A little more than a month ago, Donald Trump told a crowd in Ashburn, Virginia, that he would probably end up putting $100 million of his own money toward his presidential campaign.
"Think of it! A hundred million cash," he said. "That's a lot of money."
If he wants to meet that target, the billionaire developer and television star had better pick up the pace.
Since becoming the presumptive Republican nominee in May and beginning to solicit outside donations, Trump has sharply scaled back the pace of gifts to his own campaign. He's contributed $2 million in each of the past two months, Steven Mnuchin, the Trump finance chairman, confirmed in an interview today, bringing Trump's total investment to date to "almost" $60 million.
Whatever Trump ends up giving, it's a lot of money -- as Trump frequently points out. The amount roughly matches that spent by the last billionaire to mount a major bid for president, H. Ross Perot, in 1992. But it's a tiny fraction of the $10 billion or more that Trump says he's worth, and of the $557 million in annual income he reported in May. And since he started paring his own contributions, he's begun to leverage them to get more money from others.
"Join me, friend, by making a contribution and I will proudly MATCH it up to $1 million," Trump said in an August e-mail to supporters, asking for as little as $15. He repeated the offer at least seven times before the end of the month.
The e-mails don't mention that Trump had been writing bigger checks to his campaign before he started asking others to chip in. His personal contributions averaged $7.7 million a month between January and April, the last full month that he didn't solicit outside funds. They've fallen to $2.6 million since then, even as his campaign expenses rose.
The Trump campaign announced Thursday that it took in $90 million in August, including contributions to a pair of joint accounts with the Republican Party. In an interview, Mnuchin, who is in charge of campaign fundraising, dismissed talk of Trump giving $100 million of his own money.
"I don’t think he's ever said that," he said. "I think he's said he's going to contribute significantly, and he will contribute what he contributes."
The tally of "almost" $60 million in Trump giving, disclosed by his campaign today, contradicts the candidate himself. As early as July 22, Trump was claiming to have exceeded that amount. In an appearance with Republican volunteers in Cleveland, he cited the figure twice.
"I'm over $60 million, because I said I was going to fund the primaries," he said in Cleveland. "And I didn't know this was going to happen, so I guess we just keep going along, right?"