Johnson had been the finance chairman for Jeb Bush’s failed presidential bid.
New York Jets owner Woody Johnson is the latest major Republican donor and fundraiser to get behind Donald Trump, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Johnson, who was finance chairman for Jeb Bush’s failed presidential campaign, plans to raise money for the Republican National Committee and Trump through a joint fundraising committee, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Johnson met with Trump Monday and is prepared to lean on potential donors to get on board, the person said.
For years, Johnson has been a major player in fundraising circles. He was a bundler for the Republican candidate in each of the past four elections, and has written some big checks himself, including the $500,000 he contributed to Right to Rise, the super-PAC that supported Bush. Johnson is likely to donate some of his own money this year, too, the source said.
Johnson, who has known Trump for years, has had an even bigger impact as a bundler. In May 2008, he arranged a fundraiser for John McCain’s cash-starved presidential campaign that brought in $7 million in a single evening. Johnson was also a top bundler for George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns and for Mitt Romney’s 2012 effort.
He joins the ranks of a small but growing number of wealthy Republicans who have voiced support for Trump, including Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and investment manager Foster Friess. Fred Eshelman, the North Carolina pharceutical investor, told Bloomberg that he is also backing Trump but hasn’t yet decided how much he’ll spend.
Johnson’s support is significant because he is widely considered part of the traditional party establishment, which has bristled at Trump’s rise. His broad network of wealthy donors could be key to helping Trump reach the $1 billion he said he needed for the general election. The RNC can accept contributions in much bigger amounts — $334,000 is the maximum — than a campaign committee, which can only take $2,700.
Johnson has been largely silent on his plans since Bush dropped out of the race. “I think I want to focus on football,” Johnson told reporters in late March.
Trump has needled Johnson in the past for refusing to support him. After the Jets’ loss in January that kept them out of the playoffs.
Trump in January tweeted: “Woody Johnson, owner of the NYJets, is @JebBush’s finance chairman. If Woody would’ve been w/me, he would’ve been in the playoffs, at least!”