Who’s Funding the Republican Convention?

The Republican National Convention (RNC), held this year in Milwaukee, will cost the Republican Party tens of millions of dollars, but the source of the bulk of that money won’t be publicly known until long after the event is over.

Who’s Funding the Republican Convention?
Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally on June 28, 2024. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

When Republicans gather in Milwaukee next week for the Republican National Convention to nominate Donald Trump and adopt the party platform, the identities of the corporations and wealthy donors to who forked over millions of dollars to fund the event will be largely unknown to the public. 

The GOP convention, held this year in the battleground state of Wisconsin, is primarily funded through a nonprofit host committee that must register with the Federal Election Commission—but is only required to disclose its donors and expenditures by 60 days after the end of the convention. 

Convention host committees have typically brought in multi-million-dollar donations from corporations and individual donors in recent years—for comparison, the 2016 GOP convention committee raised over $86 million for the event in Cleveland. (The 2020 conventions of both major parties were moved largely online, due to the coronavirus pandemic.) A sponsor prospectus reviewed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said donor tiers for this year’s event range from $500,000 - $5 million, with perks like logo displays and VIP access to convention events. 

The Milwaukee host committee is chaired by former Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman and Trump White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. The host committee lists the names of dozens of partners on its website, like fossil fuel industry trade association the American Petroleum Institute and cryptocurrency company Ripple, though the amounts and dates of their donation are not posted. The host committee did not respond to Sludge’s requests for information about its large donors and corporate sponsors. The nonprofit organization said last month its goal is to raise around $70 million and told the press it is ahead of schedule.

Other named partners of the nonprofit arm of the Milwaukee host committee include the following: the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank behind the Project 2025 plan; fossil fuel company TC Energy; automaker GM; Starbucks; lobby group the American Beverage Association; and the Trump-allied nonprofit Turning Point USA. Many other local companies like Kohl’s department store chose to donate to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), which is financially supporting to the host committee, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In addition to Priebus, the 501(c)3 nonprofit Milwaukee host committee’s board includes Tim Sheehy, former president of the MMAC, as treasurer.

Milwaukee host committee 2024 partnership banner for the Republican National Convention, July 10, 2024

Around $6 million in funding for the GOP convention has also come from donors who have given to the Republican National Committee’s convention account, according to a Sludge review of Federal Election Commission data. Since former President Trump left office, the RNC’s convention account has received a stream of six-figure donations from billionaire investors, fossil fuel company founders, and major donors to conservative causes.

National parties maintain several so-called “segregated” accounts, including for their presidential nominating conventions, party headquarters, and legal proceedings like election recounts. This setup allows deep-pocketed donors to give up to $123,900 to each committee, an amount far larger than the $41,300 maximum per year from an individual to a national party committee.

The amount of cash allowed to flow into national parties was pushed far upward in 2014 by a deal struck between Democratic Party superlawyer Marc Elias, former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and former Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). The deal, which empowered wealthy political donors, was implemented through a last-minute legislative rider that was added to a $1.1 trillion spending bill. The rider raised the amount individual donors could give to a national party from $97,200 to at least $777,600 per year.

Conservative megadonor Liz Uihlein has contributed the near-maximum $466,800 to the RNC convention account since the start of 2021. 

Liz and her husband Richard Uihlein, founder and CEO of Wisconsin packing supplies company Uline, were the second-largest donors to outside spending groups in the 2022 midterms, according to a tally by OpenSecrets that combines the couple’s contributions, which surpass $151 million to federal political groups over the past two election cycles.

Over the years, the Uihleins have showered tens of millions of dollars on right-wing organizations, including the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a funding hub led by former Trump administration officials.