A number of news stories came out over the past 24 hours about spending by the Trump campaign. It would appear, based on recently obtained Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, that the New York based campaign, in spite of taking in a great deal more money from Republican Party donors over recent months, is actually employing fewer people than it had previously. And, interestingly, it would appear as though, despite having fewer paid staff, the campaign is actually spending significantly more for office space in Trump properties than it had back when Trump was primarily self-funding the campaign… Here’s an excerpt from the piece which just ran in Talking Points Memo, to give you a sense of how much money we’re talking about.
…Back in March, when he said his campaign was entirely self-funded, Trump paid Trump Tower Commercial LLC $35,458 for rent. That amount was consistent with what he had paid since launching his presidential bid in the summer of 2015. By July, however, once he started raising funds from donors, he paid $169,758 in rent for the same space.
The Huffington Post noted that the discrepancy was particularly striking since Trump was paying 197 employees and consultants in March, compared to only 172 in July. The filings don’t clarify whether Trump is now renting significantly more office space in his midtown Manhattan building or why he would do so given his reduced staff size…
And, as you might expect, some Republicans aren’t happy about it… The following pull-quote comes from the previously mentioned story in the Huffington Post.
He’s not just drawing more from the campaign in terms of rent, though. Trump is also paying his family members of his family from campaign coffers. While I haven’t found anything recent on the subject, the New York Times reported earlier this summer, “Mr. Trump, whose campaign has just $1.3 million cash on hand, paid at least $1.1 million to his businesses and family members in May for expenses associated with events and travel costs.” They went on to add, “(This) total represents nearly a fifth of the $6 million that his campaign spent in the month.” So, now that his campaign is spending some $18.5 million a month, with less staff, one wonders just how much of that money is finding its way back into the pockets of Trump and members of his family.
While everyone in the press seems fixated on the fact that Trump has apparently begun to divert donations from his presidential campaign back into his own bank accounts, the thing I find more interesting is the fact that, despite saying repeatedly that they’d be building an organization to rival Clinton’s, they’ve actually been cutting staff. This would seem to indicate to me that Trump either doesn’t care if he wins or looses, or that he’s trying to keep overhead low in order to have more money left in the bank when all of this is done.
While someone in the Trump campaign responded today that the candidate still contributes “$2 million per month to the campaign,” which, they were careful to point out, is more than what he takes back in rent paid by the campaign to his various properties, I can’t help but wonder how those payments are structured. In other words, is he donating the money outright, or is he in fact just loaning it to the campaign, as wealthy candidates often do? If I had to guess, having watched Trump operate since I lived outside of New York in the ’80s, I’d say it’s the latter, and I expect he’ll be looking for a payout in November, once all of this is done.
I know there are theories circulating that Trump just entered the race in order to hand the Presidency over to Clinton. Personally, I don’t buy it. In order for it to be true, you’d have to believe that he was setting the groundwork for this at the beginning of the Obama presidency, when he started in with the birther nonsense. No, I think it’s much more likely that he’s just a conman who saw an opportunity to ride a wave of hatred and fear into the general election, where he could raise his Q rating a bit, and bring a few more suckers to exploit his way. I think, however, once he saw the Republican Party begin to collapse around him during the primaries, he saw an opportunity to get his hands on the key to the Republican treasure chest. So, what likely started as a more straight forward con, quickly morphed into something else entirely once he realized that he had it within his power to move into the evacuated shell of the Republican party like a hermit crab and start using it as a tool to increase his wealth and power, regardless of whether or not he really had any interest in winning the presidency. If I had to guess, I’d say that he’d prefer to have the wealth and power without the responsibilities of the office, but I might be wrong. And, who knows, there may be other forces at play. As we’ve discussed before, maybe it’s out of his hands by now. Maybe Putin and the Russian mob, who have invested a great deal in him over the years, are going to push him into office whether he likes it or not. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Regardless of how it plays out, I’m reminded right now of a plot line in The Sopranos involving the owner of a sporting goods store who had made the mistake of borrowing money from the mob that he couldn’t repay. The mob, in response, took over his store and bled it completely dry. They maxed out every line of credit he had, and ordered as much as they possibly could from his suppliers. Shipments of sporting goods came in the front, and were immediately moved out the back, to be sold through other channels. Once they had their hooks in this man, they just bled him and his company completely dry. And that’s what I think we may be witnessing right now with the Trump candidacy. I think, now that he’s got control of the party, he might just be trying to extract as much cash from it as he possibly can before the inevitable collapse.
Here’s the scene from The Sopranos. This particular scam, by the way, is called a “bust out.”
[note: Speaking of Russia’s attempt to influence the 2016 election, did you happen to see the most recent news, that they’ve likely been hacking into the accounts of journalists, ostensibly looking for information that might help them get tiers candidate elected?]