Donald Trump's Campaign Finance Report Is An Unmitigated Disaster. | Gradient

Donald Trump’s campaign finance report is an unmitigated disaster.


For a while now, GOP officials have been concerned about a perceived fundraising gap between their presumed nominee and Hillary Clinton. Those concerns were proved to be warranted a billion times over and then some late Monday night, when newly filed FEC documents revealed that Donald Trump is at a crippling disadvantage. His campaign ended the month of May with $1.3 million on hand.

For comparison, the Clinton campaign is sitting at about $42.4 million. In June of 2012, Mitt Romney’s campaign raised about $76.8 million. Ted Cruz, who dropped out of the race on May 3, still has about $6.8 million in the bank.

Also, according to the report, Trump’s campaign is currently staffed with about 70 people. Mrs. Clinton has about 700. Her well-funded mobilization has led to about $26 million in a television advertising blitz, which is historically crucial for swing states. So far, Trump has not invested in any TV advertising, relying on his tweets and unscripted rally banter to do the job. According to the New York Times, this puts Trump in the “worst financial and organizational disadvantage of any major party nominee in recent history.”

What happened? Well, a lot of things. Trump began his campaign bragging that he’d self-fund his entire campaign, a claim he reversed once he pivoted to the general election, saying he’d be willing to work with the Republican National Committee’s famously robust fundraising machine. The RNC is still a formidable rainmaker, but if Trump’s itemized budget is any indication, that money is going to be going towards lots and lots of hats.

It gets weirder.

According to the report, some $35,000 of Trump’s May budget went to an ad firm called “Draper Sterling.”

No one is quite sure what Draper Sterling is, but it’s almost certainly not THE Draper Sterling. This Draper Sterling was started in May of 2012, and one journalist tracked the listing to a McMansion in New Hampshire, which is owned by the co-founder of a medical device and research company. What service it provides, what Trump’s relationship to it is, and why it sure seems like it’s named after two Mad Men characters is all a mystery wrapped in a riddle.

Whatever Draper Sterling is, it’s not as whack as some of Trump’s other expenses. He paid out a huge amount of his budget to companies with his own name in the title.

And that doesn’t include the $400,000 he paid to rent out his own Mar-a-Lago club, or the $350,000 he paid to Tag Air which he owns. All told, about 20% of Trump’s May expenses went to firms he owns and travel reimbursements for his children.

None of this bolsters the fortunes of the RNC, which is already lagging in its fundraising efforts from previous years. In 2012, the RNC was able to net about $60 million in May. This year, they pulled in only $20 million. This puts them at a severe disadvantage from their previous election, but they’re at least better off than the Democratic National Committee, which only has about $9 million in on-hand cash.

Of course, Trump has defied conventional wisdom before, clearing out the GOP field of would-be nominees on sheer bluster and aggression, despite some astonishing fundraising efforts by his competitors — Jeb Bush in particular. But the general election is a different animal altogether, and swing voters aren’t likely to find Trump’s campaign rhetoric nearly as persuasive as the base that has presumably handed him the nomination.

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