Tuesday Reads: Donald Trump is Broke

Trump pinata

Trump pinata

Good Afternoon!!

Last night Twitter was agog over Donald Trump’s May FEC filing. There’s been a lot of talk lately about chaos in Trump’s campaign and speculation about how wealthy he actually is. But the Trump campaign is in even worse condition than anyone suspected. Mother Jones breaks down the stunning news from his campaign finance documents:

The first glance: Hillary Clinton’s campaign has more than 35 times the cash Trump’s does.

Here’s the second glance: Ted Cruz dropped out of the GOP primary on May 3, meaning that for the month of May, Trump was all but assured the nomination and the campaign should have been in prime fundraising mode. But it wasn’t. Even taking into account Trump’s long-stated claims that he had no interest in raising money from others (something he has reversed himself on)—filings the campaign made with the Federal Election Commission late Monday evening show that Trump simply couldn’t get any fundraising momentum going. He raised a grand total of $5.6 million from May 1 to May 31, $2.2 million of which was in the form of loans from Trump personally….

Trump, who spent more than he raised, has $1.2 million in cash on hand. True, Trump has always had very little cash on hand at the end of a reporting period. But this was because he was writing the checks and didn’t need to keep cash on hand. But now that Trump insists he won’t be self-financing, those low numbers are a problem. Even if Trump significantly increased his fundraising since May 31, he would have to be raising money at an almost unprecedented rate to catch up to Clinton.

It’s not just the low numbers that portend potential disaster for the GOP’s man. It’s the way he arrives at the low numbers that looks scary. There’s no real significant support from top donors—the bedrock of a strong monthly fundraising report. But the Trump campaign picked up just 133 donations that hit the maximum allowed amount of $2,700. Clinton had more donations of $2,700 on just May 17 (140) than Trump had all month, and almost 15 times as many for the entire month (1,981).



More from Think Progress: Trump Said He Had ‘More Cash Than Any Campaign In The History Of Politics.’ That Was A Huge Lie.

Not only is Trump getting lapped by Clinton financially, but his fundraising has been going so poorly that he’s actually behind a good number of U.S. House candidates….

The news sparked renewed concerns that Trump simply won’t be able to fundraise to the extent necessary to run a viable presidential campaign. But during a phone interview on the Today show Tuesday morning, Trump said that if worst comes to worst and Republican donors don’t come around, he could always just self-fund.

“If it gets to a point, what I’ll do is just do what I did in the primaries. I spent $55 million of my own money to win the primaries,” Trump said. “I may do that again in the general election… I have a lot of cash and I may do it again in the general election, but it would be nice to have some help from the party.”

But if he has so much cash, why isn’t he spending it instead of having to deal with being the butt of endless jokes in the media and on Twitter?

Josh Marshall posted this piece before the FEC filings came out: The Real News Is Trump is Broke.

I got onto thinking about this when I saw John McQuaid’s short piece in Forbes. As McQuaid notes, this is the gaping hole, the burning question at the center of Trump’s campaign. Reports suggest that Trump has been unwilling to undergo the ego effacement of calling high dollar Republican donors and asking for money. His campaign has virtually no money in the bank ($2.4m at last count).

Even if Trump can’t not be Trump, the damage of being Trump could at least be off-set by pouring money into advertising in key swing states and field work. But at this moment, the Clinton campaign (and pro-Clinton superPACs) is rolling out a barrage of targeted swing state advertising focused on solidifying and embedding the highly negative image Trump has built for himself over the last year and especially the last eight weeks. That advertising is going entirely unanswered by the Trump campaign.


Why isn’t Trump using his own money, as he keeps threatening to do?

It may take a billion dollars to run a presidential campaign. But at this moment Trump is in dire need of a few million dollars. To go back to cash on hand, Trump currently has $2.4 million and Clinton has just over $30 million. Remember, Trump is allegedly worth $10 billion, which at the risk of stating the obvious means he is worth ten thousand million dollars. Someone in that position might be hard pressed to quickly produce billions of dollars or even hundreds of million in actual cash. But we’re talking tens of millions or even just a few million dollars he needs right now.

Trump may be stingy. He may be saying that the RNC should take responsibility for fundraising, which is something it’s clearly not capable of doing. (The RNC has massive fundraising capacity but it can’t simply take on singlehanded what the candidate was expected to raise.) But as big a disaster as Trump’s campaign is at the moment he stands a real shot at being the next president of the United States. It is simply not credible that he is standing on principle in not giving his campaign any more money at such a critical moment when his bid is being so deeply damaged.

The only credible answer is that it is difficult or perhaps even impossible for him to produce these comparatively small sums. If that’s true, his claim to be worth billions of dollars must either be a pure sham and a fraud or some artful concoction of extreme leverage and accounting gimmickry, which makes it impossible to come up with actual cash.


Here’s Marshall’s reaction to the FEC report (emphasis added):

Let’s face it. Trump is an arrogant man and he’s going through a relentless public shaming right now. If he had the money to get paid staff on the ground and ads on the air, he’d be using it, if only to demonstrate his yuuuuge wealth.


But what really had folks on twitter busy last night was the part about Trump using his campaign funds to reimburse his own businesses and his family members. AP reports: Trump’s campaign cycles $6 million into Trump companies.

Donald Trump’s campaign likes to keep it in the family.

When Trump flies, he uses his airplane. When he campaigns, he often chooses his properties or his own Trump Tower in New York City, which serves as headquarters. His campaign even buys Trump bottled water and Trump wine.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has been on the campaign trail for a year now, and federal finance reports detail a campaign unafraid to co-mingle political and business endeavors in an unprecedented way — even as he is making appeals for donations.

Through the end of May, Trump’s campaign had plunged at least $6.2 million back into Trump corporate products and services, a review of Federal Election Commission filings shows. That’s about 10 percent of his total campaign expenditures…..

Wealthy political candidates in the past have walled off their business from their campaigns, but Trump embraces his companies. Public documents indicate his revenue has risen along with his presidential aspirations.

While Trump’s controversial comments have cost his businesses money — for example, the PGA Tour recently announced it would move its World Golf Championship from a Trump course to one in Mexico City — Trump reported in documents filed in May with federal regulators that his revenue had increased by roughly $190 million over the previous 17 months.

Apparently, running for the presidency is just another money-making scheme to Trump. You can read the details about how how Trump spent his campaign money in May at The Washington Post.


One more interesting bit from the Trump FEC filings: Trump paid $35,000 each to “Draper Sterling,” at an address in New Hampshire. It sounds a little like the fictional ad agency in Mad Men, and late last night lots of people were trying to figure out if it is a legitimate company. Josh Legum at Think Progress: The Weird Story Behind The Trump Campaign’s $35,000 Payment To ‘Draper Sterling’

The Trump campaign made $35,000 in payments to an entity called “Draper Sterling” for “web advertising.” Three $10,000 payments and one $5,000 payment were placed on the campaign’s American Express card on the same day (see the FEC details at the link) ….

Draper Sterling was registered with the New Hampshire Secretary of State to Jon Adkins, the co-founder of a medical device startup. Its headquarters is Adkins’ home address in residential New Hampshire.

Adkins co-founded the medical device company with Paul Holzer, a former Navy Seal and current medical student at Dartmouth. Holzer was involved in Charlie Baker’s run for governor in 2014 — he ran the campaign’s “voter contact strategy.” He was also part of the “management and strategy team” for Missourians For John Brunner, a candidate for governor.

Trump paid an additional $3,000 each to Holzer and Adkins in May for “field consulting.” Holzer listed Adkins’ home as his address.

Legum learned “Draper Sterling” was also mentioned in an FEC complaint. You’ll have to read about that in the article at Think Progress. It’s still not clear what these guys did for Trump.

There are loads of articles out there about the Trump campaign finances and its chaotic state. This story in the NYT is well worth a read: Donald Trump starts Summer Push with Crippling Money Deficit.

This is shaping up to be an unbelievable election campaign. I’ll have more links for you in the comment thread.

Have a great Tuesday!