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“Donald Can’t Afford His Own Ego Trip”: Does Donald Trump Even Have $45 Million To Repay His ‘Loans’?

A few weeks ago, the Trump campaign tried to quash rumors of its financial demise by announcing that Trump would write off the $45 million in loans he had used to “self-fund” his campaign.

Trump spokes Hope Hicks says Trump will submit signed statement today to FEC forgiving $50 mil personal loan per legal requirement.

— Beth Reinhard (@bethreinhard) June 23, 2016

After that statement, a far-too-small-handful of political journalists responded: Show us the money.

Why? As The National Memo has reported, since Trump began bragging about his financial independence, “self-funding” doesn’t really mean self-funding. It’s a talking point: Trump can repay his loans with donations from supporters at any time before the Republican convention and walk away from this campaign having pulled off the most cost-efficient advertising campaign in history.

So far, that seems to be the case. According to NBC News, whose Ari Melber has tracked the promise in recent days, the FEC maintains that Trump hasn’t converted any of his loans into donations, and the Trump campaign itself is refusing to release any documentation that would prove Trump has donated his campaign anything.

Campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks told NBC that the paperwork “will be filed with the next regularly scheduled FEC report [on July 20],” but declined to provide any documentation proving that claim.

Of course, that’s what she did last time.

In the meantime, what about the rest of Trump’s campaign? HIs fundraising efforts may have just broken federal law, and it is currently tens of millions of dollars in debt on top of what Trump has promised to pay. By all financial measures, billionaire Donald can’t afford his own ego trip.

 

By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, June 30, 2016

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Finance Laws, Campaign Financing, Donald Trump | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trump Needs Billionaires, And They Know It”: Selling The American People To The Highest Bidder

Did you hear the shocking news? Unlikely presidential candidate Donald Trump announced last week that he would be fundraising in a big way to pay for the rest of his campaign.

Trump’s new finance committee, chaired by CEO of Dune Capital Management Steven Mnuchin and including, recently, Anthony Scaramucci of SkyBridge Capital, will work with and reach out to the same hedge fund manager types that Trump used to call “paper pushers” who are “getting away with murder.”

Who could have guessed: Trump’s claims that he would self-fund his campaign, in order to avoid the corruptive influence of big donors, were complete lies.

Scaramucci, to be fair, is a little more Trump’s speed than your average paper pusher: in addition to managing a hedge fund, he hosts a show on Fox Business and wrote the book Goodbye Gordon Gekko: How to Find Your Fortune Without Losing Your Soul, which I assume Trump thought was ironic.

Mnuchin, for his part, is known in Hollywood for quietly taking $50 million out of Relativity, a failing entertainment company, right before it went bankrupt.

Trump deserves credit, at least, for finding fundraisers in his own image.

The campaign also established a joint fundraising agreement with the Republican Party, so that Trump can fundraise for them — he likely won’t, given his distaste for helping others — and they can funnel him money from their large network of billionaire donors, all of whom are focused on making sure Donald doesn’t repeat the mistake he made on Sunday, when he let slip that rich people should pay more taxes.

By Monday, New Trump had it all figured out: he didn’t mean that the rich would pay more — that would be unthinkable for a Republican nominee with his kind of fundraising operation. Rather, he would simply bump the top marginal rate on his own plan up a few points, still a dramatic tax cut.

“Well, sure it’s a change. I’m allowed to change,” he told George Stephanopolous. “You need flexibility, George, whether it’s a tax plan where you’re going to — where you know you’re going to negotiate. But we’re going to come up with something.”

Trump’s tax plan, which would add trillions upon trillions of dollars to the debt with a huge tax break for the rich, has largely flown under the radar since he proposed it last September, aside from the usual mainstream economists saying it was insane.

But Trump’s off-hand comments about the rich were a mistake Mnuchin and Scaramucci likely knew they couldn’t let stand, if Trump wanted the support of the billionaires that used to constitute the GOP’s ideological base, until he reminded rank-and-file voters that America’s trade policies had screwed them.

And we’re only talking about taxes, an issue that even the most, ahem, inexperienced presidential nominee can fake. If billionaire pressure can reverse Trump’s tax rhetoric in 24 hours, what will billionaire GOP kingmaker Sheldon Adelson’s money do to Trump’s pledge to be “sort of a neutral guy,” in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?

Hint: Last Wednesday, Trump announced suddenly that Israelis “have to keep moving forward” building illegal settlements in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank, a huge obstacle to any kind of negotiations, if you ask Palestinians.

The next day, Adelson — who Trump had previously accused of trying to “mold” Marco Rubio into “his perfect little puppet” — said Trump would be “good for Israel.”

Now, the billionaires are lining up around the block, trying to impress upon Donald the urgency of their pet causes while he’s still gullible enough to simply give them what they want.

Who’s the puppet now?

This election season’s refreshing discussion of money in politics, however coarse it has been, has brought back a saying from the ‘60s, sometimes attributed to Texas Democrat Sam Rayburn and sometimes to Lyndon Johnson. It’s about lobbyists:

“If you can’t eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women, take their money and then vote against them you’ve got no business being up here.”

Bernie Sanders doesn’t want big donors’ help.

Hillary Clinton — like most candidates for office — does want their help, and claims she can still vote against them.

Donald Trump, building up a fundraising infrastructure on-the-fly, is plainly asking for their help in exchange for his vote.

In fact, if you want a rare glimpse at how money can change politicians’ stances on the issues — especially politicians without much experience on the issues — now is a great time to start tracking how and when Trump changes his mind about things.

It won’t be pretty. But Donald is desperate: he needs hundreds of millions of dollars, probably more, to become a viable presidential candidate. And for him, this is all one big deal. As long as he comes out on top, he’ll sell the American people to the highest bidder.

 

By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, May 10, 2016

May 11, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Donald Trump, GOP Campaign Donors | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Let’s End This Myth, Please”: Donald Trump STILL Isn’t Self-Funding His Campaign

Let’s end this myth, please.

After every one of Donald Trump’s campaign finance reports has become publicly available, the media breathlessly reports how much more money Trump has given his campaign.

In March, it was $11.5 million. So far in total, it’s $36 million.

A few weeks ago, I broke down why Donald Trump’s claim that he is “self-funding” his campaign is ridiculous: he’s loaning himself money at zero interest, not paying his campaign’s expenses outright, so that he can pay himself back in the future with money fundraised from his supporters.

Even if he were to pay off all of his loans with his own money — don’t count on it — Trump has so far received more than $12 million dollars in small (and large) contributions from his supporters, much of it through hat sales but some also in the form of maximum allowable cash donations. That’s not “self-funding,” not at all.

Candidates must also pay themselves for “in-kind,” or non-monetary, donations from companies that they own. In March, according to nj.com, Trump paid $476,426 to his own Tag Air — which has received more total Trump campaign money than anyone besides Rick Reed Media, Trump’s advertising people —  $83,597 on Trump Tower, where his campaign is headquartered, and more than $4,000 for lodging at his own hotels.

But we haven’t even seen the start of it.

Assuming Trump wins the Republican Party nomination, it seems increasingly unlikely that he will continue “paying” for his campaign himself. In 2012, both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama’s campaigns — and supportive outside groups including super PACs — spent more than a billion dollars each on the election.

This time, some estimate the total cost of electing a president may be twice as high.

Though Donald Trump has held his tax records extremely close to the chest, unless he has $2 billion dollars lying around — and he’ll need all of it, against likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — he will be forced to fundraise through more traditional channels: more high-dollar fundraisers, more mass appeals for donations from his supporters, and more accepting help from outside groups.

Don’t be surprised, amid all of that commotion, when we find out Trump’s $36 million in campaign debts to himself have suddenly… disappeared. And perfectly legally, too.

 

By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, April 22, 2016

April 23, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Donald Trump, Tax Returns | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Special-Interest Contributions?”: Will Trump Have To Go On A Fund-Raising Binge If He Wins The GOP Nomination?

One of the big story lines of the presidential cycle is that candidates other than front-runner Donald J. Trump have spent a lot more money on themselves and against him than he’s had to expend, enabling him to pose as the guy too rich (and too popular with small donors) to be vulnerable to “bribery.” This was exemplified by the failed effort by Marco Rubio and an assortment of conservative groups to take down Trump in Florida. Anti-Trump “independent” ads alone in the Sunshine State cost an estimated $35.5 million. Total spending by Trump and his supporters for the entire campaign nationwide is at $25.8 million.

Trump’s difference-maker financially, of course, has been his massive advantage in “earned media” (or what used to be called “free media,” because it’s provided by media coverage free of charge). MediaQuant, a firm that measures and values unpaid media coverage, estimates that Trump has harvested nearly $1.9 billion in earned media this cycle. That’s about twice as much as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Jeb Bush combined have received, and within shouting distance of being twice as much as the two Democratic candidates combined as well.

But general-election campaigns are a lot more expensive than primaries. So it’s not surprising that Trump has hedged on repeating his “no special-interest contributions” pledge beyond the Republican Convention in July, and CNN is reporting that he’s already planning a big fund-raising blitz for the general election.

At The American Prospect, Eliza Newlin Carney puts all this together and suggests that total campaign costs are about to become too high for Trump to perpetually surf earned media to victory:

So far, Trump has enjoyed an extraordinary political ride, fending off millions worth of hostile attacks, prevailing against opponents who out-organized and outspent him, and sparing himself the punishing grind of high-dollar fundraisers. He’s also gotten considerable political mileage out of his claim to be above the big money fray. It remains to be seen whether Trump can continue playing by his own rules, or whether he will be forced to get his hands dirty in the messy business of campaign financing—and answer for it to voters.

But there are two factors that undercut this possibility. For one thing, Trump could liquidate some of his assets (estimated independently as having a value of about $4.5 billion) and self-finance to a considerable extent. And for another, this long nominating contest season in both parties is shortening the general-election campaign and the time and cost of any “air war.” Additionally, earned media is much easier to come by in presidential general elections than any other mode of politics, sometimes dwarfing paid media even when there’s not a wildly entertaining and galvanizing figure like Donald Trump in the fray. So it might make sense for Trump to wait and see if he even needs to spend a lot of money. At the current trajectory Americans won’t grow totally bored with the wiggy dude until some time well into 2017.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 17, 2016

March 19, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Donald Trump, Special Interest Groups | , , , , | Leave a comment

“When The Police Are Called To A Governor’s Hotel Room…”: Your Audition For National Office Is Off To An Awkward Start

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) was already confronted with an unwelcome controversy. A month ago, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that the FBI has spent “several months” talking to Republican officials in the state about Martinez’s campaign fundraising activities. Though the Republican governor has insisted the allegations are without merit, Martinez conceded she’d already spoken to the FBI about one of her top advisors.

And now, the governor has a new political headache to deal with. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported on Friday:

[Martinez] found herself attracting a different sort of national attention Friday after the release of a recording in which she told law enforcement dispatchers that police should not investigate disturbance complaints against her group at a Santa Fe hotel.

Martinez’s recorded dealings with police, dispatchers and hotel employees made her a wide target for criticism Friday. Her detractors and political enemies accused her of trying to bully other government employees to thwart an investigation.

As gubernatorial controversies go, this is an odd one. The governor recently held a holiday party for her staff at a hotel, but someone called the police about disturbances from Martinez’s room, where someone was allegedly throwing bottles from a balcony.

Audio recordings were released Friday that showed Martinez demanding hotel staff tell her who made the noise complaint and trying to discourage the police from following up.

By Friday night, the governor issued a statement expressing regret.  ”I want to apologize for the conduct of my staff the night of our holiday party,” Martinez wrote. “There was apparently a party in a hotel room earlier in the night that was disruptive. Someone was also throwing snowballs from a balcony. None of that should have happened and I was not aware of the extent of the behavior, until recently. And that behavior is not acceptable.

“I also want to admit that I made a mistake when I went to speak to the receptionist and asked her about the complaint. I should not have gotten involved in trying to resolve the situation, nor should I have spoken to the dispatcher on the phone. I was wrong to speak with them like that, and I apologize.”

In the larger context, it’s worth noting that Martinez is not just another GOP governor. The New Mexican recently became the chair of the Republican Governors Association, and as we discussed a month ago, she’s also frequently mentioned as a possible VP candidate for her party in 2016. When Marco Rubio was asked about possible running mates, he specifically mentioned Martinez by name six weeks ago.

But at this point, I think it’s safe to say her audition for national office is off to an awkward start.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 21, 2015

December 24, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Republican Governors Association, Susana Martinez | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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