‘Self-funded’ Trump needs money – and quickly

Andrew Malcolm
Andrew Malcolm

In a strange election cycle, here’s the latest topper: The richest presidential candidate has money trouble.

If Donald Trump wants to be president, he will need over a billion dollars for the general election.

Acquiring that much money that quickly is a bigger, more crucial challenge than all others.

Well, you say, Trump claims to have at least $10 billion. We don’t know because he hasn’t released his taxes. Trump boasts of being self-funded since the start. That’s not accurate.

Having effectively clinched the GOP nomination, Trump reneged on self-funding, saying he’ll begin accepting donations.

Most presidential candidates create money-raising operations two years out. Trump has 10 weeks until the convention. He’s just now talking with the Republican National Committee about joint fundraising. And Trump has four weeks until Hillary Clinton launches a nearly $100 million assault of attack ads to define him before he does.

Bernie Sanders, and Ron Paul before him, showed the power of fervent followers’ online donations.

With only a big DONATE button on his website, Trump has gotten – and spent – $12 million along with $35 million of his own money, which he has technically loaned himself, subject to repayment from donations.

Trump recently announced his chief fundraiser, Steve Mnuchen, another Democratic donor from Wall Street. But there’s another problem: Trump has spent nearly a year vilifying wealthy political donors. Much as he admits doing for years.

One, they don’t trust him. Trump’s primary run destroyed a field of highly qualified Republicans for whom these donors raised hundreds of millions.

Two, they see nothing conservative about the man who has been a wealthy benefactor of liberal causes and Democrats, including Hillary Clinton.

And three, the landslide defeat of Trump, which current polls predict, would also sweep away a lot of down-ticket Republicans who were assembled over many years at great cost. Perhaps a better investment is to bolster them.

And, anyway, how will beseeching big money go over with Trumpers? Isn’t this a betrayal of the standard politician Trump claims not to be?

Through April, the Clinton network had raised $217 million, a giant head start. Plus her Priorities USA super PAC has another $67 million to add to others’ political spending.

Having said he’d need a billion bucks, Trump added, “I’m not even sure that’s necessary because I have a big voice.” True, some estimates say he has gotten nearly a quarter-billion dollars in free exposure since June.

But that was over 11 months. Fewer than six remain until Nov. 8. And Trump has no ground game. No policy shop. No opposition research arm.

The RNC can help. But all that takes a lot of money. Without it, the bombastic billionaire risks becoming the worst thing in his own world – a loser.

Twitter: @AHMalcolm.