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No money, no problems? Trump stops, then restarts big money fundraising

Wednesday, November 2, 2016 10:46
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By The Sunlight Foundation

(Photo credit: Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons)

First Trump “self-funded” his campaign. Then Trump accepted seven-figure checks from big-donors — while still claiming he was the only one buoying his campaign. Then he halted joint fundraising altogether…but now he’s back at it again.

In a surprising move, Trump’s campaign manager, Steve Mnuchin, announced Oct. 25 that Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee that can raise huge sums of money, will cease formal fundraising operations. While the campaign will continue to take in individual donations, Mnuchin claimed they stopped hosting official fundraisers and soliciting big donors.

But today, the Trump National Doral Hotel in Miami hosted a fundraiser for the Victory Fund with Donald Trump in attendance, according to an invitation obtained by the Miami Herald. When we reached out to Trump National Doral, an employee confirmed that the event did, in fact, benefit Trump Victory.

We reached out to the Trump campaign and did not receive a response.

While Mnuchin didn’t rule out any “ad hoc” fundraisers in his announcement, the event appears to have been planned well in advance: The event was discovered days in advance, featured their boilerplate invitation and listed Reince Priebus, the chairman of the GOP, as a host along with Trump’s financial chairman and former Ambassador Mel Sembler.

According to Political Party Time’s database, the Trump Victory fundraising apparatus benefitted from only 66 official events this cycle, compared to the Hillary Victory Fund’s 410.

Joint fundraising committees such as the Trump Victory fund benefit the party by permitting individuals to give nearly half a million dollars to the joint fundraising committee (JFC) between Trump, the RNC and several state Republican parties.

Trump’s first fundraiser benefitting the victory fund occurred May 24, 2016. By contrast, Clinton began fundraising for her joint committee on Dec. 9, 2015. And money generating operations generally run right up to the 11th hour: In 2012, President Obama held a fundraiser five days before Election Day, and Mitt Romney held an official event just four days out.

While Mnuchin claimed the last fundraiser was Oct. 24, Clinton’s camp boasted they have over 40 fundraising events planned from then until Election Day.

Lisa Spies, a Republican fundraiser, told the Washington Post what puzzled her most.

[I]t is incredibly demoralizing for Trump’s supporters to hear that he’s no longer out trying to win support. The only reason you admit that you are no longer asking for money is because either you are so well-funded that you don’t need money anymore, or because you don’t see any pathway to win.

Closing down operations seems less like a victory and more of a head-scratcher. The campaign’s fundraising efforts have consistently been rife with contradictions, such as an Oct. 15 message claiming the campaign neared 3 million donors and an email 12 days later claiming they hoped to end the campaign with 2.5 million donors.

Whether Trump benefits from another joint event with the RNC or not, his stance on big-donor fundraising should keep us guessing until Election Day.

The Sunlight Foundation is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens, alike.


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