The Trump campaign is publicly touting the tremendous success of its nascent fundraising effort with contributions “pouring in” to its coffers, but the money men on the ground and working the phones to convince potential donors to support the real estate tycoon’s presidential ambitions are providing a more sobering assessment, the FOX Business Network has learned.
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According to several Trump campaign operatives interviewed by FOX Business, they are having a difficult time raising money from even reliable GOP donors. These fundraisers, known as bundlers because their job is to accumulate large contributions in so-called “soft money” that can surpass federal limits, also worry that a money drought will extend beyond the current tumult to hit the Trump campaign and ultimately doom the presumptive nominee particularly in battleground states where he’s likely to face a barrage of negative ads, and a formidable voter-outreach effort from his likely Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The concerns of these fundraisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity with FOX Business, were contradicted by Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks, who said in an email “There are no (fundraising) concerns whatsoever. The money is pouring in and Mr. Trump has received tremendous support.” She declined to provide how much the campaign has raised so far; the campaign will have to file its next fundraising report on Monday June 20.
Clinton has vastly outspent and outraised Trump at least so far in the 2016 race. As of the latest filing Trump has lent his campaign $43 million, and received approximately $14 million in unsolicited donations. Clinton, on the other hand, has raised $204 million for her campaign and has a goal to raise as much as $1 billion.
The Trump operatives cite several reasons for their fundraising difficulties including some of the candidate’s recent incendiary comments about a federal judge’s nationality, to structural problems within the campaign itself, which only began raising money in May and thus doesn’t yet have a coherent infrastructure for the massive donor-outreach effort that most modern presidential campaigns entail.
Indeed, Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens tells FOX Business that he would like to raise money for Trump, but still doesn’t know what Super PAC he should be giving to. Super PACs are the fundraising vehicles where donors can make unlimited soft-money contributions.
Trump fundraisers say some potential GOP donors are being cautioned by advisers that they shouldn’t publicly support Trump given some of his statements about immigration and terrorism since they run public companies and might see a backlash from consumers.
These fundraisers also say Trump’s past campaign rhetoric is making it difficult for them to woo donors. During his successful run for the GOP nomination, Trump eschewed outside money, while attacking his opponents for accepting checks from major donors who want to influence them in office. Trump also made his own private wealth –he says he’s worth $10 billion--a selling point on the campaign trail as a symbol of his success and that he can’t be swayed by the donor class.
“If he’s so rich, he should finance his presidential campaign as well,” said a GOP donor.
On Thursday, for example, Trump is in Dallas, Texas, attending a major GOP fundraiser sponsored by the Republican National Committee. But people associated with the event say it’s already hitting snags. The RNC was forced to change venues at least once fearing protesters would disrupt the reception, where guests were asked to cough up as much as $250,000 for a “couple” to attend as part of the “chairman’s circle.”
But one Dallas-based Trump fundraiser alerted people on social media that if they were balking at contributing even the minimum amount--$2,700 for adults and $500 for a “young professional” – he would figure out a way to get them into the event without the donation.
“People are having a hard time writing checks for this guy,” said a major Trump bundler involved in the Dallas reception. “If they write a check they’re holding a tissue while they write it.”
Of course, Trump fundraising could pick up with the change in the news cycle, or if recent polls showing Clinton with a modest lead, begin to tighten. Some Trump fundraisers say they’ve seen increased interest from donors after the recent terrorist attack in Orlando, Fla., which may convince some donors to support Trump’s campaign themes such as banning Muslim immigration, and better border protection.
Trump has also tried to make the case that he doesn’t need to raise as much money from donors because his outsized personality helps him generate so much free advertising time through television appearances and social media.
But campaign finance experts say both candidates will receive plenty of free media coverage during a presidential election, and that well-placed and expensive negative ads reach far more people than cable television appearances. With that, they say, Trump will have to change his style to be less incendiary to attract more people from the traditional GOP donor base.
“Well I think most Republican donors want to come around and support the Republican nominee and defeat Hillary Clinton, so we can have conservative judges appointed,” said Fred Malek, the finance chairman of John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “However, every time they start getting comfortable, Trump takes a few steps backwards and it makes it difficult for people to come around to him.”