Sixteen years ago, Donald Trump joked during an interview, “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.” But what if he wasn’t kidding?
The Trump campaign’s Federal Election Commission filing made all kinds of headlines yesterday, largely because of his anemic fundraising. But as Rachel explained on the show last night, the more alarming revelation was the degree to which the Republican candidate is spending his limited resources on Trump corporate products and services.
What’s more, a significant chunk of the money Trump has raised came in the form of loans the candidate made to himself – money that donors will eventually pay back, putting their money in his pocket. A campaign finance expert with the Campaign Legal Center told the New York Times yesterday Trump could “end up turning a profit if he repaid himself for the campaign loans. He could get all his money back plus the profit margin for what his campaign has paid [Trump’s larger enterprise] for goods and services.”
There’s a reason a new word is starting to enter the political lexicon: the rise of the “scampaign.”
Imagine being a Republican donor and learning about Trump’s campaign’s finances. How likely are you to grab your checkbook to invest in this enterprise? As the Washington Post reported, the anxiety levels within the party are rising.
Trump is “now looking into the abyss,” said Ed Rollins, the top strategist for Great America PAC, a pro-Trump super PAC. “He can either start writing checks and selling some buildings and golf courses or get on the phones and talk to donors. Big donors just don’t want to give money unless they have the opportunity to talk to the candidate, hear what your positions are. There’s just been a failure from start to finish on the fundraising side.”
Not to put too fine a point on this, but when the guy running your super PAC uses a phrase like “looking into the abyss,” it’s not a good sign.
Politico added that Republican insiders expected Trump’s FEC filibg to be bad, “but not this bad.”
Donald Trump’s newly released fundraising figures proved so anemic that Republican operatives are still shaking their heads and rubbing their eyes to make sure they read the numbers correctly. […]“Republicans have been hoping that the Trump team would put together an organized fundraising effort, and in mid-May they were saying the right things about bringing in experienced bundlers and donors to lead a victory effort,” said Charlie Spies, a former Republican National Committee counsel. “This report shows that that effort to date has been a failure. It’s not going to inspire donors to invest, and most importantly for donors is that Donald is still holding out the possibility of using their donor money to pay back his loans to the campaign.”
In a way, what we’re witnessing is an elaborate test. Nearly everyone had come to believe that in modern national races, successful presidential candidates need vast resources to remain competitive. Donald J. Trump is challenging the assumption, hoping to prove that he can keep pace – and perhaps even win the presidency – through a combination of celebrity, demagoguery, media coverage, and racial resentment.
If he’s correct, the United States will never be the same.