a high-water mark.

The Atlanta fundraiser includes Trump’s most prominent MAGA supporters in Georgia. Among them are former U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, both Trump allies who lost 2021 runoffs; Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus; and liquor magnate Don Leebern III.

Also expected to attend is Bill White, who led the failed Buckhead cityhood movement but is pressing to remain in Trump’s orbit after abandoning his civic soap opera for the warmer climes of Florida.

Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler is expected to attend a fundraiser Wednesday in Atlanta for former President Donald Trump's campaign to return to the White House. The former senator attended another fundraiser from Trump on Saturday at the Palm Beach, Florida, home of billionaire John Paulson. (Arvin Temkar /

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Loeffler was also in the audience this weekend during the private fundraiser in Florida where Trump lamented that more people from “nice countries” like Denmark and Switzerland weren’t seeking to migrate to the U.S., according to The New York Times.

It’s just as notable who is not on the list of Atlanta co-hosts: Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia’s more mainstream Republican leaders, who have largely offered tepid endorsements of Trump since he sealed the GOP nod but have otherwise steered clear of him.

The same group of Republicans also avoided Trump’s visit last month, when he held a rally in Rome that competed with Biden’s near-simultaneous stump speech in Atlanta.

Tickets to Wednesday’s gathering don’t come cheap. Attendees will pay $6,600 to get in the door, while a photo op with Trump will run donors $25,000 a couple. It’ll set contributors back $250,000 to serve on the host committee, which offers more access to the former president.

Trump’s highest concentration of Georgia donors comes from the 30327 ZIP code, a stretch of Buckhead and northwest Atlanta where the median household income tops $170,000. Residents in that area have given $1.1 million to Trump’s campaign and his allied outside groups.

But he’s lagging far behind where he was at this point in the 2020 campaign, when he had twice as many donations and donors from Georgia.

The AJC analysis showed that Trump’s 2020 campaign raised more than $5.2 million in Georgia by the beginning of March, compared with the $2.4 million he’s collected so far in this cycle. These disclosures include donors who give at least $200 and do not represent fundraising from affiliated groups, super PACs and joint fundraising committees.

He topped 10,800 donors over the same time period in 2020, compared with about 5,000 now. And only about 2,000 of his donors from 2020 have given to his campaign so far in 2024, according to the review.

Some of Trump’s donors have also chipped in to other White House candidates this campaign season. At least 100 Georgians have donated to both Trump and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley this cycle. Six people have donated to both Trump and Robert Kennedy Jr., a third-party candidate.

Jared Craig, who contributed $450 to Trump’s campaign this cycle, said he hopes the former president’s visit to Atlanta helps “stop the infighting” and wins over more skeptics.

“He needs to get out and wear out some shoes and shake a lot of hands and get the establishment on board,” said Craig, who heads the Georgia chapter of Veterans for America First.

Enormous legal fees from Trump’s pending cases in Atlanta and three other jurisdictions are also eroding his cash haul. He has spent more than $76 million on legal fees through his campaign, political action committee and other fundraising networks over the past two years.

Biden, meanwhile, is already making use of his considerable fundraising edge. A multimillion-dollar TV and radio ad blitz targeting Georgia and other battleground states launched last year.

And Biden last week moved to allay concerns from local Democrats who worried he wasn’t competing vigorously enough in Georgia by hiring nine additional staffers devoted to the state and announcing plans to open new offices.

Dan Kanninen, the Biden campaign’s battleground states director, pointed to the president’s narrow victory in 2020 and Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s win over a Trump-backed rival in 2022 as examples of the “power of organizing and early investments” in Georgia.

“This team of operatives is battle-tested and ready to work together with organizers across the state to help President Biden win and defeat Donald Trump and his MAGA allies for the third election in a row,” he said.