File photo: Former US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop to unveil his leadership team, at the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, US, 28 January 2023; Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donald Trump's bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 got off to a modest fundraising start, with his campaign ending the year with about $7 million on hand while his Save America fund had about $18 million, according to financial disclosures released on Tuesday 31 January 2023.

After launching his third consecutive run for the White House on 15 November 2022, a week after a weaker-than-expected Republican performance in midterm congressional elections, the former United States (US) President did little campaigning, not hitting the trail until Saturday 28 January 2023.

Tuesday's filings with the Federal Election Commission suggest that Mr Trump's fundraising was also sluggish, leaving him with a far smaller war chest than the more than $100 million Save America had on hand through early 2022.

Donald Trump remained a prodigious fundraiser after leaving office in January 2021, holding regular rallies in which he repeated his false claims that his loss to Democratic President Joe Biden was the result of widespread fraud.

But the Save America group that served as his main fundraising arm was registered to fund other campaigns, not Mr Trump's own. That poses legal problems if Mr Trump seeks to use Save America funds on his own campaign.

Last year, Save America transferred some $60 million to a pro-Trump Super PAC group which is expected to support his presidential run. The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group, has asked election regulators to probe Save America's money transfers.

Save America's financial disclosure on Tuesday showed the group spent more than $3 million on lawyer fees in the final weeks of the 2022.

Donald Trump remains the Republican Party's most popular figure and is the only major candidate to have declared his intention to challenge Joe Biden, who has not yet formally launched his own reelection campaign. But Mr Trump could face challengers for the nomination, notably Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

He also faces a series of legal risks, including a possible investigation into hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign.

On Saturday, Donald Trump visited two early-voting states and held notably muted events. In contrast to the raucous rallies in front of thousands of devotees that Mr Trump has held in the past, he spoke to about 200 people in South Carolina's capitol building.

In its disclosure to election regulators, Donald Trump's official campaign committee reported raising $3.8 million between 15 November and 31 December 2022, ending the year with $3 million in the bank.

Most of that money was raised through another Donald Trump fundraising group called the Trump Save America Joint Fundraising Committee, which reported having an additional $3.8 million in the bank at the end of the year.