At least two prominent New York GOP money men are skipping what has been billed as a key fundraising meeting in New York City for the party’s presumptive presidential candidate, Donald Trump, a sign some say that the real estate developer’s insurgent campaign faces enormous odds raising money as the general election approaches, the FOX Business Network has learned.
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Blackstone (BX) chief executive Stephen Schwarzman, who has an estimated net worth of $10.2 billion as CEO of the massive private equity firm, and Kenneth Langone, a billionaire Wall Street financier and investor who runs the firm Invemed Associates, will not attend the event taking place in New York’s Four Seasons hotel, according to press officials for both men.
A spokeswoman for Schwarzman said the Blackstone chief is in London, while a spokeswoman for Langone gave no explanation.
One person with direct knowledge of the event described the meeting as a “who’s who of the New York GOP fundraising community,” which makes Schwarzman’s and Langone’s no-shows all the more startling. Both are long-time GOP fundraisers; Schwarzman supported the last two GOP presidential nominees, U.S. Senator John McCain and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Langone, meanwhile, was a key backer of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s aborted 2016 presidential campaign. Christie is now a key Trump supporter and rumored to be among those he’s considering as his vice presidential candidate.
Christie attended the event that began at noon eastern time. Other attendees include Anthony Scaramucci, the chief of Skybridge Capital, billionaire financier Carl C. Icahn and entrepreneur Georgette Mosbacher, according to people close to the matter.
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Trump also attended, these people say.
A Trump spokeswoman did not return emails and telephone calls on the matter, but people close to his fundraising say Langone has indicated he will personally give money to the campaign. The Langone spokeswoman, however, said he has not raised any money for Trump from outside parties, which is key since Langone has a large network of GOP contacts.
It’s unclear if Schwarzman will give money to Trump or ultimately be convinced to raise funds through his own connections; His spokeswoman had no comment on the matter.
Trump, who says he is worth $10 billion as a real estate developer and reality TV show host, has recently said he will raise outside money as he gears up to face his well-funded [likely] Democratic opponent, former Obama Secretary of State and former U.S. Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton.
Clinton is aiming to raise more than $1 billion to win the presidency through massive ad buys and legions of campaign workers; Trump has said he doesn’t need to match her fundraising prowess since he can generate so much free media through his wide following in the press and on social media.
But many veteran campaign experts say even if Trump doesn’t match Clinton’s cash draw, he has to come close just to be competitive, particularly in battleground states that could decide the election. With that, his campaign has been reaching out to Wall Street mega millionaires and other investors, people with direct knowledge of the matter tell FOX Business.
“I don’t think he has to necessarily raise [as much as Clinton] to win the White House, but he will be in a massive disadvantage if he doesn’t going through the general election,” said Fred Malek, the former finance chair for McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “The point isn’t that he can’t win. At some point, he will stop getting all the free media that he’s got and therefore he could be outspent, but he will still be at a disadvantage. The fact is you have to assume you will have a massive disadvantage especially when the negative ads come after you.”
So far, Trump’s fundraising efforts have been rife with controversy; During his campaign to win the GOP nomination, he attacked fellow candidates for seeking money from wealthy GOP donors, who he said would influence them once in office. He also vowed to raise taxes of wealthy investors by ending tax deductions taken by private equity executives known as “carried interest.”
Trump funded his nomination through a series of loans totaling just about $43 million, but presidential campaigns are far more expensive because they require massive campaign staffing, particularly in battleground states where get-out-the-vote efforts are key. Also, despite Trump’s status as a billionaire, many observers say he doesn’t have the cash on hand to mount such an expensive effort since his wealth is largely tied up in illiquid real estate assets.
Meanwhile, many GOP fundraisers are wary of Trump’s sometimes erratic campaign style, which includes personal attacks on opponents, reporters and even others uninvolved in his political efforts, such as the judge who is presiding over the lawsuit against one of his personal businesses – a for-profit real-estate seminar known as Trump University.
That said, people working with the Trump fundraising team are hoping that each attendee at today’s meeting in New York will be able to raise millions of dollars in both so-called hard money, where there are predetermined limits, as soft-money, where so-called super PACs can raise unlimited funds.
Trump also has a series of fundraisers scheduled in the next weeks including one in Dallas, Texas, on June 16. His fundraisers are trying to emphasize the point that Trump is the GOP’s only hope to prevent a continuation of president Barack Obama’s economic policies, which include higher taxes and massive regulations that have both squeezed profits and employment.
Still, Trump’s money men have their work cut out for them given some of his recent statements and the controversial way he has conducted his campaign so far.
“If I’m hearing one thing from people it’s, ‘if he’s so rich, why doesn’t he spend his own money?’” said one prominent Republican fundraiser.