Money Matters

In Reversal, Donald Trump to Seek Donations to Fund Campaign

Throughout the Republican primary, Trump had touted the fact that he was self-funding his campaign.

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Photographer: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is building a finance operation that will raise money for the general election, two people familiar with the plan said.

The finance team will seek to raise money for the Trump campaign directly, as well as under the auspices of a joint fundraising committee, or JFC, with the Republican National Committee, once both sides settle on the terms of the venture. 

“I’ll be putting up money, but won’t be completely self-funding, as I did during the primaries,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal in an interview confirming his decision.

Top aides suggested he would need to raise about $1 billion to take on expected Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. The much-needed funds will come with certain political risk for Trump, whose political ascent was largely built upon his argument that he self-funds his campaign and therefore is not beholden to anyone.

"The fact of the matter is that if Trump’s campaign committee participates in a JFC, Trump is raising private funds—because his committee will receive a portion of the funds raised by the JFC," said Paul Seamus Ryan, deputy executive director of the Campaign Legal Center. "To the extent Trump is raising funds for a JFC, he’s not self-financing. JFC money is all private donor money."

Despite some conflicting emotions about their controversial new presumptive nominee, Republicans are already lining up to open their wallets to help the billionaire businessman.

“I want to have a huge fundraiser for him down here in Greensboro. We can’t have Hillary,” said Nancy Dewitt Pickard, a wealthy North Carolina Republican who first backed Ben Carson for president. “All they have to do is call. The RNC, his campaign, anyone.”

Trump’s senior advisers have been meeting with national party officials this week to negotiate a joint fundraising committee, which would make it easier for donors to give big money. Details of the arrangement, including how the money will be divvied up to Trump’s campaign and GOP organizations around the country, were still being ironed out on Wednesday, RNC spokesman Sean Spicer said.

Trump’s allies suggested that if he distances himself super-PACs, he can argue he’s avoiding mega donors, unlike Hillary Clinton. “This is a very clever, elegant solution for him,” said a Republican source familiar with the discussions who is supportive of Trump's candidacy. “He gets to say he's raising money for the party and also saying that various fundraising limits may not apply. I think it's a very clever way for him to be able to claim his rhetorical purity.”

Trump can tap into a wide swath of donors, from blue-collar workers to the glitzy Vegas set and business leaders, his supporters said. His sons are both gun aficionados with large collections of firearms, and will likely help raise money from Second Amendment circles, gun rights advocates said.

“Donald Trump won’t have any problem motivating Second Amendment supporters to donate because of what’s at risk,” Pete Brownell, CEO of Brownells gunsmithing supply company, said in an interview Wednesday.

Brownell said the worry is that Clinton would choose an anti-gun justice for the U.S. Supreme Court in order to reverse cases such as District of Columbia v. Heller, which bolstered citizens’ rights to possess a firearm for lawful purposes.

Trump also has deep ties to self-made entrepreneurial types in the “new money” class of donors, “the type of people who are members of his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach,” said Senada Adzem, a former Trump International vice president who now a luxury real estate agent based in Boca Raton, Fla.

“They're self-made, multi-millionaires and billionaires and they're all willing to host fundraisers for him,” Adzem told Bloomberg Politics. “Many of them were afraid that if they'd publicly support Donald Trump it would be a target on their back. That changes since he's the presumptive nominee.”

Terry Giles, a Texas mega-millionaire who helped fund the unsuccessful bids of both Carson and Ted Cruz, said in an interview that he’s “reluctantly ready” to back Trump.

Giles said that he hasn't been a Trump supporter because he “simply cannot be sure of who Trump is. He could be the best or the worse.”

“But there's no question Donald Trump is a better choice than Hillary Clinton,” Giles said. “So I will absolutely be doing everything I can to help the Republican presumptive nominee, who is now Donald Trump.”

—With assistance by Bill Allison

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