The cash-strapped Republican National Committee (RNC) continues to trail its Democratic counterpart in campaign fundraising. But a new rule recently passed by GOP-friendly officials on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) may end up being a critical lifeline for Republicans this election cycle.

According to the Daily Beast, three Republican members of the FEC appointed during former President Donald Trump’s administration recently passed an obscure ruling that effectively approved the expenditure of RNC funds on the ex-president’s legal bills. The Beast’s Roger Sollenberger and Mini Racker wrote that the rule allows for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) — the GOP’s campaign arm for U.S. Senate races — to divert funds from its legal/recount account toward any overt campaign ad buy, provided that money raised from those ads eventually went back into the legal account.

“This means the RNC can run Trump ads that raise money for the legal proceedings account and then use those funds to pay Trump’s personal legal fees,” campaign finance attorney Brett Kappel told the Beast.

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“The Republican Party will no doubt be pleased by the holding of the three Republicans that Donald Trump appointed to the FEC,” he said.

That ruling was prompted by a lawsuit filed by campaign finance watchdog groups End Citizens United and the Campaign Legal Center, which argued that millions of dollars in ad buys the NRSC made from its legal proceedings account during the 2022 midterm elections were illegal. Campaign finance expert Brendan Fischer told the Beast that the Republican members of the FEC effectively “opened a huge loophole” for Trump by allowing separate committee accounts typically funded by “mega donors writing six-figure checks” to be used on ads.

“These segregated accounts were created with much higher contribution limits and the understanding that they’d only be used for very narrow purposes,” Fischer said. “The party committees aren’t really chasing small-dollar donors with these ads. They are spending big money on campaign ads pretending to solicit small dollar donations.”

While the ruling is beneficial for the former president’s reelection campaign, it also means that the GOP’s down-ballot candidates and state party organizations will end up with less money. Former senior Republican strategist Stuart Stevens told Sollenberger and Racker that the FEC’s decision could hurt the GOP’s efforts to keep the House of Representatives and take back the Senate.

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“They’re gonna lose race after race after race because Trump is sucking up all the money,” Stevens told the Beast. “There’s not one honest state party chairman who isn’t furious about this. There’s not one executive director of a state party that doesn’t believe that they’re being cheated, but they’re all just going to be quiet about it.”

This ruling is welcome news for the RNC, whose “Trump 47 Victory” joint fundraising committee with the former president’s reelection campaign is badly trailing the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and President Joe Biden’s own joint fundraising operations. The Beast reported that Trump 47 Victory brought in $90 million from major donors in the first quarter of 2024, with just $26.5 million in cash on hand.

Meanwhile, the “Biden Victory” joint fundraising committee raised roughly $130 million, and has $60.5 million in cash on hand. While the RNC transferred just $1.5 million of Trump 47 Victory funds to its election account, the DNC got $27 million of Democrats’ joint fundraising money, with $13.8 million going to state party organizations to help down-ballot Democratic candidates running for federal office.

Click here to read the Beast’s report in full (subscription required).

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