Trump Spends Heavily on Direct Mail to Win Mom-and-Pop Donors

  • Clinton had twice as much cash on hand at start of October
  • Trump groups spent 28 cents of each dollar on fundraising

Donald Trump has been spending heavily on direct-mail marketing to win the millions of small donations supporting his presidential campaign, new disclosures show.

A joint fundraising effort between Trump and the Republican Party, known as the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, raised $155 million in the three months ended in September, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission on Saturday. It spent 37 cents of each dollar on expenses such as postage and printing.

Trump’s success in raising money $20 or $50 at a time has become a talking point for the campaign, and a contrast with Clinton, who relies more on donors who give the legal maximum of $2,700. Overall, success with small donors hasn’t been enough to help Trump narrow his financial disadvantage with Clinton, who raised $154 million in September. The new disclosures, though, suggest that the gap may be even greater after fundraising costs are counted.

Political operatives consider direct mail to be one of the costliest forms of fundraising. Trump Make America Great Again spent about $29 million on printing and postage for direct mail, the disclosure shows, and millions more on renting lists of potential donors. Trump’s overall joint fundraising effort, which also includes another group called Trump Victory, spent 28 cents of each dollar on fundraising, compared with about 20 cents for Clinton’s joint committees.

The expense helps explain why the money race is so lopsided in the final stretch of their campaign. Between her joint fundraising committees and her campaign, Clinton has about $150 million in cash on hand, compared with about $75 million for Trump.

Trump is a real-estate developer and TV star who claims to be worth more than $10 billion. He’s put up $56 million of his own money for the campaign so far, but not nearly enough to close the gap.

Clinton has a further advantage in getting help from outside spenders -- groups such as super political action committees that work independently of campaigns and can accept donations of unlimited size. The main super-PAC supporting her had more than $41 million of cash on hand when September began.

There’s no sign of a last-minute deluge of cash for Trump to help even those odds, but some big donors are revealing late donations. Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino mogul, and his wife Miriam contributed $10 million to one pro-Trump super-PAC, new filings show. Linda McMahon, a professional-wrestling executive and erstwhile Senate candidate in Connecticut, gave $6 million to another pro-Trump group, and Bernard Marcus, a co-founder of Home Depot, gave $5 million.