Saturday, February 6, 2016

Will Trump Be the First Presidential Candidate to Turn a Profit?

what eye thynk:  Back in October, I wrote about Donald Trump's claim that he was self-funding his bid for the White House.  It wasn't completely true then and, as this article in today's New York Times indicates, it's not really true now either.

Eye Recommend: 

(Any underlines are mine.)
Donald J. Trump once boasted that he could someday be the only person to turn a profit running for president.  He may be closer than anyone realizes.
Mr. Trump's campaign spent just $12.4 million in 2015, according to disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission, millions less than any of his leading rivals for the Republican nomination.  More than half of Mr. Trump's total spending was covered by checks from his supporters, who have thronged to his stump speeches and bought millions of dollars' worth of "Make America Great Again" hats and T-shirts.
About $2.7 million more was paid to at least seven companies Mr. Trump owns or to people who work for his real estate and branding empire, repaying them for services provided to his campaign.  That total included more than $2 million for flights on his own planes and helicopter, a quarter of a million dollars to his Fifth Avenue office tower, and even $66,000 to Keith Schiller, his bodyguard and the head of security at the Trump Organization.
So basically, Mr. Schiller, who would normally receive a paycheck from Mr. Trump as head of security for his business, is now receiving a paycheck from Mr. Trump's campaign as head of security for his campaign instead, thus saving The Donald's business empire that expense.  (Unless you believe Mr. Second Place is allowing employees like Mr. Schiller to continue to draw their Trump Organization pay as well, which, considering Trump's soulless business style is not going to happen in this universe.)
While the convoluted accounting is required by law--so that Mr. Trump's companies do not make illegal corporate contributions directly to his campaign--it also means that Mr. Trump is in effect taking millions of dollars out of one pocket and depositing it into another.
What remains is a quintessentially Trumpian endeavor that blurs the line between campaigning and brand-building and complicates Mr. Trump's claims that he is funding his own White House campaign.  About three-quarters of Mr. Trump's total campaign spending has either gone to reimburse his own businesses or has been covered by funds from grass-roots donors... Virtually all of the money Mr. Trump himself has put into the campaign was lent, rather than donated outright, meaning that he could potentially sell enough hats and T-shirts to pay himself back down the road...
...Mr. Trump would hardly be the first person to find a financial upside to running for president.  Mike Huckabee, who dropped out of the Republican race on Monday, has used his campaign mailing lists to hawk miracle cures for cancer.  A variety of failed Republican contenders have parlayed White House bids into lucrative careers on radio and television. And Hillary Clinton's six-figure speaking fees are due, in some measure, to her high profile as a former candidate and cabinet secretary.
But a tour through campaign filings suggests that no one meshes business and political pursuits quite as seamlessly as the candidate whose campaign is built on his celebrity...
...Mr. Trump himself can seem hazy on the distinction between his political and business pursuits.  Virtually every Trump speech includes a reference to one of his hotels or casinos... He often suggests that the Obama adminstration should have read his book "The Art of the Deal" before negotiating the Iran nuclear agreement. (...Sales of that 1987 best seller have lately skyrocketed, from 3,000 copies in 2014 to 47,000 in 2015.)...
...Mr. Lewandowski, (Trump's) campaign manager, said there was no confusion back at the campaign headquarters...
...Some critics remain unconvinced that all of the help Mr. Trump's companies are providing his campaign are being properly accounted for.
In December, Mr. Trump threatened legal action against a pro-Jeb Bush "super PAC," Right to Rise, after the group ran ads suggesting Mr. Trump was not fit to be commander in chief.  But the threat was delivered by Alan Garten, general counsel to the Trump Organization, rather than by Mr. Trump's campaign. 
Reminded that candidates are forbidden to use corporate resources for campaign purposes, Mr. Trump's company argued that an attack on Mr. Trump anywhere was an attack on him everywhere. 
Banking Trump business payroll money by billing his campaign for employees his corporation would be paying under normal circumstances, and then reimbursing himself for their services (which actually cost him nothing since they are undoubtedly not currently on the Trump payroll); renting office space in his building to his campaign, and then paying himself for it's use; hawking books at his campaign events instead of paying for publicity--"Crippled America" has sold 179,000 copies, $4 million worth--(I'm actually sort of surprised the number of copies isn't higher, but then I guess not many of his followers can read); loaning personal money rather than donating it, leaving the possibility open that all that loaned money will come back to him; using a corporate lawyer to file a campaign lawsuit because Trump's famous combover must be protected from all sides, and besides, what meaning does the law have when you are the biggest, the brightest, the best...

It looks less and less like self-funding and more and more like self-profiting to me.

If Mr. Rich White Trash were truly funding his campaign himself, election financial reports would show spending from his bank accounts, without the money being returned to his bank accounts; and all those checks his supporters send him would be returned to sender.  He might even give away some of those hats and t-shirts.
Read Mr. Confessore and Ms. Cohen's entire article here 

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