Donald Trump Is Mysteriously Quiet On Hedge Funds All Of A Sudden

Maybe it's "crass political calculation."
Because Trump really wants to win the New York primary -- and the GOP nomination.
Because Trump really wants to win the New York primary -- and the GOP nomination.
Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

NEW YORK -- Donald Trump was full of bluster and vitriol when he talked about the financial industry eight months ago. He accused hedge funds of using the tax code to "[get] away with murder."

Trump's bare-bones tax plan called for eliminating the carried interest loophole, which lowers the taxes of super-rich private equity investors by billions of dollars a year.

"They're paying nothing. And it's ridiculous," Trump said on CBS’ "Face the Nation" in August. “Half of them, look, they're energetic, they're very smart, but a lot of them, it's like they're paper pushers. They make a fortune, they pay no tax. It's ridiculous, OK?”

But as Trump turned to campaigning in the center of the financial world leading up to the New York primary, his anti-Wall Street rhetoric all but ceased.

And it worked. Trump won New York’s primary handily on Tuesday.

The shift was “a crass political calculation based on the industries that are in and around New York City," Rick Tyler, a former spokesman for rival candidate Ted Cruz, told HuffPost.

“He can’t be in midtown Manhattan launching attacks on hedge funds and not expect that to have a negative effect on him,” said Doug Heye, the former head of communications for the Republican National Committee.

Trump's silence could also be financially savvy.

Longer-term, he might not be able to afford to impugn Wall Street. The GOP front-runner says he self-funding his campaign, but everything from the “donate” button on his campaign website to his fundraising filings with the Federal Election Commission show this isn’t entirely true. Most of his personal wealth is illiquid -- locked up in real estate and business ventures -- so even if he wanted to fund his campaign all by himself, it’d be tough.

He’s also pledged to take no money from super PACs, which cuts out millions of dollars in potential support. Trump is going to have to raise a lot more money if he ends up the Republican Party nominee, and that means asking for checks from Wall Street or reversing his super PAC pledge.

Either way, "he's going to do a complete flip-flop on the idea that he isn't bought and paid for," Tyler said.

But raising money from financiers after he’s attacked them won’t be as easy as running in favor of New York values in New York. “If you’re a hedge fund guy in New York and Trump has attacked you and staked out extreme, nonsensical positions on issues you care about, are you going to raise money for Donald Trump?” Heye asked. “Not likely.”

Someone also has to actually ask for the money from Wall Street donors. But Trump has no real fundraising apparatus -- he doesn't have a finance team or even a finance chair. As Heye noted, “those aren’t things that necessarily come from scratch."

Of course, logic and strategic thinking only get you so far in analyzing Trump. And his campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump has charted the course of his presidential run using a “feedback loop he has been so good at cultivating," Republican messaging consultant Michael Maslansky said. "He is constantly trying out new material. ... He ties everything to his master narrative around making America great again. But what goes under that changes. When he gets the right kind of reinforcement, he sticks with it. If it isn't driving the conversation around him, he moves on.”

And deploring tax exemptions for certain types of investment funds just doesn’t have the same visceral appeal as inciting violence and spewing xenophobia.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.