September 18th, 2021


The Republican donors begin to come home

Wesley Pruden

By Wesley Pruden

Published July 22, 2016

Money is not the mother's milk of politics, as the bundler's cliche goes, but homemade vanilla ice cream, rich and creamy. Donald Trump hasn't been getting any. Not much and not lately, anyway.

Now that's changing, at least a little, and further change is likely to be dramatic. Pouting and tantrum time, lately so popular among some of the Republican elites, suddenly goes out of style. The Republican convention is over, and soon the Democratic convention will drop down the memory hole, and the players and wannabe players will shuffle into the saloon with sheepish looks on their faces and edge up to the table for the only game in town.

Mike Pence is riding to the rescue. "For fundraising, [Mike Pence] absolutely helps," Lisa Spies, a top fundraiser for Mitt Romney four years ago, tells the Hill, the Capitol Hill daily. "He's got great relationships. People will take his calls. I think people will give because they like Mike Pence. But they're not going to give as much as they would have because they dislike Donald Trump." The Koch brothers, the favorite demons of Democrats, are among the big donors sitting out this presidential race. They're spreading their largesse among threatened Republican senators.

Charles Koch, talking to Fortune magazine, likens voting for either the Donald or Hillary to choosing between cancer or a heart attack. This is expressed more robustly by another prospective donor as "having to choose between syphilis and the clap." (He didn't say which was which.)

Mr. Trump is said to particularly dislike asking billionaires for money, and billionaires who might have overcome their dislike are still smarting from his portraying "the donor class" as corrupt. He told them that he neither "needs nor wants" their money. That was before he learned how expensive running for president can be.

Trump fundraising was untested when the Donald boasted that he would pick up the tab for everything, and then learned that even he doesn't have pockets that deep. Now the Republican fundraising machine has clanked sleepily to life. It still has a long way to go catch up with the Democratic machine, but the bundlers and bag men collected $26.7 million in June. That ain't approaching trillions, but it ain't trivia.

At the end of the month the campaign could count up $20.2 million in the bank, considerably more than the $1.3 million the campaign had at the end of the previous month and if the numbers didn't look Trump-like, they were still the best the campaign posted since Mr. Trump stepped into the arena a year ago.

The most interesting news is where the money is coming from. It's not from Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino tycoon he says he will spend "whatever it takes" to stop Internet gambling, and in the Democratic imagination he will spend it all with the Republican candidate. That's a digression from reality. Zillionaires don't throw their money around with the abandon some people think.

The Donald, who hangs out with billionaires, nevertheless doesn't have the fat cats who finance the Clinton creamery, the Wall Street zillionaires and foreign biggies who imagine - probably with good reason - that they're investing in a friendly White House. The Clintons rented out the Lincoln Bedroom to a scurvy lot of overnight campers when they squatted there before, sending mice and bedbugs to flight. (There are some people that a bedbug just won't sleep with.) But that was renting retail. Hillary has learned a lot about creative retailing since, and she can't wait to go wholesale.

More than half of the contributions to the Trump war chest have been for $200 or less, and these chumpchange investors in the grassroots are investing for the greatest rate of return of all. They expect the Donald to do what he says in the blueprint he laid out Thursday night in Cleveland, to make America safe and great again.

The candidate's good June, by the calculations of the Associated Press, puts him just about where Mitt Romney was on the eve of the conventions. The Trump campaign had $22 million on hand, and that was doubled by Hillary Clinton. Her campaign, the Democratic National Committee and affiliated state parties raised $69 million in June, when she had $44 million on hand.

Some in the donor class are likely to change their minds as November approaches, the bells and whistles of the campaign grow louder and more seductive, and the excitement of the race, particularly if the race gets as close as it looks like it might, they'll ask why Sheldon Adelson should have all the fun.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.