Five years after claiming he didn’t want rich donors’ money because he would not be beholden to anybody, President Donald Trump is again at a rich donor’s oceanfront mansion on Friday night to collect $10 million, with tickets set at $580,600 per couple.
This particular rich donor, beef jerky magnate Troy Link, lives in a $9 million, 9,000-square-foot home in Hillsboro Beach, a wealthy suburb of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Trump arrived there late Friday afternoon following an official visit earlier at U.S. Southern Command in nearby Doral.
Taking six-figure donations is no longer at all unusual for Trump.
A HuffPost analysis of Federal Election Commission data from Jan. 20, 2017, through May 30, 2020, shows that during Trump’s presidency, the Republican National Committee has collected a total of $130.4 million from the 555 donors who have given the party at least $100,000 each. Among them: Elizabeth Uihlein, the president of Wisconsin’s Uline Inc., who has given $1,382,600; longtime Washington, D.C., lobbyist C. Boyden Gray, who has given $1,033,000; and Charles Schwab of the Charles Schwab Corp., who has given $576,300.
Trump’s official super PAC, America First Action, has collected $75.3 million from 90 such six-figure donors, including $10 million from Tim Mellon of Saratoga, Wyoming; $8 million from Geoffrey Palmer of Beverly Hills, California; and $5 million each from longtime Republican donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson of Las Vegas.
As he started running for president in 2015, Trump said that the system of accepting large donations was corrupt and that he knew this personally because he could make politicians do “whatever the hell” he wanted by donating to their campaigns.
At the first Republican presidential primary debate in Cleveland that August, Trump claimed: “I gave to many people before this. Before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them ― they are there for me.”
After winning the nomination, Trump claimed he would “drain the swamp” if he became president. He has repeated that claim through his years in office, even while appointing Cabinet heads who have rolled back environmental and worker safety regulations at the request of campaign donors and signed onto a tax cut package that disproportionately benefited the donor class.
“From inside deal-making to campaign solicitations, from appointing a lobbyist Cabinet to maintaining business interests and pursuing policies that benefit them, Donald Trump has overseen the most corrupt administration in American history,” said Robert Weissman, president of the liberal watchdog group Public Citizen. “Under Donald Trump, the swamp has won. Trump has disrupted the standards of etiquette in political Washington, but he has perfected the standards of corruption.”
Trump’s actual campaign, like all federal campaign committees, cannot accept donations larger than $5,600 per election cycle. The big money for his re-election bid comes from donations to the Republican Party, which because of revised rules can take as much as $355,000 per person per year, for each of the four years of a presidential election cycle, so that a four-year total of $1.42 million is possible per donor.
Super PACs are not limited at all in the size of the donations they can accept from individuals or companies, although they legally cannot coordinate with the candidates or campaigns they are boosting.
The RNC did not respond to HuffPost queries about its large-dollar donors.
Its leaders, however, have routinely boasted in public statements about how they have raised far more money than the Democratic National Committee.
The HuffPost analysis shows that the 17,165 donors who gave at least $1,000 to the RNC in a single donation gave the party a total of $246,743,344 ― for an average of $14,375 per person.
For Democrats, the 13,851 donors who gave at least $1,000 to the DNC in any single donation contributed a total of $106,160,289 ― for an average of $7,664 per person.
Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller would not say what GOP donors expect to get for their money – even though just a few years ago Trump himself said that getting something was the only reason they were giving. Instead, Miller accused presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his son Hunter of corruption.
“Joe Biden is one of the most corrupt politicians in American history,” Miller said. “He flew his son Hunter to China on Air Force Two and helped him leave with $1.5 billion for his investment fund, and that’s just the beginning for ‘Biden, Inc.’ Joe Biden’s special interest is communist China.”
According to many presidential historians, though, Trump is by far the most corrupt president in modern times. He has funneled millions of both taxpayer dollars and campaign donor dollars into the cash registers of his own businesses ― at one point even awarding the G-7 conference to his own resort, which would have brought him tens of millions of dollars, but then backtracking because of criticism. Trump begged China’s dictator to help him win reelection by promising to buy large amounts of American farm products, according to his former national security adviser John Bolton, and Trump was impeached for trying to extort Ukraine’s leader into helping his reelection bid by announcing that Ukraine would investigate Biden.
Further, Trump’s campaign manager is paying the wife of one Trump son and the girlfriend of another $180,000 a year each, through his own private firm, to avoid reporting those payments on FEC filings.
“Donald Trump gave the Chinese government a pass and echoed their propaganda to justify his appalling inaction as the worst public health crisis in a century exploded,” said Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates. “And he did so because he cared more about a worthless reelection talking point regarding trade than he did about over 130,000 American lives or tens of millions of jobs.”