What Donald Trump’s political donations reveal about him
Donald Trump’s recent campaign speeches have the tenor of a scorned child, with plenty of ranting and ranting about the “rigged” nomination process. “Little Marco, his state chairman and their henchmen are working overtime trying to rig the vote,” Trump tweeted in march. A few weeks ago, complaining about losing the Colorado delegate race, he barked, “We have a rigged system.” He also has said to a crowd in Syracuse, “The system is rigged. … They have to do something about it. The Republican National Committee better get going because I’ll tell you what, you’re going to have a hard time at this convention in July…because people want to vote and people want to be represented properly.
Trump describes himself as the hero of the political underdog, battling a monolithic system that crushes the little guy — little guys like billionaire businessmen who have spent their careers making political donations in an effort to attract favors, it seems. Indeed, the system Trump claims to be so upset about now that he is running for president is the same one he has admitted to using to his advantage (or at least trying to).
Trump gave to political candidates on both sides of the aisle. For example, he gave a total of $12,500 to Hillary Clinton’s Senate and 2008 presidential campaigns, and a whopping $77,500 to current White House foe Mitt Romney. (All numbers in this article are derived from data the Trump campaign reported to the FEC and available through the Center for Responsive Politics.) Trump isn’t hiding it; in fact, he seems somewhat proud of it, and his explanations of his bipartisan largesse are perhaps among the most honest to date: “I was a businessman, and it was my duty to get along with everyone, including the Clintons, including Democrats and Liberals and Republicans and Conservatives,” he said. said Sean Hannity in January. “As a businessman, I had an obligation to do this.” And, like a businessman, Trump expected favors from those to whom he donated, as he noted during a Fox News debate in Cleveland last August:
“I gave to a lot of people before that – before two months ago I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what, when I need something from them two years later, three years later I call them They are there for me It’s a broken system.
Similarly, during a March CNN debate in Florida, when discussing America’s “corrupt” electoral system, particularly the super PACs, Trump pointed out, “I know the system better than anyone and I know the system is flawed. … I know it so well because I was on both sides.
“I’ve been on the other side all my life and always made great contributions. And frankly, I know the system better than anyone, and I’m the only one here who can fix this system because this system is bad.
A review of Trump’s donations since 1998 reveals that the bulk of Trump’s political largesse has gone to politicians in places where he does business — like Florida, where he long supported disgraced politician Mark Foley; Nevada, where he gave $9,400 to Democratic Senator Harry Reid over the years; and of course New York, where notables like Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Anthony Weiner have all been given Trump dough.
It’s unclear what favors, if any, Trump actually received from specific politicians he donated to. But the gifts that make the most wonder what favors it has been hoping for were those made in the 2014 election cycle, just as his current run for the White House took shape.
It was in 2014 that Trump dispatched adviser Sam Nunberg to report on hours of conservative talk radio, whose angry reactions and rants have become the backbone of Trump’s current campaign, according to a recent New York magazine profile. As a good weathervane, it appears Trump has framed his current policy positions based on Nunberg’s reports, rather than deeply held political beliefs. Heeding these pleas, Trump saw a convenient way to run a presidential campaign. As his campaign crystallized, he began pumping big dollars into Republican races across the country, from Massachusetts to California. In all, he gave $67,300 in individual donations to Republican candidates for Congress and the Senate between January 2014 and May 2015. He gave nothing to Democrats during that time, after years of supporting them.
Most of those 2014-15 donations were in $1,000 increments, and only $16,000 was in his favored grounds of Florida, Nevada and New York. Instead, Trump spread his dollars on races across the country, from Massachusetts to California, giving to lesser-known candidates, often for the first time, like Steven Daines of Montana, David Perdue of Georgia and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, a man who once complained that his state’s black and Latino populations were growing faster than “traditional” groups.
That $67,300 does not include the $15,200 joint fundraiser for Lindsey Graham and her victory committee, the $5,000 Trump gave to rival Ted Cruz’s Job Growth and Freedom PAC, or his donations. to influential Republican bodies, including $32,400 to the Republican National Senate Committee and $64,000 to the RNC. It also excludes the dinero given to GOP parties in early caucuses and key states in Iowa ($9,000) and New Hampshire ($5,000) and the Republican Party in South Carolina ($15,000). (Trump ended up winning three of those races this spring, losing only Iowa, to Ted Cruz.)
Trump has strongly suggested that he thinks political donations entitle him to political influence — the worldview of someone whose entire identity has been shaped by dollars and cents. So maybe he figured his money would help grease the wheels for his current race. Unfortunately for him, this is not the case. At least ten of the more than three dozen candidates he gave to between 2014 and 2015 have endorsed one of Trump’s rivals. And a number of others have spoken out against Trump’s hateful rhetoric. John Cornyn, to whom Trump gave $3,600 between May 2014 and June 2015, called the businessman an “albatross” around the party’s neck; appalled by Trump’s claim that Mexican immigrants are rapists, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller donated his $2,000 donation to charity; Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner did something similar, sending her $1,000 donation to the VFW after Trump claimed John McCain was no war hero; Barbara Comstock of Virginia also donated her $3,000 Trump contribution.
If money indeed makes the electoral world go round, most politicians have a concrete political identity; they’re not so cynical that they don’t have some kind of litmus test for who they’ll support, and clearly Trump is failing some of them.
There are things that even Trump’s money can’t buy.