I’ll have to admit it, I’m enjoying Donald Trump. Not everything he says, because Trump has said some outrageous things. The billionaire Republican candidate for president’s controversial comments seem to headline just about every news program. Then the political “experts’ and the establishment all declare Trump’s campaign dead.
Then a funny thing happens. His campaign not only survives, his poll numbers actually go up! According to the recent polls, Donald Trump is leading the pack of Republican candidates with around one quarter of the Republican voters saying that they would vote for “The Donald.” The political experts and the political establishment are confounded. What could make a voter want to vote for Trump? But maybe they are asking the wrong question. Maybe they should be asking why 25% of the Republican voters are not that thrilled about the other sixteen candidates.
I think I have one of the reasons, and it’s the reason for so many things in politics. Money. And I’m not talking about Mr. Trump’s millions, which he will gladly tell you about. It’s the money that the other candidates, including the Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, are collecting from their big-time, wealthy donors. This was highlighted in a recent Associated Press news story by Julie Bykowicz and Jack Gillum.
In the article, the reporters write, “An Associated Press analysis of fundraising report filed with federal regulators through Friday (July 31) found that nearly 60 donations of a million dollars or more accounted for about a third of the more than $380 million brought in so far for the 2016 presidential election. Donors who gave at least $100,000 account for about half of all donations so far to candidates’ presidential committees and the super PACs (Political Action Committee) that support them.”
There are several examples cited in the article of the superrich giving millions to a certain PAC that support their particular candidate. (By giving to a PAC, the wealthy can avoid those pesky federal election campaign donation limits.) Florida developer Al Hoffman gave $1 million to Jeb Bush’s super PAC, which has already collected $103 million in the first six months of this year. Scott Banister, a Silicon Valley investor, gave $1.2 million to Sen. Rand Paul’s super PAC.
While those donations sound like a lot, and they are, there are others who have given more in support of their candidate. The super PAC supporting Sen. Ted Cruz received an $11 million gift from New York hedge fund magnate, Robert Mercer. (Maybe it helps that Cruz’s wife happens to work for New York investment giant, Goldman Sachs.) The other Republican candidates for president have their own wealthy donors. If not, they are trying to get them.
Then, there is Hillary Clinton. The Democratic frontrunner has her own stable of wealthy donors. The article noted that, “Seven donors of at least a million dollars accounted for almost half of the total collected by Priorities USA Action, Clinton’s super PAC.” They noted that among those donors were “entertainment mogul Haim Saban and his wife, Cheryl, who gave a $2 million gift, and hedge-fund billionaire George Soros, who donated $1 million.”
The hunt for campaign funds has led many of the candidates to present themselves to the wealthy donors in a manner similar to a beauty pageant. A couple of weeks ago, the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers hosted an event for five of the leading Republican candidates. The candidates attempted to impress in hopes of receiving a big chunk of the nearly $900 million the Koch brothers have pledged to spend on the 2016 presidential election.
You didn’t see Donald Trump there. Trump is using his own money to finance his election bid. Now if someone wants to donate a million to the Trump campaign, I’m sure he won’t refuse it. He is Donald Trump. But if that happens, the donors won’t be buying influence and favor. Not unless it benefits the Donald. And that’s the problem with all the large donations going to the other candidates. What will the wealthy donors expect in return? And will it benefit the rest of us?
I suppose that is one of the attractions of Donald Trump to potential voters. You don’t have to guess who he is going to be obligated to. You don’t have to wonder who will be behind the scenes, dictating policy if he should win. You can be sure there will be only one person, Donald Trump. Whether that would be good or bad, now that’s another question.
Yes, I’m enjoying watching Donald Trump campaign for president. It is fun watching someone drive the political establishment crazy. But that doesn’t mean I would actually vote for him.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at [email protected]