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Packaging billionaires to help fund Trump campaign, FT reports

FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President Trump holds a watch party event to mark the Super Tuesday primary elections at his Mar-a-Lago property

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Conservative billionaires Liz and Dick Uihlein will help fund Donald Trump’s campaign, giving the former president financial support as he seeks to catch a fundraising lead built by President Joe Biden, the Financial Times said on Saturday.

The Uihleins, who founded the Uline shipping and packaging company from their basement in 1980, had donated to the Republican primary campaign of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who dropped out of the race in January.

Uline did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

News of the couple's decision came after the former president won 14 out of 15 states in the Super Tuesday primaries and his last Republican rival, Nikki Haley, quit the race, the FT said.

Her exit all but assured that Trump will be the party's nominee and face off again against Biden, a Democrat.

Trump has fallen behind Biden in fundraising ahead of the Nov. 5 general election. Trump's cash holdings dropped to just over $30 million at the end of January, down from around $33 million a month earlier, his campaign told the Federal Election Commission.

Biden, facing a less competitive process for his Democratic Party's nomination, told the FEC his campaign ended January with about $56 million in cash, up from $46 million in December.

Trump's legal expenses have grown to hundreds of millions of dollars as he grapples with 91 criminal counts across four cases. On Friday, he posted a $91.6 million bond to cover the defamation verdict in favor of writer E. Jean Carroll.

The Uihleins had each given $1.5 million to DeSantis and Liz Uihlein told the FT she would give a similar amount to Trump.

The Wisconsin-based couple have given more than $250 million to federal candidates and political groups since the 2016 election cycle, the FT said, citing the nonprofit OpenSecrets. They backed Trump in the two previous elections, before seeking an alternative candidate to support for the 2024 race.

In an interview with the newspaper, Liz Uihlein said both Trump and Biden were already well-known to voters and she wondered how much donations helped at this stage.

"These two guys are very well-defined," she told the FT. "I don’t understand why everybody has to give all this money."

She also expressed qualms over Trump's rhetoric.

"Everybody likes Trump’s policies," Liz Uihlein said. "But we have almost 10,000 people that work for us and I would never talk to them the way Trump talks to people."

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Daniel Wallis)