You can tell something about a campaign by the desperation-levels of its fundraising emails. In recent weeks, despite the success of the Republican convention, Team Trump’s digital team has started to resemble a shady tech start-up on the verge of bankruptcy. My inbox is full of emails purporting to be from various members of the Trump family, telling ME in CAPITAL LETTERS how important it is to STEP UP and PAY THEM.
On Monday, for instance, Kimberly Guilfoyle tried to guilt-trip me by saying that she had been ‘recently reviewing the donor files of the President’s long-time supporters and I noticed that yours was EMPTY.’
Hours earlier, I was informed that a ‘PERSONALIZED Trump Platinum Card’ was waiting for me, and it was my LAST CHANCE to take it. On Sunday Lara Trump told me that the President wants to do something special and send me a PERSONALIZED copy of one of his favorite pictures of himself. I’m also told on a near hourly basis that the Commander-in-Chief is ‘disappointed’ that my name is MISSING from various 2020 fundraising wheezes. An email from ‘Newt Gingrich’ tells me: ‘I don’t want the President to think he’s lost your support during the most critical time in our nation’s history.’ Sorry Newt; I’m British.
‘Every great cause,’ said Eric Hoffer, ‘begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.’ How right he was. And let’s be clear — this sort of heavy email grifting is far from unique to the Trump campaign. But the late intensity of Team Trump’s efforts is perhaps explained by the New York Times’s big scoop as to the campaign’s sudden money concerns. More fake news? Maybe. But recent activities suggest otherwise.
We all knew that the Trump Victory drive was flush with cash, following its decision to start its reelection campaign the day of his inauguration. For years, GOP insiders have been whispering excitedly about the oodles of cash in their 2020 coffers. Under former campaign manager Brad Parscale, we were told, the campaign machine had caught up and even overtaken the Democrats’ digital reach.
But presidential campaigns are very expensive to run. The longer they go on, the more they cost. It seems Trump Victory 2020 spent enormous sums of money, some $800 million, while voters weren’t really paying attention to the election. It’s now coming up to November and the campaign is sending out all these desperate mailers. How did that happen? It can’t be just Parscale. How did the party of the right, which is supposed to be ethical and upstanding, find itself turning into yet another a frantic fundraising racket in 2020?
It seems the knives have been out for Parscale, left and right, since the NeverTrumpist (and itself suspiciously well-funded) Lincoln Project pushed out a vicious attack ad on him, accusing Brad of living a playboy lifestyle as a campaign manager. He was demoted soon after and now Bill Stepien, the new campaign head, is sending out begging emails, saying he needs MY money to save America. Parscale now stands accused of have spent the re-election war chest ‘like a drunken sailor’. In his defense, Brad says that his spending decisions were taken with Ronna McDaniel, the GOP chairwoman, and ‘under the very close eye’ of the Trump family.
All of which leads to another question. How much is Donald Trump himself spending on his reelection efforts? The answer is none so far. It would be unusual for an incumbent president to use his own fortune to fund his campaign, but given that Team Trump is adamant that America will be destroyed by the radical left if he doesn’t win again, surely the candidate should be reaching more into his own pocket.
Team Trump’s emails to me insist that any contribution will be boosted by a ‘700 percent match’, so a $5 gift will become a $45 one. From the language, it is unclear whether it is Trump himself who is matching the money, which suggests he he isn’t, but then who — or what — is? According to Bloomberg News, Trump is apparently mulling whether or not to spend $100 million of his own money this year; he reportedly contributed $65 million to his 2016 campaign.
It’s funny to think that Michael Bloomberg spent $1 billion on his spectacular crash-and-burn effort earlier this year. Perhaps the real lesson of all these campaign finance stories is that, in the digital age, spend doesn’t translate as automatically into political gain as it did when television was the dominant medium — and so every campaign degenerates into a racket.