As of the last report dated May 31, Trump’s campaign had only $1.3 million—a remarkable $41 million less than Hillary Clinton. [Donald Trump Starts Summer Push With Crippling Money Deficit, by Nicholas Confessore and Rachel Shorey, New York Times, June 20, 2016]
Of course, the Left’s reaction is shameless. Thus the same Arianna Huffington who proclaimed The Money Race: Politicians Win, You Lose [Huffington Post, May 25, 2011], just jeered:
And the same Daily Show which called the GOP’s 2014 mid-term victories undemocratic and illegitimate because of their big donors [The Daily Show Celebrates Tonight’s Real Winner: Money, by Josh Feldman, Mediaite, November 4, 2014], tweeted
Leftist hypocrisy is nothing new, but it’s truly amazing to see it now rushing to praise Hillary Clinton for her prowess at appealing to Wall Street mega donors, while attacking Trump for being at odds with their erstwhile billionaire boogeymen like the Koch Brothers.
And of course, relative lack of money didn’t stop Trump from winning the GOP nomination. He spent just $47 million dollars, all but $11 million of which he loaned to his own campaign from his personal fortune. In contrast, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio raised $111, $162 (!), and $124.5 million dollars respectively. [Which Presidential Candidates Are Winning the Money Race, NYT, June 22, 2016]
During the primaries, Trump used his opponents’ fundraising to accuse them of being in the tank of big donors and special interests. He called Bush “a puppet to his donors.” He insulted Ted Cruz for his Goldman Sachs loan. He even told the Republican Jewish Coalition, “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money” [Trump courts Republican Jews with offensive stereotypes, by Rebecca Stoil, December 3, 2015]. Trump used his self-funding to proclaim his independence. When he got booed at debates, he blamed lobbyists and donors in the audience.
However, the general election will require more money for advertising and get out the vote efforts, especially as the “Lying Press” is even more relentlessly hostile than it was in the primaries.
Thus, Trump is now in the uncomfortable position of soliciting support from the typical GOP donors he had earlier denounced. When Sheldon Adelson considered backing Rubio, Trump tweeted, “Sheldon Adelson is looking to give big dollars to Rubio because he feels he can mold him into his perfect little puppet. I agree!” Now Trump celebrates news that Sheldon Adelson promised 100 million dollars to his campaign.
While Trump previously said, “"I know the guys at Goldman Sachs. They have total, total control over him. Just like they have total control over Hillary Clinton," he has just named Steven Mnuchin a former Goldman Sachs partner who is also associated with George Soros as his finance chair for the general election. [Trump Names Former Goldman Partner, Soros Money Manager As Finance Chairman, by Alex Pappas, Daily Caller, May 5, 2016,]
But although Trump has successfully wooed some previously reluctant donors [Billionaire donors who paid to stop Trump are now backing him, NY Post, May 19, 2016] the bulk of the GOP donors do not support him. The New York Times recently surveyed fifty of the top Republican donors and found
More than a dozen of the party’s most reliable individual contributors and wealthy families indicated that they would not give to or raise money for Mr. Trump. This group has contributed a combined $90 million to conservative candidates and causes in the last three federal elections, mainly to “super PACs” dedicated to electing Republican candidates.And:
Among the party’s biggest financiers disavowing Mr. Trump are Paul E. Singer, a New York investor who has spent at least $28 million for national Republicans since the 2012 election, and Joe Ricketts, the TD Ameritrade founder who with his wife Marlene has spent nearly $30 million over the same period of time, as well as the hedge fund managers William Oberndorf and Seth Klarman, and the Florida hospital executive Mike Fernandez.In addition, the NYT’s Martin and Burns reported that Charles and David Koch will likely not support Trump. Perhaps not coincidentally, Klarman, Fernandez, Singer and the Koch Brothers are all on record as supporting Amnesty.
[Key G.O.P. Donors Still Deeply Resist Donald Trump’s Candidacy, by Jonathan Martin & Alexander Burns, May 21, 2016]
Trump will never win over these donors—and Hillary Clinton will greatly outspend him during the general election. At the same time, every single dollar he raises will expose him to charges of hypocrisy and flip flopping.
In fact, I am not too worried about Trump abandoning his positions on immigration or trade to appease the donor class. He is savvy enough to know that these are winning issues, and how bad it will look to his core supporters if he abandons them. However, I am more concerned that he may end up drifting back to typical Republican positions on taxes, Medicare, or Wall Street regulations, where he does not have particularly strong views. If he cedes his platform on these issues to the donors, it will enable Hillary Clinton to label him a ‘phony populist.’
Donald Trump has already gone on the offensive against Clinton fund-raising, saying that lobbyists, “CEOs, and foreign governments…totally own her,” while attacking Clinton’s “Wall Street immigration agenda.” [Full transcript: Donald Trump NYC speech on stakes of the election, Politico, June 22, 2016] Now Trump should go a step further and call Hillary out on her phony campaign finance reform agenda.
It is Clinton, after all, who really is the phony populist. Thus she says her campaign finance reform plan will upend the “political system hijacked by billionaires and special interests,” by overturning Citizens United (a decision prompted by a movie critical of Hillary herself) reining in Super PAC spending, and increasing public funding on campaigns. [Hillary Clinton Announces Campaign Finance Overhaul Plan, by Amy Chozick & Nicholas Confessore, September 8, 2015].
Yet Super PACs have already raised over $76 million for Clinton—and she has rejected public financing of her campaign. [Fact-Check: Clinton And Sanders On Campaign Finance, by Peter Overby, NPR, February 8, 2016]
Clinton rails against “hedge fund billionaires aligned with Karl Rove”. Yet her campaign has been calling “top Bush family donors to try to convince them that she represents their values better than Donald Trump” [Hillary forces target Bush donors, by Ben White, POLITICO, May 5, 2016].
When called out on this contradiction, Clinton says that the system cannot be reformed unless she is in the White House and so “we can’t unilaterally disarm” in the meantime. [Facing Money Gap, Hillary Clinton Slowly Warms to ‘Super PAC’ Gifts, by Amy Chozick & Eric Lichtblau, New York Times, August 15, 2015].
Trump should call her bluff and offer to bilaterally disarm. Both candidates should accept public financing of her campaign and sign a pledge to reject Super PAC support. (Presidential candidates are eligible to receive public financing in the general election if they limit spending to $96.14 million, which Clinton has indicated she will not do).
In the 2012 Massachusetts Senate Race, Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown entered into a “People’s Pledge” where both campaigns promised to donate campaign funds to charity for every dollar of SuperPAC spending. [Group’s study backs pact that limited outside political spending,By Joshua Miller, Boston Globe, May 2, 2013] This reduced outside spending by 93%.
Trump should similarly challenge Clinton to accept public financing and sign a People’s Pledge. He could even offer to allow her to have an exemption equal to the amount he personally spends on his campaign.
In the unlikely event that Clinton accepts these terms, it opens up many huge advantages.
It may be a cliché to say “turn your mess into your message.” But the Left’s snark about Trump’s finances is a perfect opportunity use his fundraising gap to expose Hillary Clinton as a hypocrite.
Washington Watcher [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.