During his inept campaign, Trump has managed to alienate almost every conceivable voting bloc, from Hispanics, Jews and women to military veterans and even his own party stalwarts.
The self-proclaimed genius and king of the deal has thrown so many pundits for a loop, he’s spawned a cottage industry of arm-chair psychologists. They’ve pronounced him everything from narcissistic to a psychopath.
But it’s just as conceivable there is a more cynical method to his madness that would be in keeping with his history of business dealings.
He could be planning to turn a losing campaign into piles of cash. It’s all purrrfectly legal.
“It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it,” he bragged to Fortune magazine in a 2000 interview.
Even though he initially vowed to fund his campaign out of his own pocket, Trump turned to raising money from contributors over the summer.
So far, he’s raised $346.3 million, according to uscommonsense.org, which tracks fundraising. The amount is dwarfed by Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, but there is a key difference.
The Clinton campaign is spending money like crazy, while the Trump campaign has been spending far less.
Whether Trump plans a last-minute blitz remains to be seen. But if he continues raising and spending money at the current rate, he could be left with a huge–huuuuge–cash surplus.
In the past, losing federal candidates, including those running for president, could simply pocket any surplus and use it for almost anything–from cars to fancy vacations, according to factcheck.org.
But the “Ethics Reform Act of 1989” ended that practice. Even so, a candidate still has lots of options to use excess campaign cash, including setting up a Super PAC.
Trump likes to brag how he uses money to buy influence with lawmakers. With his own Super PAC, he could magnify his influence to an even greater degree.
Incidentally, Trump has been “self-funding” his campaign primarily through loans. He can use excess campaign cash to pay himself back, or he can write off the loans for a tax deduction, according to campaign sources.
Trump is also using the campaign to line his pockets in another way. He’s paying an “unusual amount of money” to Trump-owned businesses, according to marketwatch.com, citing a Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing released in June.
Of the $6.7 million the Trump campaign spent in May, for example, nearly 20 percent went to Trump-owned businesses or family members, according to the filing. That figure has likely increased since then.
The amount includes $423,000 he paid to himself for his campaign’s use of his Mar-A-Lago estate and his golf club and $349,000 to Tag Air, the airline he owns, according to the records.
“Historically, candidates would separate themselves from their business interests when running for office,” Paul S. Ryan, a campaign finance expert with the Campaign Legal Center, told The New York Times.
“Trump has done the opposite by promoting his businesses while running for office.”
Trump began setting up fundraising committees in May and began raising funds the following month, something he vowed not to do. But by then, he may have figured out that even if he loses, he can still win.
If the strategy, in fact, pans out, it would closely mirror the Broadway musical and movie.
Bialystock and Bloom decide to raise substantial funding for their play. But they choose an incredibly tasteless script about a thoroughly deplorable character.
They set it up to fail spectacularly, so they can pocket all of the proceeds.
They don’t call Trump the king of deals for nothing. This could be his biggest yet.
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