[guest post by Dana]
Here’s the AP report:
Trump bought a $10 million Super Bowl ad when he didn’t yet have a challenger. He tapped his political organization to cover exorbitant legal fees related to his impeachment. Aides made flashy displays of their newfound wealth — including a fleet of luxury vehicles purchased by Brad Parscale, his former campaign manager.
Meanwhile, a web of limited liability companies hid more than $310 million in spending from disclosure, records show.
Now, just two weeks out from the election, some campaign aides privately acknowledge they are facing difficult spending decisions at a time when Democratic nominee Joe Biden has flooded the airwaves with advertising. That has put Trump in the position of needing to do more of his signature rallies as a substitute during the coronavirus pandemic while relying on an unproven theory that he can turn out supporters who are infrequent voters at historic levels.
So how did they mismanage so much money? Well, according to one Republican consultant, by living large:
“They spent their money on unnecessary overhead, lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous activity by the campaign staff and vanity ads,” said Mike Murphy, a veteran Republican consultant who advised John McCain and Jeb Bush and is an outspoken Trump critic. “You could literally have 10 monkeys with flamethrowers go after the money, and they wouldn’t have burned through it as stupidly.”
Trump’s camp insists they are financially solvent with nearly three times as much as they had in 2016.
Here’s a look at advertising spending, and frankly it doesn’t look good:
On Monday, the firm Medium Buying reported Trump was canceling ad in Wisconsin; Minnesota, which Trump had hoped to flip; and Ohio, which went for Trump in 2016 but now appears to be a tight contest.
It’s a reversal from May, when Biden’s campaign was strapped for cash and Parscale ominously compared the Trump campaign to a “Death Star” that was about to “start pressing FIRE for the first time.”
The ad campaign they unrolled over the next three months cost over $176 million but did little to dent Biden’s lead in public opinion polling.
Here is a compilation of the “questionable” expenditures of the Trump campaign:
— Nearly $100,000 spent on copies of Donald Trump Jr.’s book “Triggered,” which helped propel it to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.
— Over $7.4 million spent at Trump-branded properties since 2017.
— At least $35.2 million spent on Trump merchandise.
— $38.7 million in legal and “compliance” fees. In addition to tapping the RNC and his campaign to pay legal costs during his impeachment proceedings, Trump has also relied on his political operation to cover legal costs for some aides.
— At least $14.1 million spent on the Republican National Convention. The event was supposed to have been held in Charlotte, North Carolina, but Trump relocated it to Jacksonville, Florida, after a dispute with North Carolina’s Democratic governor over coronavirus safety measures. The Florida event was ultimately cancelled, as well, with a mostly online convention taking its place.
— $912,000 spent on ads that ran on the personal Facebook pages of Parscale and Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson.
— A $250,000 ad run during Game 7 of the 2019 World Series, which came after Trump was booed by spectators when he attended Game 5.
— At least $218,000 for Trump surrogates to travel aboard private jets provided by campaign donors.
— $1.6 million on TV ads in the Washington, D.C., media market, an overwhelmingly Democratic area where Trump has little chance of winning but where he is a regular TV watcher.
As far as deep-pocket donors go, there seems to be a shift in priority:
“The Senate majority is the most important objective right now,” he said. “It’s the bulwark against so much bad policy that the Democrats want to do if they sweep the elections.”
Trump’s campaign is now spending a whole lot to get a dollar in contributions:
President Donald Trump’s campaign found it harder to raise money from small-dollar donors in the final months before the election, spending 77 cents of each dollar it received in the third quarter on future fundraising efforts, according to federal disclosures that highlighted the funding gap with Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Spending by the campaign’s grassroots fundraising arm, Trump Make America Great Again, to pursue small donors was far higher than throughout his re-election campaign, when it spent 47 cents per dollar raised.
Over the last three months, TMAGA paid $181 million of the $235.7 million it raised from small donors to vendors for more fundraising expenses, the organization’s latest filing with the Federal Election Commission shows.
The need to reinvest such a high percentage of donations into raising even more money suggests that Trump is having difficulty getting contributions from his existing base and so is working to expand his reach to other small-dollar donors.
It looks like the Trump campaign not only loves big money as much as Trump but also has the same trouble managing it and spending it wisely. I guess that should not be surprising. If anything, we’ve learned that Trump attracts “like-minded” people to his camp.