Trump campaign uses newly restored Facebook page to fundraise off indictment
Donald Trump's campaign turned to Facebook to raise money off his indictment in New York as he rages against Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
An advertisement soliciting donations for former U.S. President Donald Trump is seen as it was introduced as evidence and displayed during the second public hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, at Capitol Hill, in Washington, U.S. June 13, 2022.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
Former President Donald Trump's campaign is running Facebook ads to raise money off his indictment by a New York grand jury, leveraging the platform it only regained access to in February after a two-year ban sparked by the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Trump's campaign for president on Friday started running Facebook ads that criticize the indictment and urge his supporters to help him by donating, according to the social media giant's ad archive. The archive shows at least three different Trump campaign fundraising ads that leverage the indictment.
"The Radical Left – the enemy of the hard-working men and women of this country – have INDICTED me in a disgusting witch hunt," one Facebook ad run Friday says. "Please make a contribution of $47 or more by 11:59 P.M. to help DEFEND our movement from the never-ending witch hunts during these dark times – and we'll send you your very own 'I Stand with President Trump' T-shirt for FREE."
The 11:59 deadline marks the end of the first-quarter fundraising period for all campaigns. The Facebook ads, run through Trump's page, say they were paid for by the Trump Save America Joint Fundraising Committee. The political action committee raises money for the Trump campaign and Save America, the former president's leadership PAC. Trump's 2020 campaign and the Save America PAC previously spent millions of dollars on legal fees.
The Facebook ad archive shows a majority of those who have seen that Friday fundraising ad alone are men and women over the age of 65. States where the ad was shown include Florida, Texas, California and Pennsylvania, some of the most populous and politically important in the country.
The ads underscore the effort Trump has made across email lists and social media platforms to leverage the increased attention the indictment has brought to rake in money, which he can use both for his 2024 bid and legal expenses. They also show how critical the reach of Facebook is for the former president — and what his campaign missed during the two-year suspension that Facebook implemented amid fears Trump could foment more violence through the platform.
The Trump campaign started ramping up fundraising ads on Facebook earlier in March, after Trump was reinstated to the platform in February, according to the ad archive. While the platform has always provided a key fundraising tool for Trump when he has had access, the indictment offered a unique window to rally small-dollar donors through his social media page.
"Although the platform is pivoting away from boosting political content, it remains a powerful tool for Trump to raise money and spread his messaging," Kyle Tharp, who tracks and writes on digital ads at the newsletter FWIW, told CNBC. Tharp said that because Trump has millions of followers eager to hear what he has to say, the "campaign is smart to engage them — even around his indictment."
Trump has 34 million followers on Facebook.
Trump aims to leverage the enthusiasm among his supporters as he tries to cement his status as the early frontrunner in the 2024 GOP presidential primary. The prospect of an indictment did not seem to dampen GOP support for him: the ex-president had over 50% of support in the Republican primary for president in a recent Fox News poll.
A Trump campaign spokesman did not respond to a request for comment when asked how much the former president's campaign has raised since the indictment. Asked for comment, a Facebook spokesman referred CNBC to the company's January announcement on ending Trump's suspension and the standards he faces now that he's back on the platform.
The Facebook ads come in addition to the fundraising emails Trump's campaign has sent to supporters, pushing for contributions after the New York grand jury's vote.
Democrats and Republicans alike have been sending out emails calling for donors to contribute and tying the requests back to the indictment.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Senate Majority PAC, two committees dedicated to electing Democrats to the Senate, put out fundraising pitches linked back to the charges against Trump.
Representatives for Democrats and Republicans who raised money off the indictment did not respond to requests for comment.
ActBlue, the digital fundraising platform often used by Democratic campaigns, shows that the online tool processed well over $3 million in contributions between the indictment and Friday afternoon, according to its live tracker. A spokesman for ActBlue declined to comment.
A spokeswoman for WinRed, the rival online fundraising platform for Republicans, did not provide details on how much the online platform helped raise for GOP lawmakers and candidates.
Trump's rage at the indictment has provided a particular pull for his page, according to data provided to CNBC by FWIW. The data shows that Trump's Facebook post with his initial statement reacting to the indictment, which called the move by the New York grand jury "political persecution," received over 275,000 engagements, including reactions, shares, and comments. It has been shared at least 25,000 times by Facebook users, the group said.
Even before the indictment, Trump's presence on Facebook since his reinstatement saw huge engagement.
Facebook's Top 10, a Twitter bot that tracks the top posts on the social media platform, said in a tweet last Friday that Trump's page had one of the "top-performing link posts by U.S. Facebook pages in the last 24 hours."
One of the two Facebook posts within those 24 hours showed Trump in a video calling on his supporters to donate to his campaign.
"If you don't have the funds, you don't even have to think about doing it," Trump said in the video. "But if you could chip in, if you've done well, if you remember those great four years that we had where you made a lot, we need your help in posting massive numbers."
That video alone has over 375,000 views.