We’ve fact-checked Trump’s “self-fundraising” campaign claim and highlighted The Donald’s history of hosting fundraisers for others on both sides of the aisle. Now, “he’s done a complete 180,” fundraising like everyone else and taking money from big donors.
The general election is a different animal from the GOP primary – and Trump only has six months to form an organized coalition of support. The resources Trump needs now are, to borrow a word, “yuge.”
Trump argues he’ll need the money to go toe-to-toe against Clinton’s money-making machine. She has nearly $75 million cash on hand, while Bernie Sanders has over $17 million cash on hand. But of the $50 million Trump has raised for his bid, including his donations, loans and PAC support, only about $10 million came from small donors.
First-time beneficiary, longtime benefactor
First reported by The Washington Post, Trump’s inaugural fundraiser on May 25 will be a dinner hosted by investor Thomas Barrack Jr., who was a business associate of Trump’s in the 1980s, and is the founder and executive chairman of Colony Capital.
Maybe the new, general election Trump is one that has no problem asking for money – possibly 50 times in the next six months, no less.
Trump recently named Steven Mnuchin – chairman and CEO of Dune Capital Management, a private investment firm, and a major co-financier of Warner Brothers movies such as Mad Max and American Sniper – as his national finance chairman to reach his $1 billion fundraising target. Mnuchin has given to Democrats – more than $7,000 to Hillary Clinton’s past campaigns and over $4,000 to Barack Obama’s – and previously worked for a fund founded by Democratic donor George Soros. Trump hopes Mnuchin’s fundraising prowess can land him coveted Hollywood and Wall Street support.
The Wall Street support may be more a necessity than a luxury. The financial services sector donated $90 million of total contributions throughout the last cycle, more than any other industry. They also gave three times more to Romney than Obama in 2012, and Trump may need to work hard for the same contribution; Hillary Clinton has taken in more campaign contributions from the financial services industry than all other candidates combined thus far.
Mnuchin, already operating in high gear, recently courted T. Boone Pickens (who is hosting a future Trump fundraiser), Georgette Mosbacher and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown to appear in Las Vegas for the SkyBridge Alternatives Conference, known as SALT.
These operations didn’t grow their war chests overnight. With little field staff, analytics, voter data or anything constituting a “grassroots” campaign effort, Trump’s early reliance on “self-funding” his campaign could turn out to be a bad deal. Trump looks like he will lean on the Republican National Committee now more than ever.
“Early in the election cycle, the talk among GOP state party officials was of a joint fundraising committee that could include all 50 states and six territories, allowing maximum donations of about $600,000 per person, according to one state party chairman,” writes Politico.
Now, that has become a reality: Trump, the RNC and at least 11 state parties have combined to create the Trump Victory Fund, a new joint fundraising committee where donors can hand over checks of nearly $500,000. With this new joint fundraising committee, donors can max out to Trump’s campaign ($5,400) and then some — guiding the extra money to the related political groups. A joint fundraising committee finances advertising and party infrastructure, like get-out-the-vote efforts for candidates, benefits that Trump would be eager to accept in the general election. On the Democratic side, this is already in play: The Hillary Victory fund, for example, allows supporters to contribute one large check, which is then divvied up between Hillary Clinton’s campaign, dozens of state Democratic parties and the Democratic National Committee.
Trump will also raise money through the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a party partnership solely between his campaign and the RNC.
Conservative candidates have used joint fundraising committees in the past as well. According to The Washington Post:
In 2012, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney raised nearly $500 million through a joint fundraising agreement with the three national Republican party committees and four state parties. … Because of all the committees involved, an individual donor could give nearly $135,000. By the end of June 2012, Romney Victory had already scooped up $140 million.
Much of Trump’s appeal hinges on the premise that he is beholden to no one, a self-made man that is impervious to lobbyists and special interests swaying his actions. Could his new fundraising plan jeopardize his appeal? Only time will tell if Republicans care who’s backing their billionaire.