POLITICS

Trump's Campaign Financials Give Delegates Another Off-Ramp

Hey, Trump delegates: You've been scammed!

Over the past week, a growing number of Republican convention delegates have been organizing to mount an effort to wrest the GOP nomination from the party's presumptive nominee, pan-fried wereferret Donald Trump. For those delegates, the issue has become a matter of conscience. But now that the world has had the chance to absorb the Trump campaign's latest round of financial filings, it might be a matter of competence as well.

Could the "Dump Trump" ranks swell with the news that the candidate's campaign is currently sitting on a war chest that has political reporters searching their thesauri for words worse than "woeful" and "pathetic"? Because it certainly looks like those delegates pledged to Trump are being provided with mountains of evidence that their presumptive nominee is congenitally incapable of mounting a serious presidential bid.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham famously urged his fellow Republicans to look for an "off-ramp" from the Trump nomination. Trump seemingly conning everyone into believing that he'd even attempt to manage a professional presidential campaign is as good an off-ramp as any.

We learned on Monday evening that the Trump campaign is basically broke as hell. According to the report released by the Federal Election Commission, Trump only raised $3.1 million in May -- a time when his nomination was a settled issue. His campaign spent more than he took in that month, and Trump is left with a meager $1.3 million cash on hand.

To say that this is an unprecedented level of campaign incompetence almost doesn't do the matter justice. Just as a means of comparison, let's flash back four years: On June 7, 2012, it was reported that Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee -- who actually worked well together, unlike the RNC and Trump -- had collectively raised $76.8 million, adding up to $107 million cash on hand. They had significantly outraised, and effectively put the fear of God into, the Obama re-election campaign.

Trump has repeatedly referred to Romney as a loser, but we have a saying in America: $107 million > $1.3 million.

For the benefit of convention delegates, let's do some further scorekeeping. Hillary Clinton, Trump's Democratic opponent, raised $27 million in May and has $42 million cash on hand. In what has to be a first for the party, Green Party candidate Jill Stein only lags behind the presumptive Republican nominee by $1,163,000. There are multiple former presidential candidates with more money than Trump currently has -- including Ben Carson, whose entire campaign was just about letting his hangers-on cash in on his fame.

At this point, I'm pretty sure that J.D. And The Straight Shot, the terrible blues band fronted by New York Knicks owner James Dolan, has more cash on hand than Trump. And as The Huffington Post's Paul Blumenthal reports, "When party committees and supportive super PACs are factored in, the disparity between Clinton and Trump becomes astronomical."

He continues: 

Aside from the $26.4 million raised for Clinton’s campaign, Priorities USA Action (the super PAC endorsed by her campaign) pulled in an additional $12.4 million. The Democratic National Committee also raised $12.3 million. In total, these three committees comprising Team Clinton entered June with $103.4 million cash on hand.

Team Trump — his campaign, the Republican National Committee and the super PAC Great America — had a combined $21.7 million cash on hand. That is five times less than what Team Clinton has available to spend.

Those pledged to support Trump at the convention may be wondering what their candidate has been doing all this time. Well, one of the things he has not been doing is working diligently to raise money for his presidential campaign. As Politico reported last week, the RNC gave Trump some pretty clear instructions about how to go about sacking away the scrilla needed to run a modern presidential campaign, only to learn that that Trump is incapable of making even a bare minimum of effort:

While Trump had promised Priebus that he would call two dozen top GOP donors, when RNC chief of staff Katie Walsh recently presented Trump with a list of more than 20 donors, he called only three before stopping, according to two sources familiar with the situation. It’s unclear whether he resumed the donor calls later.

It seems to me like this FEC report finally provides us with an exciting twist ending to that particular story. But in another exciting twist, it would appear that Trump's whole campaign is basically an elaborate scam. As our own Christina Wilkie reports, money taken in by the Trump campaign seems to have an uncanny knack for finding its way back into Trump's own wallet. The latest FEC report shows that "Donald Trump’s presidential campaign paid more than $1 million last month to companies controlled by the presumptive GOP presidential nominee." Per Wilkie:

The figure represents payments for facilities rental, catering, monthly rents and utilities at more than a half-dozen Trump-owned companies and properties. It includes nearly $350,000 that the Trump campaign paid a Trump-owned company, TAG Air, for the use of Trump’s private jets and helicopters.  

The most striking expenditure in the new filings was $423,372, paid by the Trump campaign for rentals and catering at Trump’s 126-room Palm Beach, Florida, mansion, Mar-A-Lago, which Trump operates as a private club.

Trump has also been lying about his fundraising prowess, stretching the RNC's manpower and resources thinner and thinner, and ... well, I'm not sure quite what to say about the fact that his campaign gave money to some shadowy outfit literally named after the fictitious ad agency from the show "Mad Men."

If you started your week by wondering why Trump would send his supposedly indispensable aide-de-camp Corey Lewandowski packing on a Monday morning, thus ensuring that it would dominate the week's news cycle, maybe you should wonder no more.

It's no coincidence that Lewandowski's cashiering came shortly before this FEC report revealed that the Trump campaign's operating capacity was just south of the RMS Lusitania. And when you read the inside-the-campaign account of the firing provided to New York Magazine's Gabriel Sherman, it's pretty clear that Trump's campaign wants you to think of Lewandowski as the person chiefly responsible for all that's gone wrong:

According to two sources briefed on the events, the meeting was a setup. Shortly after it began, the children peppered Lewandowski with questions, asking him to explain the campaign's lack of infrastructure. "They went through the punch list. 'Where are we with staffing? Where are we with getting the infrastructure built?'" one source explained. Their father grew visibly upset as he heard the list of failures. Finally, he turned to Lewandowski and said, "What's your plan here?"

Lewandowski responded that he wanted to leak Trump's vice-president pick.

And with that, Lewandowski was out.

Hard as it is to defend someone who clearly belongs in an anger-management diversion program, it's still difficult to see what, if anything, Lewandowski was supposed to have done with the limited resources available to him. It's not exactly perplexing that there's no staffing or infrastructure to speak of: The Trump campaign's fundraising efforts have been feeble; the candidates's statements are toxic to traditional GOP donors; Trump has insisted on shelling out for rallies in reliable Republican strongholds like Georgia and Texas.

And given what Lewandowski might have known about the disastrous news lurking in the FEC report, leaking the name of Trump's vice presidential pick was actually a pretty good call -- it would have put the media onto a bigger story and, depending on who that pick was, given a sign to nervous GOP elites that Trump was taking the campaign seriously. Instead, Lewandowski has been made to look like this campaign's chief problem. You shouldn't be fooled: This fish rots from the head.

Trump has basically given all of the people who have pledged to support him in Cleveland a taste of what it's like to be enrolled in Trump University: You sign over your livelihood to a con man, receive very little return on the investment, and spend the next few years of your life regretting having been taken in so badly. Can a party eject its own nominee based upon mounting evidence of total campaign malpractice? There's never been a candidate who's made the case more clearly, and we might be about to find out.

Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

~~~~~

Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

CONVERSATIONS