LAS VEGAS, May 14, (AP): The billionaire presidential candidate who prides himself on paying his own way and bashed his competition for relying on political donors now wants their money — and lots of it.
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, recently hired a national finance chairman, scheduled his first fundraiser and is on the cusp of signing a deal with the Republican Party that would enable him to solicit donations of more than $300,000 apiece from supporters.
His money-raising begins right away.
The still-forming finance team is planning a dialing-for-dollars event on the fifth floor of Trump Tower in New York, and the campaign is at work on a fundraising website focused on small donations. In addition to a May 25 fundraiser at the Los Angeles home of real estate developer Tom Barrack, he’ll hold another soon thereafter in New York.
The political newcomer faces a gargantuan task: A general election campaign can easily run up a $1 billion tab. For the primary race, Trump spent a tiny fraction of that amount — he’s estimated $50 million of his own money, plus about $12 million from donors who sought his campaign out on their own.
Trump told The Associated Press in an interview this week that he will spend minimally on a data operation that can help identify and turn out voters. And he’s betting that the media’s coverage of his rallies and celebrity personality will reduce his need for pricey television advertising.
Yet he acknowledged that the general-election campaign may cost “a lot.” To help raise the needed money, he tapped Steven Mnuchin, a New York investor with ties in Hollywood and Las Vegas but no political fundraising experience.
“To me this is no different than building a business, and this is a business with a fabulous product: Donald Trump,” Mnuchin said in an interview at a financial industry conference in Las Vegas. Trump’s new national finance chairman said prospective donors are “coming out of the woodwork” and he’s been fielding emails and phone calls from people he hasn’t heard from in 20 years. More experienced fundraisers are coming aboard, too, such as Eli Miller of Washington, Anthony Scaramucci of New York and Ray Washburn of Dallas. All three helped raise money for candidates Trump defeated in the primary.
To convey the amount of work needed to vacuum up money, Scaramucci, part of 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s finance team, recently shared Romney’s old fundraising calendar with Trump. He said Trump was receptive to a schedule that has 50 to 100 fundraisers over the summer.
Scaramucci said he didn’t expect Trump to grovel for donors. “But is he going to say thank you and be appreciative? Of course. He’s very good one-on-one. He’s a hard guy not to like.”
Trump’s dilemma: By asking for money, he could anger supporters who love his assertion that he’s different from most politicians because he isn’t beholden to donors.
He’s tried to navigate these tricky waters by saying he wants only to raise money to benefit the party and help elect other Republicans. But his planned joint fundraising agreement with Republican officials also provides a direct route to his own campaign coffers.
Such an arrangement could work like this: For each large contribution, the first $2,700 or $5,400 goes to Trump’s campaign, the next $33,400 goes to the Republican National Committee, similar amounts could go to national party accounts and the rest is divided evenly among various state parties the candidate selects.
Democrat Hillary Clinton set up such a victory committee in September, and it had collected $61 million by the end of March.
She also counts on several super PACs. They’ve landed million-dollar checks from her friends and supporters and already scheduled $130 million in TV, radio and internet ads leading up to Election Day.
Trump is only now beginning to turn his attention to this kind of big money. A decision on how fully to embrace outside groups is fraught with possible charges of hypocrisy, since he has called them “corrupt.”
Still, wealthy Trump supporters have several options — and megadonors are beginning to line up.
Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire Las Vegas casino owner who was the largest donor of the 2012 presidential race, wrote in a Washington Post editorial this week that he endorses Trump and is urging “those who provide important financial backing” to do the same.
Libertarian billionaire Peter Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and pumped millions of dollars into Ron Paul’s presidential bid four years ago, recently signed on as a California delegate for Trump. And billionaire oil investor T. Boone Pickens said this week he intends to help finance Trump’s effort. He’s invited officials from one of the pro-Trump super PACs to his Texas ranch next month.
The chairman of the Republican Party says presumptive nominee Donald Trump has been trying hard lately to act more presidential and should keep meeting individually with Republican leaders to win the party’s trust.
In a brief interview Friday with The Associated Press, Reince Priebus also expressed uncertainty about whether Trump needs to heal his frosty relationship with House Speaker Paul Ryan before the GOP launches fall campaigns to capture the White House and defend its control of Congress. Ryan, the top Republican in Congress, has declined to endorse Trump, though the two men met privately Thursday in a session both said was positive.
“I’m not sure,” Priebus of the need for a Trump-Ryan embrace. But he added, “I do think that Donald Trump understands, and I certainly understand and believe, that the more unity we have, the better off we’re going to be.”
The extraordinary chasm between the country’s two leading Republicans reflects ideological differences over spending, immigration and other issues. In addition, swing district GOP lawmakers worry that Trump’s hard-line statements on Hispanics and comments about women’s appearances will imperil their re-election prospects.
Priebus, who attended Thursday’s meeting between Trump and Ryan, said the session “was more Midwest than New York” and said he believes Ryan will end up chairing the party’s July national convention in Cleveland. Trump had threatened to keep Ryan from that largely ceremonial role but has since backtracked.
Priebus repeatedly referred to the problems political professionals have had assessing Trump’s candidacy, saying people have been “completely wrong about Donald Trump and the playbook.”
Trump seems all but certain to formally become the GOP nominee at the party’s convention, despite his insulting entire voting blocs and personal invectives against many of his rivals.
“He’s been trying very hard to be presidential and gracious and I think he’s actually done a nice job of that lately,” Priebus said of Trump, “And I expect him to continue working at it and getting the job done.”